Using price to close is like fighting the flu: drink lots of liquid, go to bed and wait. I call this "pricefluenza."

I have been jabbing at windmills most of my life, but the most frustrating of all my campaigns has been my battle against using price to close a sale. Using price to close is like fighting the flu: drink lost of liquid, go to bed and wait. A few years ago, I coined the word "pricefluenza" to describe this problem.

What is pricefluenza?

The use of price in every aspect of our business lives. It is not easily detected, but if not discovered, it will attack the bottom line. The incubation period can be as little as one year, depending on the experience of the sales manager.

What are the symptoms?

The inability to sell based on the quality of the product or service. The phrases often used are "competitive market," "price too high" and "We are no longer in the ballgame." Everything becomes based on price. The mere mention of price by a potential buyer brings sweaty hands and a nervous voice. In the later stages of pricefluenza, the sufferer sells only by mentioning the brand name of the product, the price and asking the buyer to purchase based on their past relationship.

What is the treatment?

If diagnosed early, the cure is permanent and profits return to a reasonable level. You must surgically remove the thought and use of the word "price" from every salesperson. The "P word" should only be heard, not spoken by the salesperson.

What is the medicine?

There is any number of over the counter prescriptions that will assist in the cure. Most generic drugs can be found under the heading "how to sell." You should be cautioned that these drugs are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and have certain side effects, such as self-confidence, high self-esteem, more profit for the company and a happy and permanent employee.

While I have tried to make this as humorous as possible, the reality is problem is as bad today as it was 12 years ago. Each time we erode the price, we are taking away the freedom to be independent. Buying "better" allows us to sell lower and make less profit. Does that make any sense?

Price has become such a large factor that we find salespeople offering the price before a buyer requests it. When this happens, the price becomes more important than the seller, the company the seller represents and even the quality of the product. What has taken place during the last decade is we now have people in management jobs that have never seen the benefits of selling without having the best price in a market. When you are dealing with an industry that has a single-digit profit margin, you will see many firms falling by the wayside. The consolidation of our industry is the result of the erosion of our bottom lines.

While price is always going to be part of most sales, it does not have to be the reason people feel they buy. Perception is reality, whether it is pricing or the quality of the goods being sold. Selling is creating the image of the product being worth more than the price being paid.

The problem today is if we don't believe in what we say and do, why should a buyer? Selling is doable and will make a difference in your company but you first must believe in yourself, your company, the products you install and the price you change. Only then can you begin to sell at a profit. Buying "better" will never allow you to be more profitable in the long run.

(Dave Gleason has more than 40 years of experience in contracting, engineering and wholesaling. He has put these experiences into a comprehensive consultation and training company called Systematic Selling Inc., which offers customized sales seminars and workshops. Contact him at 1165 Antioch Campground Road, Gainesville, GA 30506; phone 800-447-7355; fax 717-698-6555.)