I'd like to start off by apologizing to all the sales managers out there who may have to listen to their sales force argue for “special introductory pricing” based on this month's column.
I had been calling on a potentially large commercial account. They used some millwork products that I wasn't familiar with, but I forged ahead and priced a package for them (far be it from me to let a little something like product knowledge stand between me and a large new account). Turns out I was the low bid. I didn't mean to be. In fact, I was very conscious about keeping my margins on the quote healthy to allow for negotiating room.
Well, not being familiar with the product proved costly. I'd mis-priced the job, winning the order but making my margins razor thin.
“We'll make it back on the next one,” I assured my boss.
How many times have you heard that line used to excuse horrendously low margins on an order? Here are some of my other favorites:
“This new order will get our foot in the door.” (By the way, sticking your foot in a door hurts a lot.)
“We have to get this builder to notice us.” (I'd rather erect a billboard outside his bedroom window than give lumber away.)
“This guy has a lot of friends—he'll talk us up.” (Great. So we'll have to give wood away to his friends, too.)
I understand the theories behind these justifications, but I've never been a big fan of them. Ideally, orders should be placed because our salespeople make strong introductions, making the customer aware of what they and our company offer in sales service, product, and delivery.
Nonetheless, there I was, unintentionally executing the very strategy I detested.