Remember Columbo’s famous line, “Just one more thing”? Bah, you’re too young!

His signature line wasn’t the only thing that made Columbo such an amazing detective. Outwardly, Columbo was a bit of a mess. His clothes dishevelled, his hair unkempt, seemingly absentminded with half-smoked stogie in his hand.

But look closely. He spoke with razor precision, using his appearance and offbeat demeanor to disarm suspects who regularly underestimated his problem-solving prowess. Notice the confidence in his eye when backs were turned? Did you catch how he was often out-of-scene before he sunk in his hooks for the final kill?

Columbo knew exactly what he was going to ask before he asked it. He was 3 moves ahead of everyone, and you would never have guessed it until the final scene. Columbo was a master of “the show”.

The Columbo Redux

You can be as effective as Columbo in sales, too. All you need is a 3 step formula for handling one of the biggest challenges in sales: the price objection. Most sales training will give you a litany of adversarial rebuttals, but none have the unassuming finesse of Columbo. Leaving his ego deep in his wrinkled trench coat, he seemed to acquiesce to the suspect or compliment them, seemingly out of the blue, and then make a move to leave.

This was the moment that curiosity struck. And this was his masterstroke. Columbo was masterfully disarming the person by posturing at the door, or even out of view. This is when the prospect has let their guard down. Whatever follows, “just one more thing,” is your opportunity to surprise Broca.

In 90% of sales presentations, there was something missed in selection. Yes, selection. You either presented something that was more than they anticipated, or something that did not fulfill what they had in mind. 10% of the time, you just don’t have the thing they want. This is assuming, of course, that you made every effort to ensure what you had to sell was both relevant and timely for them.

But you can’t just jump in and slap them around. Instead, take the path less travelled. Humility. Start off by asking, “Just one more thing before I go. Was there something I said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do?” 1% of the time there is a personality conflict that doesn’t allow the sale to move forward. 99% of the time, this isn’t the issue…but you can use this technique as a reset.

Next question: “Did your selection have too much stuff with it or was there something missing that you wanted to have?” This is almost always where the rubber meets the road. We, as salespeople, see and understand the value of various features. But your customer often does not. Alternatively, we are sometimes afraid to present the product/service with all the extra little bits because we fear we will price ourselves out of reach. This leaves you comparably worse in both cases as you have overpriced yourself.

This is where you can redeem yourself.

By customizing your product/service or explaining the benefits of a particular feature your product/service has in such a way that it changes their buying behaviour, you increase your odds dramatically of closing the deal today.

If you truly have the right product/service for their needs, and they still aren’t budging, you have just one last thing in your arsenal. Price. Before leaving the customer, be sure to hit them with the price question. It goes like this, “Is it too much money, or is it just more than you want to spend today.” You’ve gotta say it just like that.

If the customer says “it’s too much money,” you’ve got a budget issue. This is a clear indication that you are outside of their actual or perceived total budget. This is your cue to explore payment options or guide them toward a more affordable choice.

If the customer says “it’s more than I want to spend today,” you have a value objection. This means you haven’t landed on the proper selection yet. This is your cue to go right back into each feature, item-by-item, and add or delete the necessary bits to get to the right selection.

On average, customers need to be asked upwards of 8 times to buy before they commit.

The difference between persistence and pressure is how unique you are in asking for the business on each attempt.

-Ryan Chute 

When you come across like Columbo; a humble, curious problem solver, you rarely get branded the “typical sleazy salesman.” When you’ve done a great job becoming fully qualified to show your prospect the best options, you earn yourself the right to be persistent. After all, you’re only trying to help.

Good selling.