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Responding to the rate driven client

Whenever we ask participants for course objectives in our training sessions inevitably someone asks if we are going to cover how you respond to a rate driven client. It’s a very common challenge that many struggle with. What do you do with the client that starts their conversation with you by focusing on rate?

How do they start?
There’s a few different ways this plays out in the branch, but the openers these clients use are typically something like:
 - "I just like to know what your best rate is on …"
 - “I’ve been offered ___ % at ABC bank, can you match/beat that?"
 - “What’s the best rate you can get me on (insert product here)?"

 … or something like that.

Product first, price second 

That should be your mantra regardless of how the client wants to start the conversation, but especially when they start by focusing on rate. The erroneous assumption that is made when salespeople simply respond to the request for rate information, is that the product that the client asked about is the perfect product for their situation. Now, we all know that it very well might be the right product, but experience has also taught us that clients make mistakes all the time and ask for the wrong thing. In order to provide the most professional service possible to your client you owe it to them to make certain you get them the product that is the best one for their situation. After all, if it is not, what is the point in discussing rate? A great rate on the wrong product isn’t really a great rate. It will cost them in the long run.
What to do? 

Don’t respond too quickly with rate information. The rate discussion belongs in the product presentation section of the sales process AFTER you have determined the best product for the client based on your needs analysis. The key to effectively sidestepping these inquiries at the outset, and getting into a more productive conversation about their goals, is to control the conversation. We are not talking about controlling the person but controlling the conversation. Questions control the focus of a conversation which is why questions to a salesperson are so critical to master. Questions allow you to lead the conversation in a direction you would like it to go.  The reason many people find these conversations difficult is because the client is controlling the conversation. The client begins by asking a rate oriented question that the salesperson feels compelled to answer. Then when they answer, the client asks another question and the cycle continues with the client staying in control.
The basic technique then is to respond to their question with a question of your own that gets the client talking about what they are doing and lets you slide into your discovery questions to help you identify the best product for their situation. With a better understanding about them and their goals you will have the information you will need in order to customize your product presentation for their specific needs and build value before talking rate.
Here are a few suggestions:

* Work with their momentum and energy; don’t try to contradict them. Do this by letting them know immediately you will do your best to get them the information they need.  You never want to make it sound like you are avoiding their question but rather, that you are simply postponing your answer. The tone in your first response is always positive and upbeat. 
• “Sure I’d be happy to get you that information…"
• “Wow, that’s a great rate, I’m not sure if I can match it but I’ll sure try, let me ask you a few questions to see what I can do."

* Don’t hesitate or pause after your first statement (above examples) - immediately start asking your questions.
• “Sure I’d be happy to get you that information, I’m curious, how did you end up on the (insert product they asked about)?"
• “Wow, that’s a great rate, I’m not sure if I can match it but I’ll sure try, let me ask you a few questions to see what I can do. What lead you to the (insert product they asked for)?"
• “Great question! We’re really competitive right now - tell me a little bit about what you are doing."
• “Our rates are very competitive right now and we may actually have a product that I can get you a better rate on; I’m not sure if it would be right for you, it depends on your situation - let me ask you, how did you end up on the (insert product they asked about)?"

* Don’t ask if you can ask questions, just ask. There’s a big difference in asking “do you mind if I ask you a few questions” and simply saying, “let me ask you a few questions” and then start asking. Most clients understand that there is more to their buying decision than just rate and want to get into a deeper conversation with you. As such, they will usually answer your questions with no resistance whatsoever. Responding to what they ask with confidence and momentum will increase your chances of success.
* Until you feel you have effectively got the conversation off of rate, never finish saying anything without asking a question. Once a new conversational pattern has been established and the client is understanding that you are genuinely interested in them, and what they are doing, you will not have to worry about them cycling back to rate.
As with any technique like this it will not work with everyone. There will certainly be clients from time to time that don’t go along with your questions and insist on talking about rate. Don’t play rate “keep away”. If they get too resistant or rapport starts to deteriorate then simply start discussing rate. However, from time to time, remind them that, “what I’d really like to do is find out a little more about what you’re doing because I may have a product that will enable you to get a better rate” and then start asking questions again.
The key is to improve your odds of success and through confidently taking control of the conversation you will improve your odds immensely.