‘I sent my customer a proposal. They accepted it on the spot with no changes, and I closed the deal,’ said no salesperson ever!
Salespeople must understand that submitting a first proposal to their customer is an invitation to the negotiation dance. A dance that includes price concessions, line-item negotiating, demands, and giveaway pressure. Even if you have executed your sales process flawlessly, there will always be missing information and uncertainty in a customer negotiation. With the best intentions, salespeople set out to sell solutions only to end up negotiating price. They believe customers will view and negotiate the package as a whole. When in reality, customers enthusiastically negotiate line by line, and then inevitably pull price out of the equation and place a bullseye on it.
What if there was a better method of changing the conversation with your customer from delivering pricing to delivering value solutions? A method that would help keep you in control, manage the uncertainty, and close larger deals more quickly for you and your company? There is. Multiple Solution Options
The Multiple Solution Options (MSO) concept and technique assist salespeople sell value solutions and negotiate those same value solutions. Let’s start with the simple idea that giving the customer choices about how they can buy from you, instead of an ultimatum, is smart. Then consider that using choices to skillfully organize your customer’s thinking about how they could work with you to solve their business needs, while illuminating your full value proposition in various ways, is strategically brilliant.
Why three? Simply put, one option results in giving the customer an ultimatum; ‘take it or leave it.’ Exactly the opposite of a value-expanding desired negotiation outcome. One option is also easily sub-divided and decreases the worth received by either side. Two options still set up a “one or the other” proposition and limits flexibility. However, three options provide your customer with enough flexibility, direction, available shared-risk levels, and added-value choices without overwhelming them.
Options increase your chances to steer the customer in a direction you want them to take. In essence, you begin to organize the customer’s thinking for them. For the buyer, the choice between options opens possibilities and demonstrates the seller’s flexibility and creativity. For the seller, offering three options helps to keep the negotiation discussion open and focused on compelling ways to message your value. Presenting solutions will motivate a sensitivity test with your customer. You will find out in a hurry what they like and what they don’t like. This is by design. Listen to their feedback.
Customers WILL cherry pick your options. They will want to combine deal components that are best for them from each option and want them at the lowest cost. Your job is to keep your value packages together.
That is to say, the deal components must be intrinsically tied together. Volume, discount, level of services, number of products, payment terms, contract length, quarterly business reviews, etc. should ALL be connected. You certainly can give on one component as long as you replace it with something that represents equal or greater value back to you, i.e. – makes your solution whole again. This strategy often leads to a fourth, co-created, option. That is exactly your goal.
Your ‘solution messaging’ is the key ingredient to continuing to change the conversation with your customer from price of product to value of solutions. When you have your options established, we highly recommend you practice presenting the options before you present them to the customer. Consider this a formal sales presentation and rehearse your storytelling message. Your goal is to anticipate where your customers will push back on your options.
If you are serious about changing the conversation with the customer from price to the value of your solutions, you will need to use decidedly different visuals and messaging with the solution story you tell.
Follow these best practices to improve the deal you are closing:
- Visually represent your options on one page to set up for a better cohesive story.
- Title each option using words that solve a customer’s business issue. The title needs to contain just a few words. Follow with a brief summary and a few sentences to summarize the intent of the option. Then, prove out the title by including the various deal components that make up this specific value package. This is important and is a key part of changing the conversation and telling your value story.
- Be prepared to accept any one of your three options. Each option should be acceptable to you but represent different levels of shared commitment to your buyer. The more the buyer commits to us, the more value we provide in return.
- Options are meant to represent varying levels of investment and return. That is to say, if the customer wants “low price” that’s fine, we offer low price with a value drop that matches.
- Each option should demonstrate how you are better than the alternative(s) and offer the highest confidence of success, and lowest risk of failure, compared to the alternative.
- For advanced use, when there are multiple buyer stakeholders, create an option for each one, addressing the often-differing priorities for different stakeholders.