Selling Beyond Price

For years we have been earnestly trying to level the playing field to get to an apples to apples comparison. Now that we’re there, we need to realize that the whole purpose of the level field was to showcase our differences.

Best Practices Series

Selling Beyond Price

All things being equal, why are you worth more?

I could have said, “If all things are equal, you probably aren’t worth more,” – that’s the issue we really need to address, isn’t it? Recently I have been hearing a recurring comment from dealers – both integrators and stagers – that customers are very price-focused, margins are too low already, and it has become increasingly difficult to convince anyone that one company is worth more than another. “The lowballer always seems to win.” For years we have been earnestly trying to level the playing field to get to an apples to apples comparison. Now that we’re there, we need to realize that the whole purpose of the level field was to showcase our differences.

How can I differentiate when I am doing the same thing as everyone else?

The glib answer is “Stop doing it like everyone else.” Ask yourself, what value can you sell at a premium? There are two things for which customers might pay extra.

  1. Any product or service that uniquely meets their needs.
  2. Any feature that unexpectedly adds value to the outcome, but is difficult to quantify.

We are in a service industry, but our approach has been very product focused. You may have access to a unique technology and that can improve your chances of winning premium business. However, products are fleeting differentiators and others will soon have the same or competitive products. And even unique products have to compete on price with reasonable substitutions. In a growing economy, customers can look beyond price for features or a customer experience that exceeds their expectations – something that is difficult to put a value on.

Be Mysteriously Attractive

In the custom project business (Event Staging or Design-Build Integration), being mysteriously expensive is all about image before the sale and execution afterward. You have to look like a company that provides a premium experience, and that is impossible to do when you look like your competition. For the consumer, mystery is expensive. If you can describe an outcome that meets the customer’s needs, provides them an experience they want (but perhaps didn’t know they needed), and demonstrates that you know some sort of magic that no one else knows, then you have created at the very least – a need for further conversation. Look at it another way. If you acknowledge the commodity side of the transaction and redirect their attention to the intangibles, the customer will have to focus on what makes you different or ignore you altogether.

But, you say, this won’t work in bidding situations. My response is that unless your core business is bid work and you regularly win by on price, then I agree this method is not for you. However, if you struggle to win worthy projects in an open bid evaluation, then you have nothing to lose by using a creative approach to the project, working outside the lines on the proposal submission, and putting a price the difference between what they have asked for and what you will provide instead. Let the bid review committee decide that the specification was wrong.


One of the biggest challenges for AV dealers is to look different in a world that is increasingly defined by standards and best practices. Not all clients interpret good service the same way, and this is something you can take advantage of. Can you redefine a difficult to copy process that will consistently yield better service and outcomes than your competition? Is there an overlooked human element to working with clients? Does your team look like someone customers would want in their building? Finding a unique approach has to start with asking customers what they value, but let’s face it – if they knew the answer then everyone would be providing that service. Successfully differentiated companies will supply fresh ideas to their research results to create an approach that meets customer needs in an unexpected way.

Keep Redefining Your Product

Two are things to remember. If you find the perfect solution, you will eventually be copied. Innovative companies are continually looking for their next differentiators. Secondly, not all customers will respond to what you are selling. Teach your sales team to recognize the right kinds of buyers, and task your marketing team with creating more demand for your unique approach. Management must continually look for chinks in the armor and take responsibility to be two steps ahead of customers that will tend to commoditize anything they get used to, and one step ahead of your own employees who will tend to rely on old successes to make new ones.


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