By Paul Reilly

Don’t let customers “Walmart” you.

Walmart’s CEO recently made it clear: “We’re not going to pay high prices anymore.” Walmart is flexing its muscles and squeezing suppliers. Salespeople everywhere are experiencing similar pressures. But there is hope. You can still compete profitably without bowing down to customers who “Walmart” you.

Here are six ideas to flex your muscles when customers demand discounts.

Shift the buyer’s focus to money and away from price.

Money is a better conversation than price. Consider Walmart’s motivation in telling their vendors, “We’re not going to pay high prices anymore.” At the root of this mandate is money. Walmart wants to make more money—as do its vendors.

When money is the motivation, demonstrate how you help customers make more money. Put pen to paper and detail six ways you can help your customers make more money. Cutting your price is a short-term fix for a long-term problem. Helping customers make more money is a better, long-term fix.

If we do dip into a recession, customers will look for broad cost-cutting measures. Our research shows that 68 percent of buyers prefer better overall cost, not the lowest price. In Selling Through Tough Times, I emphasize that cost-cutting measures are opportunities masquerading as price objections.

Don’t let customers “Walmart” you. Shift the conversation to money and away from price.

Create an army of internal champions.

Internal champions are your raving fans. They advocate for your solution and feed you information. They’re working with you to secure your position. They want you to win.

Procurement fears overpaying for your solution. Buyers overcome this fear by exploiting your worst fear—losing the business. However, there is a greater fear than overpaying: making an unpopular, unsafe decision. This is where you can win!

You don’t have to sell your solution, have your internal champions sell it for you.

Who is selling your solution as you read this article? Internal champions may not have buying authority, but their opinion is their power. Their recommendation carries weight. These internal champions live with procurement’s decision. Ask your champions to advocate on your behalf. After several people endorse your solution, procurement is unlikely to go against the group’s recommendation.

Never let one customer become more than 20 percent of your total business.

You’re in a tough position if you can’t afford to lose a customer. Customers sense desperation. The best antidote is confidence. Nothing gives sellers more confidence than a pipeline bursting with opportunity.

Don’t let customers “Walmart” you. Increase your prospecting effort and never let one customer account for more than 20 percent of your business.

Set the bar high enough that your competition falters.

Recently, my client demonstrated the importance of raising the bar. A long-time customer badgered him for a discount. Finally, the seller decided to stand firm and hold the line, and the customer went to the cheaper competitor. The customer was quickly frustrated after months of lousy performance.

The customer soon admitted that the cheap competitor couldn’t provide the service they expected. It was so bad, the customer begged my client to take him back. The seller regained the business at higher prices than before, and the customer vowed never to shop price again.

Like Sam Walton said, “High expectations are the key to everything.”


Shockingly, 34 percent of salespeople spend most of their time selling to procurement. Salespeople spend more time selling to procurement than any other decision maker. These sellers attempt to sell value to the decision maker least likely to buy value. Go around or go above; stop selling value to procurement. In Value-Added Selling, you learn a process to take positive control of the sales conversation and go around procurement.

When procurement demands a discount, leverage their request into a higher-level meeting. At a higher level, you can have a more strategic conversation and demonstrate ways to help the customer make more money.

Your pricing attitude matters.

Before your next meeting, get your head right. Adjust your attitude before adjusting your price.

Adjustment #1. It’s good to earn profits. For some reason, it’s common to criticize successful, profitable corporations as money-grubbing monsters who eat their young and steal from the poor. That’s a bogus mindset. Some of the most profitable companies are also the most generous. Profit enables these organizations to reinvest and create more value. Profit is a broad indicator that your customers are partnering with a well-run organization.

You’re a for-profit organization. Since your company website ends in .com and not .org, you’ve earned the right to make a profit. Don’t feel bad about it!

Adjustment #2. You control the price, not the customer. You, alone, cut the price. The customer can’t make you cut the price, and neither can your competition. Don’t cop out and say, “I have to.” You really don’t; you can choose to sell value instead. Top achievers focus on what they control; pricing is one of those factors.

Adjustment #3. Price is not the most important factor. Before entering an intense negotiation, review your previous successes. This review proves there are more significant factors than price. Recount the scenarios where customers asked for a discount, you held the line, and you still won! You likely have several examples. Reviewing these successes builds confidence.

It’s commonplace to cut price when buyers ask for a discount. My research shows that 75 percent of sellers will discount when asked. The next time buyers flex their negotiating muscles, use these six ideas, and take a different approach. Do what your competitors aren’t willing to do—hold the line. As you muster the courage to stand firm, consider these sage words from Sam Walton:

“Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom.”

This idea worked out pretty well for him.

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