I was doing a deal review. We were in the final stages of closing a big deal. The team had worked really hard. It’s the end of the month/quarter/year. They not only wanted the deal, but they needed the deal.

Then it happened.

The customer says, “We are almost there, but we’ve hit a roadblock…….”

I won’t go into the details, but the customer presented a fascinating discussion. Neatly hidden was, “The way we solve this is we need an adjustment to payment terms, can you give us the first X months free?”

Hidden in this elegant argument was a request for a 20% discount. And the customer knew the sales person wanted the order NOW!

I was so proud of the sales person. Rather than coming back to management and asking for a discount that would lock the deal in for end of year, he took a deep breath.

I’ll abbreviate the conversation, but he took the customer on a journey, asking some very astute questions:

“The reason you want to implement this solution is ……. We’ve talked about the business impact as…… Is this still important, has anything changed that we should address…..?”

They talked about it, the customer reconfirmed the need.

“We also talked about needing a solution in place by….. And we discussed the impact of not having the solution in place by that date. Has anything changed…..”

They discussed these issues, it turned out the urgency had increased (partially due to the pandemic).

“Do you feel our solution is still the best solution to help you achieve your goals?” (It takes real courage for the sales person to ask this.)

The response was, “We really want your solution, we just need help with this internal issue. If you do the adjustments we are asking for, we can get this deal done.”

The sales person took a deep breath and responded. “What if we took this business case to the people who are putting this pressure on you? What if we showed the impact of not addressing it now? What they are asking your for is negligible for your business case–and I’m not certain that it’s something we will do. How can I help you demonstrate the impact this is going to have on the problem you are addressing? How can I help you show the consequences of not moving forward as quickly as possible? What can I do that is most helpful in helping you get the deal approved?”

As you might guess, the customer was a little uncomfortable. But the sales person moved the discussion away from the discount to the business issues. Refocusing the customer on this, he gave the customer a graceful way to drop the discounting issue.

John’s handling of this issue was brilliant. But he was only able to address this because he had done all the right work through the entire customer buying journey. He focused on the customer business problem, what they were trying to achieve, when they needed it in place, and what would happen if they didn’t implement it by that time.

He made the customer realize it wasn’t about price or a discount, but the biggest issues were about their business.

Sadly, too many sales people don’t do what John had done. They make their sales effort all about the product and the price. And when confronted with a similar request, the only thing they can do is discount or walk away (and we know what happens).

John recognized the value of his solution to the customer. He understood the impact of doing nothing. He continued to make sure the customer understood this as well, focusing on what they were trying to achieve.

Great selling has nothing to do with defending price. It has everything to do with defending value.