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Listening Can Pay Back Up To $14,000/hour

I recently received a 60% discount on a medical treatment when I was calling to pay in full. Are you giving away discounts rather than listening or having a difficult conversation with a customer or client? When you get to the finish line it’s tempting to let a discount help you close the deal or make the customer feel better. In the joy of winning a deal how much money is being left on the table? Working on your conversation skills that transpire at the decision making point is like working on your putting in golf. In golf they say you drive for show and putt for dough.  In sales you market and present for show and listen well and manage difficult or uncomfortable conversations for dough. Here is how this medical office can earn over $14,000/hour by listening.

In my recent story the discount was triggered when I expressed my discomfort and frustration with hearing of an unexpected final charge prior to the end of a series of procedures.  I can wear my feelings on my sleeve as a consumer and if I could have been a little more composed I might have said, “Wow, I didn’t expect that. Can I take tonight to readjust my acceptance of this new cost?” But instead, I blurted out, “What, I thought I was done, all paid up. I can’t do this now. I’ll call you.” As I elaborated more it was obvious I wasn’t happy. I expressed that I was not challenging their price; I was just caught off guard. I thought I had paid in full four months ago and now I was at the finish line of physical discomfort only to learn I was not done paying.

Perceived Problem Solved With a Discount

I went home, took care of the other work that was on my plate for the day, accepted the new costs and called to schedule a new appointment. That’s when I was told that the doctor made a decision to give me a huge discount because I’ve been a good patient and he wanted me to be happy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m liking the savings, but truth be told I’m a little embarrassed. I was embarrassed because the office and the treatment I have received has been great. My concern was never about value, it was more of sticker shock.

How are you handling any discomfort your customer or client is having at the signing or agreeing to a deal? If you’re leaving money on the table you most assuredly have solid justification for your actions. In the case of the medical office, I’ve paid them a good sum of money this year. My wife has her work done there and in general we enjoy the relationship. I suppose they have margin built into my arrangement they can live without but a simple 3-5 minute conversation (most of it listening) with me could have realized them an additional $1200 and kept me as a happy customer. That’s over $14,000/hour if you have 12 of these conversations.

Buyers Like to Be Understood

What did I need as a buyer?  The same thing we all need; to be heard. More than that, I needed to be understood. The skill to improve is your active listening. Did you pick up the clue I shared in my conversation with the medical staff? I specifically said I was not challenging the cost but was caught off guard.  Yet, what was heard was, “This is too expensive.”  The discount was based on their perceived understanding, not their confirmed understanding. So what could they have done differently?

Listen and Confirm Understanding

When dealing with a similar situation of a customer who wants to buy from you but has concerns, listen to understand, not to close. They are already closed, they are just dealing with ‘their stuff”. The staff person could have confirmed their understanding by saying, “Sounds like you weren’t expecting this cost and you thought you were all paid up, is that it?”. I say, “YUP!” As humans we have a need to be understood. That’s why people yell or retreat, they want to be understood and these are ways they are trying to say, “Hey, come listen to me”. For buyers, they have their own communication styles. Sometimes they get wigged out during your opportunity for glory. If this happens, listen and confirm you heard things right and then ask one more question.

 Is There Anything Else?

When a buyer truly feels like they are heard, especially if someone confirms their understanding, the floodgates of good communication open up. It is a perfect time to ask if there is anything else they are concerned about or not comfortable with.

There could be a lot of scenarios in your selling world like delivery dates, training, network configurations, payment schedules, implementation team or new pressures at their office that have nothing do with you and your offering. My provider doesn’t know that I had a huge unexpected expense this year, which probably contributed to my concerns, but it had nothing to do with their work or pricing. They’re my personal issues, but they can cloud my buying mood. Buyers don’t sign agreements to not bring their whole life into the buying process. It’s their right to do so if they want. Allow them to share if needed by asking if there is anything else.

Confirm your understanding again of any new information, then find a new and creative way to ask if there’s anything else. Use different wording so you don’t sound like the programmed customer service rep on 800 lines. Don’t’ get me started.

Ask How They Would Like to Proceed?

There might be something you can help them with to overcome their concerns or maybe not. If the office staff asked me how I would like to proceed after understanding my concerns this would have been my response. “Can you explain why this procedure costs more than the others and did you forget to tell me this? Also, I think I need time to adjust to the extra cost.”  After being heard and understood, I might have asked if they can help out with pricing, but they didn’t have to. My information and emotional needs would have been dealt with and I would be back on track.


Rather than give away money to get past an uncomfortable situation help your buyer work through what ever is bothering them so they can buy what they want and you can earn your full commission.

Rene is the President of Sales Manager Now, a company that provides fractional sales management services to small and family-run businesses. He has twenty-seven years of experience in sales leadership, coaching, and consulting. He is also the author of the Part-Time Sales Management handbook and is based in Auburn, California.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Great post Rene. How can you trust a salesperson, if they immediately drop the price under a little pressure? If you are really interested in me, give me the best shot the first time. Negotiate if necessary, but don’t reduce a price unless you also take away some service item, which equals the value of the price reduction.

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