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Do you make it all about price?

Build a successful sales strategy by leading with more than the cost

December 14, 2018  By David Fellman

This is the fourth instalment in my series, The top 5 ways to talk yourself out of a sale. Today’s topic is Making it all about price — which you hopefully don’t do. I hear many complaints from print salespeople that buyers who only care about price. Sadly, some of the blame lies with the salespeople and printing companies. One of my early sales trainers had a favourite expression, that he or she who mentions price first, loses. In my experience, too many printing salespeople are guilty of that selling sin.

The race to the bottom
Seth Godin has written 12 best-selling business books that have been translated into 33 languages. He has also posted thousands of blog entries and delivered hundreds of keynotes. I was privileged to be on the same program with him some years ago, and I got a front-row seat for his presentation. He talked about marketing and selling that day, and even about the printing industry specifically, even though this was not a print conference. I sat in embarrassment as he used us as an example of bad selling strategy.

“I buy a lot of printing,” he said, “and the printing industry seems determined to convince me that I should always buy their product from whoever offers me the lowest price.” He said that everyone who called on him had the same initial strategy and follow-up strategy. First, they asked for the opportunity to bid on his printing. Then, they called to see how their prices compared. He recalled always telling them that their price was competitive, but not the lowest he was being offered. And then they always, he said, asked for the opportunity to “sharpen their pencil” and re-submit their bid.


I am not sure I believe the “always” part, but I know this is a very common strategy. Godin calls it “the race to the bottom” and I have to ask you, what good does it do you to win that race?

Related: Part 3: Pitching versus storytelling

Other variables
Here are two stories from my own print-buying experience. When I was ready to print my Sell more printing book, I gave three local printers the specifications. The first one told me it would be cheaper to use a lighter paper than I had originally selected. He never asked me what look or feel I was going for, he just assumed a lower price would be better. He committed another selling sin by using the word cheaper. Think about the connotation of that word. When I hear cheap, I hear the opposite of quality. I think of corners being cut on craft and materials to come up with a lower price. If you mean to say less expensive or more cost-effective, either of those is a better term than cheap.

Some years ago, I asked another salesperson for a price on 800 postcard mailers. He told me I should buy at least 1,000 to get a better price and that each one would be even cheaper if I ordered 5,000. Now, the reason I asked for a price on 800 was that I had a mailing list of 765. What service was he doing me by telling me to order more? It would have been one thing if he asked about the quantity and learned I would probably be ordering similar quantities again. But instead, he simply made the assumption that price was the most important factor in my buying decision.

Voicemail strategy
Another complaint I hear regularly from salespeople is about people hiding behind their voicemail. I completely reject the idea that they are hiding, they are simply taking advantage of technology to make themselves more efficient. I use my own voicemail to screen calls and I return the ones I want to return.
Now ask yourself why you want to return some and not others. It mostly boils down to whether the caller gives me a compelling reason to call back. The reason I hear most often is, “I think I can save you some money on your…”

Obviously it is not just printing salespeople who are guilty of this selling sin, but I care less about all the rest than I do about you. I hope you can give me a better reason for me to call you back. For example: “I’d like to talk about every aspect of your use of print to see if I can help you to improve on it.”

Please understand I have nothing against saving money and if it turns out you can help me do that, I will certainly appreciate it. The point I’m trying to make is that I want you to lead with something else. Be the last to talk about price, not the first. Let someone else win the race to the bottom.  

Dave Fellman is the president of David Fellman & Associates, a graphic arts industry consulting firm based in Raleigh, N.C. He is a popular speaker who has delivered keynotes and seminars at industry events across the United States, Canada, England, Ireland and Australia. He is the author of “Sell More Printing” and “Listen To The Dinosaur.” Visit his website at

This column was originally published in the December 2018 issue of PrintAction, now available online.

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