Price Shopping is a Psychological War

At some point, we all have to deal with price shoppers.

But they aren’t necessarily bad business — especially if you know to play the game.

Actually, it’s more like a war.

“The Art of War” by Sun Tzu teaches us lessons in “strategy” instead of “battle” because, “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.” When it comes to price shoppers, you have to beat them at their game before negotiation ever begins.

“Attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack.”

One of the tools of the effective buyer is to allow you to burn out then take you at a weak moment. The more effort the seller puts in, the more he or she expects to win, which leads to ‘winning at any cost.’ Buyers know this and will allow you to expend as much energy as you want as they wait patiently. Remember, money is more valuable than time to a price shopper.

“If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.”

Sometimes salespersons will attempt to inundate the buyer with information: options, variables, data, you name it. Too often, buyer incentives get mixed in and the savvy price shopper knows that the longer she waits, the more concessions will appear. To defend against price shoppers, narrow your negotiating points. Allow the buyer to steer you into a price-is-all-that-matters conversation. With their primary motivation revealed, you can more quickly find the common ground – if any.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while Defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”

The salesperson that is going to lose (or sell on price) is the one that assumes they can win and therefore doesn’t fear the buyer. Price shoppers improve their negotiating position by doing research in order to be less afraid of the seller and less distracted by their shenanigans. As the seller, you can beat the buyer at the own game with three easy steps (and patience):

1. Pre-Qualify: The sooner you can verify that you are dealing with a price shopper, the less time you will waste on poor strategies.

2. Control the Timeline: Buyers use time to their advantage. You are the one with a quota and a deadline looming. Establish early that the best price is tied to the schedule you set.

3. Soft Close: As small agreements emerge, bundle them together and set aside. These soft close moments are incremental agreements about what the final deal needs to include. The savvy shopper wants to avoid these conceptual agreements as they might compromise their pricing position. You on the other hand, can stall the process until such concessions are made. Ultimately, if the price shopper wants to get to the negotiation and collect their savings, they have to accept some conditions.

In conclusion, if your product or service is exactly what the buyer needs, then the battle is half-won. The more you try to force the deal to close, the more power the buyer gains. If your product or service is not a good fit, then any further pressure to close will require concessions, which will lead to compromise on price. The lesson here is to work towards a good fit solution. Settle for nothing less than conceptual agreement before proceeding to final negotiations.