Stop Talking About Price

August 24, 2012 2:08 pm

How CEO’s with “Price Obsession” Kill Company Growth

It’s always troubling when sales and marketing executives speak about “price” as the only decision driver for customers:

“The only thing they care about is price; nothing else matters to them.”
“Customers will leave us for a competitor if they can get a lower price.”
“We’re just another number on a spreadsheet.”

What’s even more troubling – and a cautionary tale – is when talk like this comes from a CEO. If you believe – as we do – that actions are shaped by beliefs, this attitude can be very dangerous and highly damaging to an organization.

Here’s the reason: When CEOs and their leadership teams habitually complain in public about price, they reinforce the belief in a perceived marketplace behavior they despise…one that may very well be completely wrong. Repeated often enough, this fictional tale may become accepted as fact. As others throughout the organization repeatedly hear these “price mantras” from company leaders, they too will believe…and behave in ways that further reinforce the belief that “No matter what we do, having the lowest possible pricing is all that matters to our customers.” The sentiment will spread. Not only to existing customers, but also to prospects, suppliers, referral sources, and all those who make up the organization’s external business community.

Like a toxic virus, complaining about price is highly infectious. The notion, reinforced over time, will become ever more “set in stone.” The feeling of frustration and helplessness will invite more frustration as the negative “price vibe” spreads outward from the entire company.

There is a cure, however. But be prepared because it takes considerable commitment and consistency. To change the misleading perception that customers care only about price, you must begin from within. CEOs and their leadership teams have to evolve their thinking and belief system. Change the conversation. Accept a more open, enlightened approach.

And guess what? Price will ALWAYS be an important consideration. I have yet to meet a client that simply hands over a blank check and says, “Whatever it costs is fine with me. Now, let’s get going!” It’s just not reality. Maybe it happened a few times in the halcyon 1980s, but people didn’t have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight or face the challenges of an endlessly sputtering economy. The fact is, while important, price should never be the singular driver.

If you’re convinced that your customers are totally focused on price, you may just have a branding problem. If your demonstrated behavior and communications with customers lead them to perceive you as a commodity, one that’s valued on the basis of price and availability, then “how fast” and “how cheap” are how you’ll be judged and chosen. That’s not exactly the basis for a long-term value relationship or partnership with a great client.

To make a difference and position yourself more profitably with them look to your brand. How can you represent something totally remarkable in your industry? How can you walk a unique path? One that is distinct from all others? How can you engage in a bigger, inspiring and more relevant conversation internally and externally?

We only have so much time to leave our mark. So what kind of mark will you leave?

Here lies John Smith, CEO of ABC Company: Complaining about price was his obsession.
Here lies John Smith, CEO of ABC Company: He challenged his industry and changed the world.

Escape the mind trap of price. Start asking bigger questions of yourself and your leadership team:

What would we have to do to make buying our products or services an absolute no-brainer regardless of price?
We provide great service and support. What would amazing service and support look like?
How do we link our services or products directly to exceptional sales growth and cost-savings for our clients?
What’s the one thing that we are awesome at; that we can be the best in the world at?

Big solutions require bigger questions. And that leads to the creation of an outstanding B2B brand that customers will admire, remain loyal to, and advocate as they help propel your business to the next level.

We’ve turned brand-building into a science at Delia Associates. Go here to learn more about our Brand Leadership Solution, and how it can take your organization to the next level.

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About The Author

We specialize in b2b, supporting the clients who are the "The Brands Behind the Brands." These are the supply chain partners of brands, either in Tier 1 or Tier 2 positions, who drive value through the delivery of goods, services and technologies. We enjoy blogging about all things related to Branding, Marketing, Inbound, Tradeshows, etc... And we're always happy to talk about any ideas you may have that might Get You To Your NEXT!