by Jeb Blount
When I’m training people how to sell price increases, I start my classes with this: “Raise your hand if you’d like to pay more.” No one ever puts up a hand, because nobody wants to pay more. I seriously doubt that you’ve ever received a call from a customer asking you to please, please raise your prices because they want to pay more.
When the companies you buy from tell you that their prices are going up, you don’t do a happy dance and post on Facebook about your lucky circumstances. It is more likely that you call or write customer service to complain, seek out competitors, express your displeasure to friends and family, post something nasty about that company on social media, and sometimes get angry.
We Want Happy Customers, Not Conflict
As sales and customer service professionals, we are specialists at building relationships. We live to make our customers happy. We’re good at discounting to get the deals closed and keeping customers satisfied.
Conflict with customers over price increases is not natural for us. We want customers to appreciate, accept, and like us, not reject us. It is this need to feel accepted that makes approaching customers with price increases such a powerful emotional destabilizer.
The fear of rejection can push you to emotional extremes, causing you to hesitate, procrastinate, avoid price increase conversations, and make big mistakes when you finally do engage your customers. It erodes confidence, making it easier for customers to push you around and get their way.
When you choose a career in sales, you are choosing a career in which you will be forced to face conflict and deal with the potential of rejection. There is no way around this. Price increases are a norm—not an exception. So you have a choice. Either cause yourself unnecessary stress and worry over a job you will still have to do, or learn to control your emotional responses, gain confidence, and rise above your fear of rejection.
You may be able to avoid the emotional discomfort of approaching customers with price increases in the short term by dragging your feet. But sooner or later, the roosters will come home to roost and you will be forced to have that conversation—usually not on the best of terms.
Mastering the Fear of Rejection
The fear of rejection is your Achilles’ heel when approaching customers with price increases. This is why mastering your fear is the real secret to mastering price increase conversations.
In every price increase conversation, the person who exerts the greatest emotional control has the highest probability of achieving their desired outcome.
It’s natural to feel like you have little control when dealing with savvy customers who have many alternatives and threaten to go to competitors when there is even a hint of a potential price increase. In these situations, you must focus on what you can control rather than what you cannot:
That’s it – nothing more. You can choose to be disciplined and prepared with your messaging and business case. You can choose to plan for objections and pushback. You can choose your attitude and beliefs. And in emotionally tense price increase situations, you have absolute control over your emotional discipline and response to the fear of rejection.
But let’s not minimize just how difficult it is to rise above the fear of rejection and choose your response. It is very difficult to quell your emotions and approach price increase conversations with relaxed, assertive confidence when everything inside you just wants to run.
At this point, it would be easy for me to tell you to get over it and use dispassionate clichés, like “just let it roll off your back.” But that would be completely disingenuous, especially since I’ve walked in your shoes. We’ve all experienced the insecurity and emotional disruption that comes with this insidious fear. We have all been there – because we are all human.
The truth that few people will tell you is that your fear of rejection, and the worry that stems from it, is not a psychological problem. Rather, it is biological and baked into your human DNA.
Unchecked, it will hold you back as a sales professional and severely impede your ability to get the price increases you deserve. But, because the fear of rejection is biological rather than psychological, unless you are a sociopath, you can’t just snap your fingers and detach from this emotion. It doesn’t work that way.
Instead, you’ll need to deploy sustainable techniques to rise above this fear. This begins with awareness that the emotion is happening, which allows your rational mind to take the helm, make sense of the feeling, and choose your behavior and response.
There is a big difference between experiencing emotions and being caught up in them. Awareness is the intentional and deliberate choice to monitor, evaluate, and modulate your emotions so that your behaviors are congruent with your intentions and objectives. You cannot choose your emotions; you can only choose your response to those emotions.
Emotional discipline is managing your outward behavior, despite the volcanic emotions that may be erupting below the surface. This is how you display relaxed, assertive confidence when presenting price increases. Like a duck on the water, you appear calm and cool on the outside, even though you’re paddling frantically just below the surface.
About the Author
Jeb Blount is the author of 14 definitive sales and sales leadership books, including his latest, Selling the Price Increase. He is among the world’s most respected thought leaders on sales, leadership, and customer experience. Through his global training organization, Sales Gravy, Jeb and his team train and advise a who’s who of the world’s most prestigious organizations. His flagship website, SalesGravy.com, is the most visited sales-specific website on the planet.