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Competing Against the One Big Player That Wins on Price

Some time ago, I received a direct message on Twitter asking me what you do to compete with the one big player that competes and wins on price. There is a simple, but difficult, answer. Here are eight things to consider.

  1. It is a mistake to compete where you are weak and your competitor is strong. You can’t expect to win playing your competitor’s game. You want to play to your strengths, the things that you do to create value for your clients.

  2. It is wrong to compete on price if that isn’t an intentional, strategic choice that your company has made. This requires two things. First, you have to know what it is your company does sell if it doesn’t sell price. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds, and management can send mixed messages. Then, you have to accept that you aren’t going to compete and win on price and stop believing that you can or will win on price.

  3. Giving up believing that you will win on price is easier if you accept the fact that, if it isn’t your real competitive advantage, someone is always going to be either willing or able to quote a lower price. Once you’ve accepted this, you can begin to sell something else altogether, acknowledging that you won’t have the lowest price.

  4. It’s important to remember that price isn’t always the deciding factor. We give price way too much credit in our buyer’s decision-making criteria, and our prospects often credit price as the deciding factor when it wasn’t because it is an easy way to let the salesperson down (it wasn’t your fault, after all).

  5. If your company hasn’t chosen to compete on price as their strategic advantage, then those who buy only on price are not your target market; they aren’t your sweet spot. You can learn to discover when price is the overriding factor (it’s easy if you are open to accepting it), and then you can avoid these prospective clients.

  6. It is your job in sales to shift your client’s decision criteria to something other than price. It is your job to create so much value as a salesperson that you are permitted to retain some for yourself and your company with no objection. It is your job to shift the decision from price to cost.

  7. You have to answer the question as to what your client misses out on by choosing the lowest price. What are the differences that you bring that will make a difference to your dream client? Having the lowest price isn’t always a competitive advantage, especially when it comes to service-related businesses. It is extraordinarily difficult to compete with really low margins, and most companies aren’t very good at it. What can you do that would be difficult for your competitor to do because they lack the margins?

  8. Know this: Your big competitor doesn’t keep every client that they win. When their inability to create the value that their client’s need is destroyed by their inability to deliver, those same clients that decided on price often recognize that they need to invest more to get the result that they really need. Those that are dissatisfied will—and do—pay more for the results that they really need.

  9. None of this is easy, and I don’t pretend that it is. But for most of us in sales, our companies have chosen a business model other than operational excellence. For most of us, we are supposed to create more value than the lowest price will allow, and we are supposed to ensure that our margins allow us to create that value.

    Do your best. Fight your fight. And most of all, be the difference that makes a difference for your clients and your company.


    Do you compete on price even though it isn’t your company’s competitive advantage?

    Are you differentiated enough to create enough value that you should be chosen over a lower priced competitor?

    How often do you find that the lowest price equals the very best offering? Do you believe your dream clients value price above all else?

    How do you shift the decision criteria to something other than price? How do you make it about cost instead of price?

    How do you create so much value as a salesperson that you become part of the equation?

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  • John Feskorn

    Love what you’ve outlined here, Anthony.  In any business, no matter how strong your sales ability, you have to compete on price (at some point). Inevitably, you will have to address price as a determining factor in moving forward or moving on from a client.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, John. It’s true, you do have to address price–and you do sometimes have to move on! Thanks for sharing your comments here!

  • Michael_N


    First off, thanks for using Disqus on your blog. Makes it easier to comment. This is a GREAT post. I was just having a conversation this very afternoon with a client who was explaining how he’d lost a great sale due to price. He couldn’t understand how the competitor could undercut him by 20%. 

    As we talked through it he came to realize that perhaps the other company is desperate to sell, may not hire the best so they can charge less, and ultimately the 10 year warranty on the product needs to be backed by the company that sold it. A-ha! The two companies may not be equals and his job is to have language at the ready to explain to prospects why price is only one way to compare companies. He was stimulated by the conversation.

    Now I wish I’d read your post last night! Thanks for posting a keeper.

  • Michele Price

    Your posts are stimulating conversations around how to look at and be perceived differently when selling yourself.  It is almost fun how you take the topic and divide it in layers to learn.

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