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How to address price pressure and sell value

World leader Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group (WMFTG) addressed both and share their experience

Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group (WMFTG) is the world leader and premium provider in the niche peristaltic pumps and associated fluid path technologies for the food, pharmaceutical, chemical and environmental industries. Business is highly competitive and the last 5 years have seen marked pressure on price and product offerings.“As the competitive landscape changes we need to develop new habits to meet new challenges.” Explains Rachel Pallett, Sales and Marketing Director, Europe and Middle East at Watson-Marlow. Rachel set out to find a supplier who fitted their organisation and could help them streamline their approach to sales by providing:

  • A methodology that works in any country or culture. “We need something that fits with us. Most importantly, looking to the future, we need someone with global reach. A method we can scale up and adapt to all the countries where we operate. It’s essential to do this kind of learning, especially roleplays and practice sessions in local language”, Rachel explains.
  • Learning and development that brings tangible behaviour change. “I believe in going beyond a classroom approach for training. The preparation, the participation and the follow up is really important if we are to make training stick”, says Rachel.
  • A consultative approach to sales that adds value to both the client and Watson-Marlow. Rachel expands: “We invest heavily in product and application training to add value to the customer. We want a sales process which will enhance that value further.

SPIN® Pilot in Italy Watson-Marlow decided to conduct a pilot project with Huthwaite International for their operation in Italy, with a view to a wider implementation. Despite the difficult local economy there has been some good years of growth within established markets. Watson-Marlow was looking to mirror this success across new product developed in-house and that obtained through mergers and acquisitions.

Watson-Marlow Country Manager, Italia, Massimo Ghedini provides background to the project: “We have a number of hurdles to clear before we can begin to make progress in a sale. There is pressure on client resources. The diversity of the stakeholders and territories involved can affect the dynamic of each sale. Some clients expect a consultative process while others want merely a transactional sale. And most of our clients want to start a conversation with price." Our brand is well known but this doesn’t guarantee us the sale. There can be a degree of scepticism, which we need to overcome to persuade the client that it is worth spending more to buy a pump from Watson-Marlow rather than something cheaper from the competition. We wanted our modus operandi to be adaptive and truly reflect the value we can bring to each individual client.

Benefits of SPIN®

Comfortable for clients Questions can sometimes seem intrusive so how can a questioning framework such as SPIN® work culturally when the comfort of both seller and buyer are at stake? Massimo elaborates: “Without any doubt SPIN® has enabled us to widen the dialogue by knowing what to do and what to seek proactively. SPIN® is key to gaining access to the client’s real thoughts, and personal as well as technical issues. We ask our clients for direct feedback and we are hearing a very positive response. That’s why I can say that SPIN® is the best tool for our job.

Rachel agrees: “We invest heavily in new product development. We are very particular about creating a customer value proposition unique to each product and the training and assessment which supports this is world-class. SPIN® builds on those foundations by giving us the skills to present our proposition in the most persuasive terms especially with new products, new contacts and new business streams.”

Pushing boundaries is paying off Breaking boundaries by approaching new prospects, especially with new products, can be a difficult task so it’s essential that sellers have all the tools and skills to support not only the product but also the sales conversation itself. “We have gained confidence in contacting large potential clients directly through using SPIN®. The proactive questioning tools help us to see a clear picture of a prospect’s operation, which enables us to present our products in a way that fits their individual needs, adds value to their purchase and outweighs the price of our competitors.

Massimo continues: “SPIN® has brought behavioural change for my sales team. I personally deem that this approach is further elevating our professional image within the industry and that clients are demonstrating trust in us to deliver. Direct sales have definitely increased since we adopted SPIN®.

Enabling Change If we view change as the responsibility of everyone, what can be done at each stage in the process and at each level within the organisation to make it a reality? Rachel gives her view: “It’s important to set out a plan, a budget and agree deliverables. For a project like this to be successful, it needs support and attention from the top and a willingness to participate from everyone involved. Happily, we started this project with a sales force who have good skill levels and an appetite for continual improvement.

Acquiring knowledge As they say, knowledge is power and at an organisational level it’s certainly an effective way to set up a project to succeed. Exploring the appetite for change within the organisation and conducting Training Needs Analysis of the target audience are just a couple of the elements that provide information that shape a workable solution for change. “Teleconferencing and one day workshops worked well in helping both Huthwaite and the Watson-Marlow to see a wider and deeper picture of the project ahead of us” Anders Hjort, Regional Development Director at Huthwaite explains.

Measuring knowledge At an individual level, measuring skills against the SPIN® behavioural framework makes the learning journey much more tangible for the sales engineers and manager. Assessments took place before, during and after training. The information is shared through our learning portal and can be accessed, where appropriate, by learners and management...

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Further reading

Embedding best practice in sales. Fujitsu’s story
By Huthwaite International | January 16, 2016

How Atkins Global created sales excellence
By Huthwaite International | June 1, 2017

How Granta are increasing sales with a different type of customer conversation
By Huthwaite International | May 7, 2016