Selling Beyond Price

Your price is too high. These are five words that can strike fear into the heart of many salespeople. Yet it’s a known fact that the lowest-priced quote most often doesn’t win the business and that low pricing doesn’t keep the customer long-term. Why?

How to portray value to your customersWhat are the key differentiating factors you must be able to communicate to your prospective customer? How do you deliver this message so the customer will fully understand your added value? Let’s take a closer look at this important issue and how to win the business and keep it, not buy it and lose it.

Price, Cost, Value
You’d be surprised how many salespeople believe these three terms mean the same thing. They don’t. Let’s take a moment to look at the actual definition of these important words in the world of sales…

Price: The sum or amount of money or its equivalent for which anything is bought, sold or offered for sale. What did I pay to obtain the requested product or service?

Cost: The total expense incurred from owning or using a purchased item or service. What is the expense incurred by your customer for this product or service over its lifetime of use?

Value: A product or service’s relative worth, merit or importance when evaluated as a return on total investment. Were the amounts paid to acquire, own/use and retire a product or service exceeded by its performance toward the desired result? Did I get what or more than I expected?

Price and cost evaluations are based completely on the objective measurement of how much. Value evaluations are based on a complex combination of objective and subjective measurements that are unique to each customer. Price and cost are simple arithmetic.

Value is more like complex mathematics involving wants, needs and satisfaction. Customers will tell you that price/cost are all that matter, but they will leave you for failure to deliver them a good value as they perceive it.

What Determines Value?
Before we approach this topic it’s critical to remember who determines whether or not your product/service delivers value. That person is the customer. Period. It doesn’t matter what we think our value may be. It only matters if the customer believes it’s valuable to them.

Therefore, it stands to reason that the only way to know a customer’s perception of value is to learn it from them. You’ll need to dig and dig deep if you want to build a competitive advantage for your company. Here are some sample questions that will help you understand how and where to dig…

Know Your Customers
What level of commitment and performance do they promise to their customers?

What makes them different/superior to their competition?

Who is their customer and what are they trying to communicate with their graphics? Value is a downstream process. If you want to make your customer delighted with you, you need to make their customer delighted with them.

Who did you use for your last project? There are a host of reasons this question is important and why you must be completely prepared to address their responses. You’ll need to know your competition inside and out.

Know Your Competition
What do they sell to their customers versus what they actually deliver?

Do you have any former customers of theirs who now do business with you?

What was their experience and why did they switch? Are they willing to say so?

What did you like/dislike about their performance as a partner in profit?

Did they do the job right the first time?

Did they deliver on time and on budget?

Did they guarantee their work?

Were they flexible in meeting any changes to the project?

These questions are only but a few examples of those you should ask, but you can see how the more you know about your competitor’s ship the better you know where to aim your torpedo.

Know Your Company
The questions about your competition should also be asked about your own company. From there you will need to be able to communicate what makes your company stand out and provide examples to prove it… Experience with similar projects, your firm’s unique attention to detail, any satisfaction guarantees you provide, how your company’s commitment to them mirrors their commitment to their customers, and your professional assistance and expertise are important elements to include when helping them understand your value proposition.

Your goal is to be a valued partner they can rely on, not just a one-and-done supplier. What you know and what you say mean nothing if you don’t make it happen. You can’t just make the sale and then punt. Be active. Stay engaged in the project from start to finish. Over communicate. Solve problems. Be a key part of the difference between the price your customer pays and the value they receive. It doesn’t cost anything and it pays over and over again for you and your customer. 

The Art of the Serendipity Sales Pitch

Serendipity is defined as good fortune, luck, or an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. I prefer the Serendipity Pitch over the traditional Elevator Pitch.

If you’re in sales, you know the drill. A hard to reach customer just happens to get on an elevator with you. You both get on at the bottom floor and are headed to the top. It will give you a precious minute of uninterrupted one-on-one time with this impossible to reach customer. The clock’s ticking. What do you say that gets you the appointment, or better yet, a sale right on the spot?

In many ways, I’m old school when it comes to what you need in your sales tool box. Skills like active listening, strong questioning techniques and efficient time management are timeless. Perhaps the most important of these fundamental skills is preparation. Being prepared frees up the mind. It allows us to process information we are getting from a customer, without having to think about facts we should already know.

You’d think these key skills would be a must for today’s sales pros. Think again. In today’s selling environment, technology is making many salespeople lazy. Email and texts have served to erode the quality of writing skills. Smart phones and tablets flood us with data, but do very little to convert that information into knowledge. Attention to detail and well-honed skills are a mark of the 20 percent of salespeople who are doing 80 percent of the business.

Point of View
When creating your Serendipity Pitch, it’s very important to think like the other person in the conversation. While the traditional version of this scenario focuses on you speaking with a hard to reach customer, what if the person receiving the information isn’t a customer?

