The “How Much” Question

-and Its Proper Answer Overcoming the “I need the price now” syndrome.

In some industries, it is common place to publish the cost of a good or service. In the piano industry, if you start addressing the specific cost of an instrument before you establish value and before you have the potential buyer experience an instrument, it is often the “kiss of death” to the deal. Many prospects will use whatever information they have gathered online, look at a published price, and make a premature, inexperienced decision: most often, a personal verdict against value and towards price alone is the key, dominant decision-making component.

The truth is that price means nothing out of context. If the prospect takes control of the sales process (which many want to do) by drilling down to the bottom line before exploring the features and benefits of the instruments, they do themselves an injustice. They rarely end up with the perfect instrument for themselves if they take this course. It behooves the piano sales specialist to explain the importance of seeing, touching, feeling, hearing, and experiencing the piano the customer is considering. Why does the price matter if these other essential elements are out of whack? Rhetorical, I know, but the answer is obviously it does not. Sell the proper selection experience/opportunity not the piano.

It is human nature to want the price right away, but our job is to help people find the perfect piano for them inside of their price range. Our job is not to be a blue book of pianos. Our job is to sell ourselves as a trusted ally in their quest to find the right instrument. We must address the price curiosity enough to squelch any misconceptions and let them know that we want to save them money and also, kindly guide them into other subjects by asking questions that get the customer thinking about benefits. You need to be mindful of this very fundamental selling fact: people don’t buy a thing. They buy what a thing does for them! We therefore aid our client most aptly by getting them to talk about their dreams. Let me summarize – we need to make a friend… fast.

When an internet prospect wants to address price, it is rude not to answer them, but you must do it properly. You must explain, for example, that you are not allowed to quote specific prices online or on the phone, but can indeed discuss price ranges.

When you do engage in dialogue, and some will not want to speak unless it is via e-mail or text at first, you should answer in this manner: “This particular piano is in the medium price range for a baby grand piano. It’s in the $20 – $30,000 range, closer to the bottom. We can get specific in person and address items such as taxes, delivery, and warranty. Those are all very important items, but the most important thing is to get you to experience this instrument and a few others we have that are similar. We want to help you find a piano you can consider a perfect fit for your budget and musical needs. We would like to have you play this instrument and a couple others at your next convenience. Doesn’t that sound like a good way to choose the right piano for you?”

This dialogue doesn’t need to be executed verbatim, but the script I just provided is tried and true. Plus it ends with a close ended question, “Doesn’t that sound like a good way to chose the right piano for you?” which asks the prospect to commit to your sales process as opposed to making a hasty, uninformed choice. A “tie-down” question is a great way to take control (in a dignified manner) of the sales process. In reality if a person is only interested in price, they are not a great prospect. If all the intangibles and details matter not, the prospect is bound to make an uninformed decision. It’s honorable for a salesperson to prevent this from happening. If the customer is bound and determined to care only about price, they may not be a good prospect, not everyone is.

Let’s examine by taking a trip back in time through the entire published price method and expectation. Since the Jurassic period of marketing, when print was king and catalogs were eagerly anticipated in the mailbox, people have been dreaming about things they wanted to own with a picture and list prices as their guide. Even in the early days of luxury marketing, pictures married with prices were a dreamer’s delight. Day to day, things were published in the Sears catalog, but the rag I remember best, aimed at the top of the dream list, was the Service Merchandise catalog. Humans have always responded to pictures, being that they are worth a thousand words, and when you add a price, you gave the customer the ability to hatch a “full blown want.” Ignoring the “how much?” question is not an option, it never has been. The sales person’s quandary is that if you come out with a price quote before you establish any rapport or relationship, before you establish any value, then you are nothing more than a commodity order taker. You have no opportunity to give advice or steer your prospects in the direction of their best decision. You are not a specialist or trusted confidant, you are a paper pusher documenting and deriving commissions from whatever the uneducated consumer wants to buy. Consumers are rudderless without the advantage of good counsel and you settle for allowing your productivity to be based upon pictures and prices. What a depressing outcome!

Relationship-selling is the key to selling luxury items and fine pianos. Let’s be honest, you have the ability to help them buy the perfect instrument if you make a friend and gain their trust. Price never goes away, but value has to be the communications goal. This is the agreement you must make with the prospect, that your goal is to save them money as soon as you, together, land on the right instrument. You must first forge the partnership so you all can work together.

Making a friend digitally is a relatively new arena in marketing and sales. It takes creativity and a commitment to learning the right questions to ask that will sift through the suspects to get to the true prospects.

The term “Price Information” in the form of a button on a landing page or inventory list can be a great way to get someone to engage or, as we like to say, “convert.”  If the landing page/inventory list has price ranges published on it, you take this opportunity to explain to the customer how he or she can play and select the right instrument and get an “out the door” or “all in” price.  Once more you don’t duck the issue. Be willing to explain to the client that your livelihood depends upon people trusting you enough to come into the gallery and allowing you to show them the right pianos to consider. It’s OK to explain that superiors do not allow you to quote specific prices online or over the phone, because so many people will make a hasty decision based purely on price before they experience the instruments. This often ends with a customer making a poor choice.

If you are sincerely trying to help someone find the best piano for their situation, job number one is to be genuine enough to get the prospect to believe you. If you are willing to provide a price range, show them instruments that are best for them to consider based upon their circumstances. Explain to them that it is all you can do to get a bottom line price. Sell your passion to help the customer and save them money based upon the informed choice you want to help them make. If they still get upset and bent out of shape knowing all that, then they were never realistically going to buy a piano from you anyway; they didn’t want help, just information, most often so they could disqualify an option as quickly and painlessly as possible. If all a person cares about is price and right now, that is a red flag.

Remember that sales is a fun but challenging occupation and it’s also a numbers game. You have to get through so many “no’s” to get to a “yes”. When you disqualify someone, it means you are one step closer to a quality encounter and someone who will value your assistance. Keep working your leads, the good ones are in there with the bad ones; after all that, do what good sales people do – qualify and disqualify.

The question of “price” provides a great opportunity, and not one you should disdain or fear. It is your opportunity to explain to them how to make a good choice and get the best price on the proper instrument. Embrace the question: it’s not going anywhere and we encourage the curiosity. It shows true interest.

Jack Klinefelter
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