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Will You Pass the Flinch Test?
By Lee Salz, President, Sales Architects

There is a little test that professional buyers give to every sales person. It is a test to see if they are confident in the price they presented. They call it the flinch test. Will you pass the test?

After a lengthy buying  process, the time has come to submit pricing. Countless hours are spent  formulating a glorious proposal that details your comprehensive solution. Proud  of your accomplishment, you present the proposal to the buyer. Skipping the  sections about your company and your solution, she flips right to the pricing  page. "Oh my gosh, I didn't think it would be this expensive!"

What happens next  determines whether or not you will get the business. When I say "get" the  business, there are two sides to consider. The obvious is whether or not the  prospect will award the business to you. The less obvious is whether your  company will agree to their desired price level. The negotiation may get to a  point where the prospect says they want to award you the business, but at a  price unacceptable to your company. If you've ever been there, it is painful to  say the least. As a sales person, you have a responsibility to facilitate the  process in a way that leads to a mutually acceptable conclusion.

There is a trade secret  in the purchasing world. They call it the "flinch test." This is the test Procurement  Agents and other professional buyers give to sales people when they provide  pricing. "Wow! You are 25% higher than your competition." These pros are  trained to react with surprise so that they can see if the sales person is  confident in the price they have put forward. It is nothing more than a  straightforward negotiation tactic. Often times, they overstate the price  difference such that you can do some quick math and see that the differential  is bogus. I can recall a time where I was told that we were 50% higher than the  competition. When I reviewed the numbers, this meant that the competitor was  losing 18% based on fixed costs that we both had. It was highly unlikely that the  competitor was signing up for this kind of an account. When I asked the Procurement  Agent about that figure again, he flinched and we ultimately won the business.

The key to passing the  flinch test is to respond with confidence in your price. If you don't believe  you are providing a fair, competitive price for the solution, my question is  why are you presenting it anyway? One would hope that you have integrity so why  present something you don't believe in?

Some responses that cause  you to fail the flinch test.

     
  • What price were you looking for?
  •  
  • I'll ask my manager if we can do better.
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  • How about if I take 10% off?

The reason these are  failed responses is that they create trust issues with the prospect. Were you  trying to rip them off with the price you presented? One of two things is true.  Either you were trying to rip them off or you believe you provided a fair  price. What other option is there? Some will say that they were preparing for a  negotiation. That's a fair point; however, it is a terrible negotiation  strategy to give the appearance that you will drop your price first moment  someone balks. That approach gives the impression that you sought to gouge  them.

Most negotiations end at  the middle ground. They wanted 5; you wanted 10 and settled at 7.5. That seems  logical. However, if you lower your price early, the middle ground is  lower.  In the same scenario, if you  dropped to 8 right off the bat, the middle becomes 6.5. As I mentioned, you  have to manage the negotiation such that the middle is not lower than an  acceptable price for your company.

Successful sales people  have a planned, or dare I say "canned," response for the flinch test. They  don't expect a prospect to respond with excitement about a price. They  anticipate shock and have a process to handle it. Here are their secrets


Lee B. Salz is a sales management guru who helps companies hire the right sales people, on-board them, and focus their sales activity using his sales architecture

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