Don't Play Yourself - Selling On Value Instead of Price

by SpadoCochi. Posted on Sep 14, 2020    531    61

What up peeps!

I will never forget when I met a gentleman by the name of Henry Weinacker. Around a year after I started working for Cutco (I know,) I thought I was pretty good at sales.

I finished 1st out of 1,200 salespeople in my office, I had an average order size of $380 when the average was $200, and my closing ratio was at around 80% when the average was around 60%.

After a year at the company, I went to a conference somewhere. It was out of town, and I can’t remember what city or state I was in for the life of me but I remember the moment before Henry walked on stage vividly. There were a few thousand Cutco reps gathered in a large auditorium, and the MC announces him.

“And here is the guy that is shattering records left and right, Henry Weinacker!”

This wild-looking lanky guy with blowfish-style spiked hair (I learned later that he was literally using a full can of gel a day) steps on stage. He’s dressed very well, he has a lot of energy, and his passion is contagious.

Henry was a guy that was cold-calling previous Cutco clients, getting 90% to buy from him, with an average order size of $850. That was absolutely unheard of, and every single set of ears in that auditorium was focused on what he had to say.

Look at that kid’s hair! Yes, that’s Richard Branson.

Henry said some stuff that resonated with me, made me humble as ever, and drove me to believe anything is possible. This was a kid that was bullied growing up, had a poor childhood, and finally turned his insecurities into his strengths, and Henry became a young millionaire.

I met Henry for a few minutes later that day, and we kept in touch. That kid helped me eventually sell enough Cutco to hit the highest sales rank in the company before moving on.

What I learned from Henry was the value of creating value versus competing on price. While other reps were throwing in items to desperately close 60% at $200, Henry had clients flipping through his book, asking to add items to their orders!

The topic of creating value versus competing on price has been talked about by any serious entrepreneur with a blog. In my opinion, outside of marketing, value creation is the single most important factor as to whether your startup will thrive or die.

I could write a book on this, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on three things:

  1. Why So Many New Entrepreneurs Race To The Bottom
  2. How To Create Value
  3. How To Back It Up

"It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract." – Alan Shepard


There are products and services within certain industries where the lowest priced competent vendor will normally win the bid. Indeed, becoming the type of vendor that NASA looks to for parts requires an intense vetting process, quality control checks, and other things the typical business owner doesn’t have to worry about. To win in this case, you focus on creating processes that make product creation cheaper, better or more efficient.

Henry Ford did it by combining the conveyor belt, the assembly line, and the automobile. Henry invented none of these things, but he lowered the time in creating an automobile to 93 minutes. This process revolutionized the industry, which remained largely stagnant until battery tech finally caught up, and my idol Elon Musk created an electric car too good to be ignored.

But what do new entrepreneurs do? Well, we’re still people, so a lot of us are insecure about the quality of our offerings. We look at the established players in the market we’re entering, and on some level decide that they’re better than us, or that customers aren’t as attracted to us as they are to them. This can lead to many failed launch attempts.

Sadly, many people that do launch do it at a low price, because price is their advantage.

Let’s go over why pricing low is usually a terrible idea.


I’ve often said that the best way to write up the budget of a business plan is to write down every single item, write out how expensive it all is, add everything up, then multiply that number by 1.5. Many companies that are focused on pure revenue growth, with the desire to eventually get acquired or IPO don’t care about "unnecessary things like profit margins."

But us mere mortals without unicorn businesses need to focus on creating a business that can pay for itself if we want to have a good shot at being successful long-term.

Running a business is expensive. Things WILL come up, you need to have money to weather the storm, and dealing with a small margin for error due to slim margins could easily kill your business (and drive!)


Imagine when you see a company that claims to offer the same service, or their product looks JUST LIKE competitors' products, but somehow they’re priced more cheaply. Unless the seller is a household name, I’m sure you wonder, what’s the catch?

Cheap pricing makes your prospects suspicious. Isn’t that a sobering thought?

That business now has to prove to their prospects why their product/service is as good as their competitor.

When looking at cheap stuff, I personally look a lot more carefully and pessimistically at reviews. If you do decide to purchase or utilize that company, if they make a mistake, you wonder why you were being cheap in the first place, and you resolve not to be stupid like that again.

When the price is more expensive, you think---well I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure they're normally pretty good---this was just an uncommon misstep.

Again, a cheap business has to prove why their product/service is as good as their competitors to justify their low pricing.

Keep in mind that a cheap company usually isn't trying to show you why their actual product or service is actually better on merit. They’re just trying to exist. Their value is in the fact that they devalue themselves and what they're offering---willing to let us arbitrage that lower cost in order to win our business.

Don’t you think this is a less than ideal image you want to portray for your company? Yet, people do this all the time.

It’s usually a mistake.

Lower costs can give you an advantage when your company has refined some part of the process to such an extent that you can preserve the same margins while offering a similar or better offering than competitors. If your processes aren’t saving you money, either from more efficient systems or more efficient labor, you shouldn’t charge less money at the expense of your business.


If you have actually improved something by refining things internally to make things cheaper for you, then you have already created value. You found a way to be as or more profitable while offering a competent product or service at a lower rate. This is a feat that many major companies have achieved over and over again, and the ability to do that allows them to stay in business for generations. You’ll often see a large company strategically acquire a smaller company that is able to do this, as it’s an incredibly dangerous thing to compete against.

If you must create value in a different way, you just need to be a bit creative.

When you think about it, the entire premise of effective marketing is the ability to create value, so I can’t possibly cover it all in this post (as I’m still learning a lot myself) but there are two important things you can do to consistently provide value over and over again.


Different audiences prioritize different things. You need to narrow down your audience to focus on the people you can speak to more directly. One way to do this is to create a set of 3 or 4 archetype clients, then create marketing materials that speak to them.

