Quotes on Sales Discounting and Sales Negotiations

Apr 15, 2024 | Blog

Quotes on Sales Discounting and Sales Negotiations

Since the beginning of the modern selling profession, or really the beginning of time, buyers have put pressure on sellers to reduce their price. How sellers respond to that bedrock of the selling process is the difference between success and failure – as a seller, and as the manufacturer of the product being sold.

I teach a program called “Transparent Negotiations: The Counterintuitive Way to Negotiate More Valuable and Predictable Deals“. It’s the most popular program a teach, and there’s a big reason why. We’ve never solved for this issue. Why? Well let’s dig back into history, and start with the quote that says it all.  

“The knowledge of buyers has increased, and they are no longer disposed to pay what is asked of them, unless persuaded in their minds that the sellers regulate their prices on some sound basis.”
– Thomas Herbert Russell, Salesmanship, 1912

I believe that the time is now to establish the foundation for how you present, propose, and negotiate in selling – cards face up. I believe that, in an “as a service’ economy, where so much is sold as a subscription, that the deal is no longer the peak of selling process – it’s an early milestone on the process to having a client who buys, stays, buys more, and brings you with them to their next company.

“Once buyers learn that a salesman will yield to pressure and lower a price, that salesman will be caused to lead a miserable existence thereafter, and will get no orders without a struggle.”

And, discounting does not lead to making friends who advocate for you and your company’s solutions, either.

“A salesman does not make permanent friends by yielding to demands for inside prices. It is a sign of weakness and weakness excites pity rather than admiration.”
– W.N. Aubuchon (“Piccolo”), Mahin’s Magazine, 1904

“The customer who buys an article where the price has been cut is not nearly so loyal, nor has he the confidence in the house, than the man who pays full price.”
– Nilas Oran Shively, Salesmanship, 1916

Photo of Norris Oran Shively

Nilas Oran Shively

I believe that the blowhorn by which anyone, especially buyers, are able to share their experiences and pricing means that you can no longer give a discount once and expect it not to get around. 

“Deep down in his heart a buyer detests a seller who gives in without any defense.”
– Michael Gross, Advertising & Selling Magazine, 1921

I also believe that AI will eventually expose pricing models, and in many cases already has. 

“Under no circumstances may one of our salesmen deviate from the arbitrary scale. Price cutting is an abomination, and the salesman who indulges in it for the sake of increasing the volume of his business has a poor opinion of his house, his goods, his own abilities as a salesman, and his customer.”
– James McNally, Rand, McNally & Co., 1906

Discounting is often seen as the easy way out. The penalty for an organization, but in the long-term and in the short-term is considerably higher than that for the salesperson per traditional and typical compensation models. So, why wouldn’t the rep try to take the easy way out, advocate for the customer, and complain in agreement with said customer that the prices are too high?

“Mr. Customer thinks you lack the sand to stick to your proper price. Don’t give in. Don’t lose your nerve. Hang on – stick tight – hold fast to the legitimate selling price. Don’t come out at the little end of the horn.”
Salesmanship Magazine, 1906

Comic from 1906 on price cutting - where the salesperson who sticks to fair prices comes out on top over the salesperson who gives in to buyers demands, and comes out "the small end of the horn"

Comic from Salesmanship Magazine, 1906

For the most part, remember that discounting is, and always has been seen as being weak sales mastery. Whether it’s skill, confidence, belief in the solution, or an understanding of value, if you’re consistently feeling like you have to discount to get deals done, it may be time to make an investment in yourself, or consider finding another solution to sell.

“Price cutting is looked upon as a confession of weak salesmanship – an evidence of lack of resourcefulness and courage.”
– Elmer E. Ferris, Salesmanship, 1924

“Any man can sell goods by cutting prices, but it takes salesmanship to maintain prices and still get the business.”
– Archer Wall Douglas, Travelling Salesmanship, 1919

“Price selling is the penalty a buyer demands for a salesman’s mistakes and inefficient selling methods.”
– Haas & Ernest, Creative Salesmanship, 1969

I believe that negotiating in sales shouldn’t require a different personality than it took to sell the deal itself. Why do we focus on relationships and customer outcomes until the customer says yes, then suddenly shift gears, start hiding the truth about our pricing, and become solely focused on our own outcomes – right at the goal line? In many cases, why do we shift from a service oriented mindset during the selling process to that of a FBI agent trying to release hostages from a bank heist at the goal line? It’s crazy to me – in 2024, we’re still doing this!

