An Interview with Tony Perzow - Negotiation Strategy Expert
By Frank Hurtte
When the first few minutes of a conversation includes references to dozens of Fortune 500 companies, Greek philosophers, the contrast between American and European street names and the future of B2B selling, you know it's going to be interesting. But when the speaker effortlessly ties them all together to make a watertight point, you realize the time was well spent. Such is the case with Tony Perzow, SPASigma's VP of Pricing Training. Allow me to share some of the experience.
Tony is the Vice President of the newly formed training arm of Strategic Pricing Associates (SPA) called SPASigma. Long known for their unique methodology which combines data-driven pricing analysis, price training and ongoing client coaching, SPA has pushed their offering further into another area which impacts the price equation - negotiations. This is where Tony comes in.
Mr. Perzow has taught negotiation strategies to literally thousands of people from companies ranging from multinational Fortune 500 organizations to main street distributors. Over the years he has developed a keen awareness of the state of selling in North America.
When asked about his observations on selling Tony shared, "Many salespeople enter the profession because they possess certain personality traits; natural charm, the gift of gab or an in depth understanding of the product technology. Engineering types especially come to the selling world with strong a well-developed knowledge of product features. At the same time most of these people fail to understand the mechanics of convincing their customers to make a purchase."
Intrigued by the statement, I asked Perzow to elaborate. His answer was eye-opening:
"Salespeople are paid to persuade, yet they miss the mark. Several thousand years ago Aristotle outlined the three pillars of persuasion. I believe they still stand. Let me elaborate. Aristotle broke persuasion into Ethos, Pathos and Logos. Loosely translated from the Greek, these mean credibility, empathy and evidence. Unless all three are used, the seller will not be effective."
Hearing this bold statement I had to get more. I asked for additional clarification. Here is the explanation:
"To make a sale you have to be believed. A seller must demonstrate they are a credible source; that you are honest and offer up valuable information about your area of expertise. This is relatively easy for the engineering guys. Their degree and product skills are evident assuming their words and actions demonstrate this to the customer. For other sellers credibility is built by sharing work history and experiences which lead to the conclusion that you are a worthy source of information.
A seller has to empathize with the customer - it's the old walk a mile in the customer's shoes story. You must demonstrate understanding of the customer's unique situation. Further, you must tie in how your product, service or solution can help solve the customer's issue. The more thoroughly you understand the customer's world the better you become at demonstrating the validity of whatever you have to sell.
Finally, you must provide proof (the evidence) of your claims. Customers fear risk and evidence, whether empirical or anecdotal, alleviates the risk factor. This can come via a detailed analysis of the customer's own data or by way of case studies developed from similar customers. As with empathy, the better proof is presented, the more likely the customer will see less risk and make the purchase. SPASigma provides negotiation training which is tied to these principles."
I believe some view negotiation as a lost art. Others as a form of trickery. But Tony Perzow sees it differently. To him, negotiation is part of the buying process; more of a buyer-seller dance aimed at getting the best deal. And, evidence shows the buying side has demonstrated a keener interest in learning the process. "Back during the darkest days of the last recession, I saw a shift in the people attending negotiation training. As companies looked for ways to remove cost from their operation. The quickest, easiest approach was to buy things cheaper. Classes switched from a mix of buyers and sellers to rooms full of purchasing and procurement types," quipped Perzow.
Since the target of SPASigma seems to center on sellers, we asked for thoughts on how negotiations fit into the selling realm. Perzow feels negotiation has to be part of the selling strategy and every strategy requires a plan. We must be prepared to ward off questions about our price with evidence of value. We need to understand what makes an equitable deal for the seller as well as the buyer.
As a person who believes many distributors and other selling organizations have gone overboard with the concept of "value-added" selling, I was keenly impressed by Tony's thoughts on the topic:
"Many seller don't fully understand the cost of the freebees they provide. Further, research indicates buyers aren't all that impressed with services or products provided for free. To the buyer, free stuff is just fluff. While cerebrally they understand the free stuff has some value, there is no real satisfaction created in the deal; especially if they assume everybody gets the same deal - that it's built into the price."
After over three decades in the selling world, I believe it's time for sellers to up their skills in negotiation. SPASigma has a plan and will be offering not only classroom training but tools for ongoing reinforcement of the concepts provided. This seems like a no-brainer for both new and experienced sellers. Upcoming seminars can be found at www.strategicpricing.com and Tony Perzow can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.