Imagine you’re attending a dinner party and one of the folks at the party (a lawyer) asks you, “So what do you do?” Obviously, the information you provide to the lawyer will be different than the information you deliver to the potential customer. Both are important. While the lawyer may not be a potential customer – though you never know; he may need courtroom graphics at some point – ultimately, he may know someone who would benefit from your product or service.

A well crafted Serendipity Pitch provides the lawyer all the information they may need to positively present you to their friend. It’s because of this fact that I always create two versions of my pitch. I create one for someone who fundamentaly understands the products I offer, and one for someone who doesn’t.

Get to the Verb
I love this phrase! This one comes from LexJet’s founder, Art Lambert, who’s a very successful sales executive and entreprenuer. I believe his phrase sums up the mind of the customer perfectly. Customers are busy, so get to the point.

What does he mean by the verb? It means you need to give the customer a reason to listen to you… now. Who are you? What do you want from me? Why should I invest my time listening to you? How does what you propose/offer benefit my business? How much will I save with your solution? When may I expect these savings to my bottom line? When speaking to our proverbial lawyer you want to convert his casual and polite inquiry into genuine interest.

Ditch the Pitch
When making their pitch, most people rattle off a list of their responsibilities or the products and services their company provides, kind of like Bubba Blue in Forrest Gump: “There’s shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pinapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That… That’s about it.”

Like Bubba, our tendency is to say everything we do because we do so much. There’s certainly value in everything you do, but here’s what happens… The more information you provide, the less memorable you become, unless you’re Bubba Blue.

So, the perfect pitch is not a pitch at all; it’s really conversational messaging. It’s relaxed, fairly informal and, most importantly, it boils everything you do down to its essense. Moreover, it communicates the value of what you do in practical terms to the person with whom you’re speaking.

Ask for the Order
Don’t waste your minute with meaningless chatter. Get to the point, be confident and be direct about what you want. It communicates to the customer you value his time, you know your stuff and Key sales pitch bullet pointsyou believe in what you’re selling. Regarding the lawyer, ask if he knows of anyone who might benefit from your solution.

I’ve included a graphic in this post that helps us focus on the key elements of our pitch. It’s called the Relationship Revolver and it includes the six “bullets” we want to communicate during our conversation.

Briefly, these are the descriptions of the bullet points:

  • We sell products
  • We help customers
  • We build relationships
  • We create value
  • We share knowledge
  • We invest to continuously expand our capability to serve you

I started this post with the defintion of serendipity and that I prefer it over the term elevator. Now I’ll tell you why… Invest time learning about your customer. Be well prepared. Be confident. Practice until it feels natural. When you’ve done these things, the customer lucky enough to have stepped onto that elevator will be the one experiencing serendipity.

Have fun, make money…

For a Marketing and Customer Relations Boost Try Microsoft 365 and CRM Online

Online marketing and sales tools with CRM Online and Outlook 365If you’re looking to beef up your sales and marketing, now is an excellent time to explore the latest tools from Microsoft with little to no upfront investment. In a previous post I discussed the power of Microsoft 365 and how it gives small businesses a technological leg up for a fraction of the cost.

Now you can sign up for a beta version of Microsoft 365 and try it for free until its general release. I can’t guarantee that you’ll get it if you sign up, but it’s certainly worth a shot. Unlike most beta releases, which require you to transfer all your data into the new system, the transition will be automatic and seamless.

If you’re accepted into the Microsoft 365 beta program you’ll be up and running with your own enterprise-level Exchange environment, including Outlook and a SharePoint site where you can host files and access them remotely.

CRM Online is a contact management solution that’s now available for a free 30-day trial. Once the trial is over, and if you like what you see, the entry price is only $34 per month per user. Like Microsoft 365, if you decide to keep it the transition to the working version will happen automatically.

With CRM Online you can set up email campaigns and basic lead forms that sync automatically with your system so you don’t have to re-enter any data from those campaigns. Contact forms and data capture have been difficult to build and manage in the past unless you paid an arm and a leg to have someone program the code. You can also tie in CRM Online with Outlook.

At LexJet we’ve had access to these tools for years and I can vouch for their value. However, for most small businesses, the ability to implement them has been cost-prohibitive. Microsoft 365 and CRM Online allow small businesses to adopt the same enterprise-grade tools we use, which go a long way to helping you stay competitive in a dynamic market.

One thing you should know going into it is that while CRM Online and Office 365 work with most smart phones, they do not currently work with Safari, Firefox or Chrome; it’s Internet Explorer-only for the time being.

For more information about CRM Online and the 30-day free trial, go to, and for the Office 365 beta, go to

Printing Photos: When Should I Start Printing My Own Work?

In-house inkjet printingDo you remember the first time you jumped off the high dive as a kid? I do, and boy was I scared. But that anxiety was soon replaced by exhilaration once I came out of the water. After taking the plunge, all my fears washed away, and I said to myself, “Gee, I had myself all worked up over nothing; I wish I would have done that sooner!”