Quotes like this one have to go away!

“Never mention the price until the customer thinks it is more.”
– Herbert C. Casson, Tips for Traveling Salesmen, 1927

I almost didn’t want to include that quote in this article – because it’s such awful advice for 1927, or today! Let’s go back to being an advocate for the customer…with confidence, but an eye on mutual outcomes.

“Consider the other person in negotiations – adapt your approach and treatment to him personally, his needs, his circumstances, and his ambitions; and never let him feel that he is being coerced or rushed.”
– Francis Bacon, Of Negotiating (Essay XLVII), 1625

Sir Francis Bacon - circa 1620

Sir Francis Bacon

And remember, lawyers are people, too! Transparency. If there’s a gotcha or something hiding in a contract that either (a) consistently comes up, or (b) is something you hope the customer won’t find, do the opposite. Expose it, or get rid of it! The trust that’s build will pay massive dividends. Simplify wherever possible, and be transparent about where you can’t be simple.

“Simplify the contract. It should usually be simple and short. The buyer has no time to puzzle out a complicated document and search for the joker which he suspects is concealed therein.”
– Frederic Arthur Russell, Textbook of Salesmanship, 1924

Confidence is contagious. It doesn’t have to be that hard. Your price should be your price. Your levers should be your levers.

  1. It’s okay to have volume as a lever – a customer who’s willing to commit to buying more stuff from you should have an advantage over someone who isn’t. 
  2. It’s okay to have the timing of cash as a lever – a customer who is will to pay you faster should have an advantage over someone who isn’t.
  3. It’s okay to have the length of commitment as a lever – a customer who is willing to commit to your stuff for a longer period should have an advantage over someone who isn’t.
  4. It’s okay to have the timing of the deal as a lever – a customer who is willing to help you forecast by MUTUALLY aligning around timing should have an advantage over someone who isn’t.

“Everything else being equal, a customer buys where he can buy cheapest. Everything is not equal.”
– James Samuel Knox, Salesmanship and Business Efficiency, 1915

Photo of James Samuel Knox

James Samuel Knox

“The old adage ‘You can sell anything if you make the price low enough’ can be reversed and applied with equal force, ‘You can secure any price if you make the article good enough.’ The salesman who believes in his article should feel confident whether the price is a high one or not.”
– M.S. Burton, Salesmanship Magazine, 1906

“The expert salesman sells his goods, not the price. He does not fundamentally sell his goods by his price. His goods sell the price, not the price the goods.”
– Oscar S. Dorr, 1921

Let’s end with two of my favorites. The first I just think is funny because it’s so in-your-face. 

“The salesman who knowingly overcharges a customer is a commercial pickpocket. If you sell your goods for less than they are worth, you are not alive to your self-interest and self-respect and may even be weak in character and personality.”
The Art and Science of Selling, Volume 1, 1918

…and the second is just a fantastic quote. The issue is, the attribution is in question. Some say Ruskin never actually said this, but whoever did…bravo!

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little.”
– John Ruskin, 1870

If you need help with your negotiations, struggling to keep discounting to a minimum, it’s a big part of what I do. It’s easy. You can build trust at the goal line instead of erode it. You can easily maximize deal values, which lead to higher long-term deal values. If done right, you can actually make deal predictability and forecasting vastly improve, too. Just reach out…


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I’m a sales keynote speaker who also teaches revenue organizations how to leverage transparency and decision science to maximize their revenue capacity. It’s what I do…teach sellers, their leaders, well…entire revenue organizations how we as human beings make decisions, then how to use that knowledge for good (not evil) in their messaging (informal and formal), negotiations, and revenue leadership. I wrote a book Book Authority listed as the 6th best sales book of all time (𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘺 𝘚𝘢𝘭𝘦), and a second award-winning book (𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘚𝘢𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘓𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘳).

Reach out if you want to discuss The Transparency Sale sales methodology, or really…anything else (sales kickoffs, workshopskeynotes, the economy, history, etc.)! Email info@toddcaponi.com or call 847-999-0420.

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