A Tale of Two Price Objections

By Bill Farquharson
In June 15, 2015

At the end of last year I was faced with two subscription renewal decisions: The Wall Street Journal and Sirius Radio. In both cases, I have successfully played the game I call, Holy Crap Are You People Stupid or What?

Here’s how the game is played:

  1. My subscription comes to an end.
  2. I call Customer Service to quit.
  3. If they don’t immediately drop their price, I cancel.
  4. Often on the spot, but at the latest within two weeks, I receive a phone call, email or letter with miraculous news: They want me back and are willing to drop the price in return for my renewal.

This latest experience, however, was quite different…

On Wednesday, December 26, I called the Wall Street Journal. In the past, it’s amazing how quickly the cost has gone from a $99 Introductory Rate to a $212 Regular Rate and then back to a Special Rate that they just happened to find, all by saying “I quit.” In our world, that would be like the customer saying, “Your price is too high.”

So, I told the annoying recording that I wanted to cancel, and was immediately routed to someone specially chosen for their kindness and ability to express empathy while quietly urging the customer to reconsider.

Or so I thought.

My WSJ customer service rep’s name was Michael. I told him I wish to cancel my subscription. He said all the usual things (“Sorry to see you go. You’ve been a loyal customer. Blah, blah, blah.”) and I thought I knew what was coming next: “Would you stay if I could give you a better price?”

Instead, Michael told me, “Our new CEO has done away with playing games. Now, everyone pays the same rate: $25.99 a month. You are currently paying less than $18 a month. The only way to keep that price is to hold onto your subscription and I’m not sure that I can even hold that price for you past your renewal date.” (Those were his exact words).

Michael then added, “The Wall Street Journal is the number one newspaper in the country and the only one whose subscription is growing (All true. I looked it up!). You, yourself, told me how much you enjoy reading it on a daily basis (Yup. I’d said that. Dang it!). The newsstand price is two dollars. You are currently paying 64¢. If you quit and come back later, you’ll do so at a rate of one dollar. Again, that’s if I can hold your current price. Let me talk to my Supervisor.” And away he went.

Suddenly, rather than looking forward to a steep discount I found myself fighting to maintain the price that a minute ago, I loathed paying! How on Earth did this happen?

When Michael returned with the “good news,” I gratefully renewed. Whew! That was a close one.

Having lost the first game to the Wall Street Journal and their clever, “Our Product Is Worth Every Penny” pricing strategy, I turned my attention to Sirius Radio.

Fortunately, my experience with them went as expected: I quit. They cut their renewal price in half to $94.20. I stayed.

The Wall Street Journal kept me on the phone for nearly 20 minutes, including hold time of just under 60 seconds. Sirius Radio reverted to the fetal position, caved on price, and had me off the phone in 12 minutes, nine of which were spent on hold (this, after they had predicted I’d only have to wait four minutes).

Is the Wall Street Journal worth 64¢ a day to me? Hell, yes! Will it be worth one dollar a day when my subscription expires? Probably, but don’t tell them that.

And what about Sirius Radio? Are they worth the price that I would’ve paid had they not dropped their drawers? Hell, yes! Fortunately for me, they still believe in playing the game as titled: Holy Crap Are You People Stupid or What?

Kudos to the Journal. You called my bluff and beat me. You recognize that you have an outstanding product and you stood by it.

As for Sirius Radio, don’t be so quick to give in. You’ve established a pattern now, and it doesn’t take a Rocket Surgeon to figure it out.

It’s a good thing printers don’t play that game, huh?

Have you taken Bill’s Sales Assessment test? It’s free and can be accessed at sales.epicomm.org. Bill can be reached at 781-934-7036 or bfarquharson@epicomm.org

Bill Farquharson

Epicomm Vice President Bill Farquharson previously served as President of Aspire For, a sales training and consulting firm in Duxbury, MA, and is a 30+ year sales veteran in the print and form industries. He has trained thousands of print sales representative, sales managers, and “selling owners” with a highly successful, no-nonsense “old school” approach. His unique training programs—The Sales Challenge, The Mobile Sales Club, and Tuesday eWorkshops—have become an industry standard for driving new business. Bill has trained and coached sales people from Xerox, Fuji Xerox, HP Indigo, Heidelberg, EFI, Konica-Minolta, and others. An active columnist and blogger for Printing Impressions magazine, PIWorld.com, he also shares two weekly electronic eblasts each week with thousands worldwide: Monday Video Sales Tip and Friday Short Attention Span Webinars. Bill received a B.A. degree in Marketing from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and worked in sales at UARCO Business Forms, Advanced Form Systems, and Print Tec Network, prior to founding his own firm.

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