In 21 years of running my own portrait studio I have had similar moments of clarity. Like the time I began to learn Photoshop, or when I switched from film to digital. Each time there has been a great deal of worry, questioning, and research that eventually led me into taking the plunge. And, once committed, I later wondered why it took me so long to do it!

For almost two years we have been printing our portrait work in-house, and I have to say it really is not that hard, especially with LexJet’s awesome support team led by my personal customer specialist, Justin Craft. After buying the Epson 4800 and the ImagePrint RIP it took me just a few phone calls and I was up and running (now I have an Epson 9900). And, except for ordering more rolls of Sunset Photo eSatin Paper, which I love, I haven’t made a single call for more technical help. 

Yet when I speak to photographers at seminars and conventions, many of them have a hard time climbing up the proverbial ladder to take the in-house printing plunge. Here are their concerns and my responses to those concerns:

Concern: You don’t really save that much money going in-house.
Response: In one year we printed about 11,000 units with only $6,000 in ink, paper, and shipping costs. That’s only 55 cents per unit and $2.20 for a 16×20. With my old lab, printing costs would have been over $22,000. Plus, there are more opportunities when you can print for yourself. We were able to say yes to a job that needed 20 16×20 prints in four days. That alone added an extra $2,000 to our bottom line.

Concern: It will take too much time or manpower to do it myself.
Response: With the ImagePrint RIP it takes the same amount of time to send it to my printer as it does using the Web-based software most labs use. Yes, it takes time to trim prints, but not much more than it does to unwrap boxes and sort through things sent back from your supplier. We use a part-time high school student to help as needed. At $8 per hour she loves it more than a fast food job and we are still way ahead financially. Plus, she helps with other tasks as needed.

Concern: Inkjet photo papers have issues with curling, scratching, and gloss differential.
Response: The older Epson printers had those issues, but scratching and gloss differential is just not a problem with the new stuff. For me, paper curl is much less a factor with Sunset Photo eSatin. Even at the end of the roll, where it’s wound tight, the paper is so heavy and thick it only takes laying it out overnight before gravity flattens it out, eliminating any curl.

Concern: Inkjet is just not as good a product.
Response: I want to be able to look my customers straight in the eye and tell them this is the very best I can offer. Once I saw test prints from a homemade direct light test, I knew the only way I could maintain my integrity was to go in-house. Epson’s new ink technology lasts about four times longer, and Canon and HP are now producing similar results with their printers. Inkjet is just plain better.

Concern: Color management is too difficult.
Response: When it comes to color, I’m not the most focused lens on the camera, so to speak. I know good and bad color when I see it, but I could not tell you how to mix things correctly to achieve it. So, at the risk of sounding like a commercial for ImagePrint and LexJet, I will tell you that those are the names and products which ensure I get awesome color every time. They just set me up and the rest takes care of itself. I run a few simple head alignment tests every so often, and that’s it. ImagePrint seems to take the “governor” off the printer, creating delicious color. I like to use the phrase High Definition Color because my in-house printing provides a larger color gamut than anything else I have seen.

I hope this article helps some studio owners to consider taking the in-house printing plunge. If I can do it, you can do it. It’s really not that hard.

A New Microsoft Platform that Gives Small Businesses Big Business Power

By Pete Petersen, LexJet CIO

I recently attended the Microsoft Roadmap event for Microsoft Office 365, a new MS Office platform due to be released early next year that should lower the total cost of ownership for mid-sized companies and give small companies many of the same tools as larger corporations.

With the Office 365 Web Apps, you can review documents and do lightweight editing from virtually anywhere and on any device with a browser.

Rather than invest thousands of dollars in servers, backup and restore options, disaster recovery, dealing with licensing headaches and having to hire tech support companies, small businesses can focus on their company and use technology as a competitive advantage. Plus, instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars for each copy of Microsoft Office, Office 365 will be available for less than $30 per month per license.

Though you’ll most likely end up spending as much per license for Office by the end of two years in this pay-as-you-go system, Office 365 is a far more robust engine. With it, you’ll get features like SharePoint, where you can store all of your online documents; LiveMeeting, which allows you to create and share remote desktop presentations; and a hosted exchange (Exchange 2010) so you can check e-mail on the fly anywhere in the world.

Ultimately, you’ll have Business Intelligence you never had before, or had to spend an arm and a leg to get, with a big boost in reporting and data analysis capabilities. You can plug into an Excel, Access or online data source and pull and analyze data real time.

Also included will be Lync 2010, which is scheduled to be integrated into Office 365 next summer. Lync 2010 is a like a full-fledged Cisco phone system on your computer, where you’re getting basically Vonage services  with high-end call center features and voicemail built into your e-mail system.

With Office 365 you’re getting enterprise-class features in a small business world for a fraction of the price you would pay to get all of these features individually.

You can check out the new Office 365 at I’m hoping that Microsoft will approve my beta application so I can share more insight to this powerful platform over the coming months. Stay tuned!