Selling a Price Increase: Fuel Surcharge?

Dear Valued Customer: Due to the increasing price of fuel, we are being forced to begin assigning a $12.00 per delivery fuel surcharge on all deliveries.  We regret having to do this, but due to the increased cost of fuel, we have no other option.   It’s our desire that with this fuel surcharge we will be able to continue providing you with the same level of service you have come to expect from us.  Each month we will review the charge to ensure it accurately reflects current conditions.

This was a note I recently received from a buyer.  I asked the buyer how they responded to the vendor.  His response was quick and short.  “No.”  That’s what he told the salesperson.  The buyer’s reason for the “no” response was simple — because he knew if he rejected it early, the salesperson would find a way for him to not have to pay it.

Pretty lame when the buyer knows that by merely barking loud enough he can get his way.  Unfortunately, this is the case far too many times.  The buyer went on to tell me how if the salesperson had pushed back on him as to why  the fuel surcharge was necessary, he was simply going to tell the salesperson that he would take his business elsewhere.

When I asked the buyer if he really would stop buying from a particular company because of a fuel surcharge, he said, “No.”  What gives? Do you see what is happening?  The buyer knows he has strength and by merely pushing back. He knows the salesperson will cave.

The buyer also knows that because it’s a surcharge, the salesperson most likely has a little more flexibility in working with customers  to collect or waive the amount.

Does this get you thinking?  I hope so. I hope it provides you with just one more reason why surcharges for fuel or anything else are just a waste of time.  Why would I as a salesperson choose to spend the amount of time selling a surcharge that is seen as a temporary fix?

If you’re going to spend your time convincing them to pay you more, then call it what it is — price increase. Don’t waste time on something temporary. Make it permanent.

I’m not saying you’re not going to face less resistance. In fact, you may very well face more, but make your time worthwhile.   Discussing with your customers the merits of temporary changes is not a good use of your time.   Here’s why I say it’s not a good use of time — you’re going to face another round of discussion with your customer when fuel prices begin to fall.  Your customer is going to challenge you to cut the surcharge while your company is  going to want to keep it in place because of the revenue.

Surcharges of any type are time-wasters for sales.  They’re a product of the finance department and let’s not kid ourselves — finance people don’t know how to sell.

Copyright 2011, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog.

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