Win B2B sales deal without sacrificing price
Win B2B sales deal without sacrificing price

B2B Sales – How to win your next deal without sacrificing price?

Don’t let price be the first casualty in highly competitive B2B world

A B2B customer will often say “match or beat your competitor’s price and I’ll buy from you”.  Pricing pressure is always present in the highly competitive world of B2B sales. This pressure has worsened in 2020 as B2B companies are fighting in markets shrinking due to the pandemic. So, for your next B2B sales deal, is competing on price inevitable?  

Our previous article showed how B2B customers are willing pay a premium for a superior customer experience. This was true even for commodities. However, improving customer experience takes time. You may not have time to transform the end-to-end customer experience, before your next deal. So, what can you consider beyond price to win your next B2B sales deal?

Customers are looking for benefits – not just specifications 

B2B companies often trade in highly technical products and services. Selling such products requires a strong technical knowledge about the product and its end-use. As a result, B2B sales stories tend to be centered around the technical features. Some B2B sales stories include competitive benchmarking – but even that is for the technical features. 

However, B2B customers are using a product to do their job. As such, they really care about the benefit that the product can bring to them. The procurement teams will of course put a lot of emphasis on the product’s price. However, B2B customers will eventually choose a product that offers most benefit to them.

For example, your product may have better quality – but so what? What does the better quality actually mean in terms of benefit for the customer? Why should a customer pay x% more for a ‘better quality’ product? A sales pitch centered on technical features will not communicate the tangible benefits for the customer. In the absence of a strong benefits case, customers will primarily compare prices. As a result, you may have to sacrifice price to win the deal. 

To break free from this pricing pressure, your sales story should focus on tangible commercial benefits. The examples below show how some B2B companies managed to sell more without sacrificing price. These companies did two things differently. i) They translated technical advantage of their product into commercial benefit for the customer. ii) They showed that  their product will offer more commercial benefit vs competitors products.

DuPont’s superior resin could not earn a premium price at launch 

In the 1950s, DuPont launched Alathon 25, a new polythene resin for making plastic pipes. Alathon 25 was a major improvement over the resins used to manufacture plastic pipes. Pipes made from Alathon 25 had lower failure rates and an ability to withstand higher pressure. DuPont went to market with a sales story centered on these performance aspects. It was convinced that its superior resin would achieve a premium price. However, Alathon 25 received a lukewarm response in the market. DuPont’s sales story centered on technical specifications was not compelling enough for the customers to pay a higher price.

Focus on customer's benefit

DuPont’s revised story centered on cost avoidance was successful 

DuPont then focused on end users. Farmers who typically used the pipes for below-ground irrigation. The pipe made from Alathon 25 looked exactly like the one made from the inferior resin. So the technical advantages mentioned in DuPont’s original sales story were not visible or tangible for the farmers. 

DuPont translated its resin’s technical advantages into commercial benefits for the farmers. In its new sales story, DuPont highlighted that a pipe made from inferior resin was more likely to burst. This would result in time consuming and expensive replacement work for the farmers. Furthermore, if the crops were in a vulnerable seedling phase, a burst pipe could damage the crops. However, DuPont’s pipe was stronger and less likely to burst. As a result, it would save time and money on repair jobs and on potential crop loss. DuPont quantified this potential cost avoidance to justify its price premium. 

DuPont changed its sales story from technical advantages of its resin to commercial benefits for the farmers. By doing so, it was able to achieve a strong sales growth for Alathon 25 at a premium price. Pipe manufacturers were able to sell pipes made from Alathon 25 at 1.9x the price of pipes made from the inferior resin. Read more here

SKF achieved a 50% higher price by focusing on total cost of ownership for its customers 

SKF is a leading bearing and seal manufacturing company based in Sweden. Its bearings are very often used in large and critical rotating equipment. SKF enjoys an excellent brand reputation when it comes to quality and engineering excellence. But this quality comes at a premium price. The financial benefit of SKF’s superior quality vs competitors is less obvious and hence difficult for customers to compare. However, its premium price vs competitors is visible and easy to compare. As a result, price was a sticking point in closing deals.

Focus on customer's benefit

SKF hence compared the quality of its bearings vs competitors in terms of financial benefit for its customers. Its superior quality bearings gave its customer’s equipment longer uptime, less energy use and less maintenance. SKF translated this benefit into cost savings for its customers over the lifetime of the bearing. The saving was due to a lesser spend on labour, maintenance and utilities. SKF showed that its customers would achieve a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for its bearing. The saving more than made up for the premium price that a customer would pay upfront. 

With this TCO approach, SKF was able to achieve a price premium of up to 50% vs its competitors on some bearings. Earning such premium would be difficult with a sales story focused on the technical aspects such as quality and reliability

A horticulture company defended premium price for its seeds by highlighting revenue increase for farmers 

Commercial benefit need not always be about cost. A leading horticulture company was able to achieve a significant price premium vs its competitors for its seeds. The genetically modified seeds had better disease resistance, higher yield and better output quality. The company could have highlighted the performance superiority of their seeds. However, they went a step further and translated this performance advantage into revenue increase for the farmer. From the farmer’s point of view, revenue increase was simpler to understand. It also made it easier for the farmers to decide whether to pay a higher price for these seeds. As a result, the horticulture company was able to sell more without sacrificing its price. What’s more, the company was able to keep its customers happy while earning a higher price. 

Flower seeds that give higher yield

You can also win your next B2B sales deal without sacrificing price! 

In the examples above, the sales story focused on commercial benefit for the customer. The benefit was explained as cost avoidance (DuPont), reduced TCO (SKF) and increased revenue (horticulture). This is unlike typical B2B sales stories that are centered around technical specifications of the product or service. 

So what can you practically do on your next B2B sales deal? Look at your elevator pitch, product brochure or other sales collateral. What does it have beyond your product’s technical specs? Does the pitch clearly convey the commercial benefits for your customers? For example, does it highlight the cost saving or revenue increase opportunity? or does the pitch only include some vague “we are better” arguments?

For your next deal, you cannot significantly improve your product or end-to-end customer experience. However, you can definitely transform your sales story and focus it on commercial benefit for your customers. This can help you to compete without sacrificing price – similar to how DuPont and SKF did.

Interested to start a conversation on how you can grow your B2B sales without sacrificing price? If so, please submit your email id below.

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About the authors:

 

Kedar Gharpure is the Director of B2B Growth Consulting Ltd. He has served heads of several Fortune 250 and Private Equity owned B2B companies on growth strategy and commercial transformation.

 

Vidya Ranade is the founder of Decodexis. He provides bespoke analytics and consulting services to clients in marketing & sales, operations and R&D.

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