Why do you create archetypes?

Honda released a series of ads a few years ago for their Honda civic. This car has been very popular for a long time, but they serve so many people that there are subsets of people that use a civic in different ways.

So Honda decided to offer multiple completely different versions of the car. One of the cars is more traditional, focused on the young, smart decision-making newer family. They talked about the safety features, made the car a 4 door sedan, and showed an archetypal couple in their ad. They built a hybrid version for all the earth-friendly people that appreciate the good mileage on a smaller car. Then there’s the cool kids with “souped up” cars. They made a sporty coupe, the SI, and played dubstep music, and showed the car doing a bunch of trick jumps.

The old Honda Civic Lineup

Honda learned who their audience was, broke their audience into segments, tailored their marketing to each archetype and sold to each one of them.

What are archetypes anyway?

In a business sense, archetypes are specific profiles of the types of people that you have figured would give your company money. A profile may look like:

  • Bob
  • 42 years old
  • $43,000/year
  • Single
  • Loves comic con

Again, if you create 3 or 4 profiles, and are specific without narrowing your market too much, you can design branding and ads to market to these people. When you speak to people directly, they connect with you. If your chosen demographic has previously proven to be interested in what you’re selling, and you figure out a way to speak to them, your archetypes will respond by giving you their cold, hard, cash.


Confidence and passion are contagious. If you don’t believe in your brand 100%, every aspect of your business will be affected. You’ll second guess your pricing, you’ll tweak your site before you have reliable data to figure out if your design works---vision without confidence is an engine without fuel.

But when you’re passionate and confident in your vision, your entire company will benefit. Needless to say, your employees will be more committed to your vision, your salespeople will echo your passion, and everything down to the copy on your website will be better.

On the customer side, I firmly believe that subliminally, people can sense when a brand is cohesive and together. They can also sense when it’s not. There was an article on Forbes that touches upon the benefits of taking things even further. In it, the author mentions Pepsi’s “Pepsi Refresh” program, which the beverage giant invested 20 million dollars into. While the initiative, which was awarding grants towards good causes, was great for increasing social likes and shares, that social media activity didn’t translate to profit.

Pepsi actually lost market share.

The author then goes into a story about how a guy named Saul Kaplan spent 20 years in an industry and took his lifelong passion and work and translated it into a flourishing company. Saul’s company was able to grow, because the initiatives his company took had a lot to do with the overall brand identity of his company.

Pepsi isn’t normally associated with grants to charitable causes, so the loyalty they were looking for wasn’t there. Of course, they donate money and people know it---but their approach here was inauthentic---and people knew it.

The lesson here is that if you believe in what you offer, and you have a true belief that what you offer is beneficial, your prospects will see that, and you won’t need to do things that don’t make sense to attract prospects that don’t connect with your brand.

So you’ve priced your offer appropriately, leaving a good margin to stay profitable. You’ve created value. You’ve created a brand that you believe in. Now what? How do you build a sustainable company long-term?


Customer service excellence.

Your best prospect is a current client. Read that again.

Your current client has already shown that they are likely a good fit for your brand by giving you their business. Also, it’s more economical to focus on retaining clients. It can cost up to 7x as much to acquire a new client as it costs to simply retain your current ones. So make your current clients happy, and find new ones that match the archetype(s) of your current clients.

Again, your job is to get your customers to stick around, and the easiest way to do this is by providing a great customer experience.

...but a repeat client is not necessarily a loyal client. According to Gallup, three traits must be present in order for a customer to be truly loyal to your company.

  • A high degree of overall satisfaction
  • A strong willingness or desire to repurchase
  • A desire to recommend your company to others

Without these three traits, you haven’t truly won a long-term customer. Of course, having one of these traits is better than having none, and you’ll see many companies force a repeat sale (like a 12-month cable TV contract.) That same article on Gallup confirms that by far, the best way to ensure a loyal customer is to provide great human interaction with your clients, as evidenced by the image below.


In the image above, you’ll see the relative importance of product, ads and people in whether a person becomes loyal to a brand. Also interesting to note; the price of the offering was of negligible importance.

Loyal clients keep you in business, and you gain that loyalty by selling value instead of winning the price war.

In summary:

  • Don’t underprice your offering
  • Create value by understanding your audience and speaking to them
  • Create value by executing on your ideas with passion and confidence
  • Retain customers and make them loyal by providing an amazing customer experience

I hope you enjoyed this post!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to take a look at my profile. I built a 7 figure company, sold it, and am teaching others how to do it.


AcerTravelMate 1

You are a genius in making

  SpadoCochi 1

Well thank you!

FearAndLawyering 1

*instead of cost

  SpadoCochi 2


Bipint996 1
Csolex 1


  SpadoCochi 4

Don't make your low price your unique selling proposition. Find another way to value yourself. You'll thank yourself.

Csolex 1


MedEng3 1

>If you enjoyed this post, feel free to take a look at my profile. I built a 7 figure company, sold it, and am teaching others how to do it.

As in your business sold for more than $1,000,000?



CreateorWither 1

Congratulations, that's great.

  SpadoCochi 2

Thank you!

OPPyayouknowme 1

Great write up

  SpadoCochi 1

Thank u!

theunrulyhorse 2

Great post, thank you. When you talk about speaking to your audience, do you mean actually talking to them or is it make sure you are speaking their language?

  SpadoCochi 1

Speaking in their language :)

Also thanks!

RajivSen 2

May God bless your dear ones for the detailed explanation and replies, Don.

  SpadoCochi 1

Thank you! Glad to help

catchyphrase 2

Treat your prospects like clients.
Treat your clients like prospects.

  SpadoCochi 1

I like that.

Putrid-Excitement 2

>Don’t underprice your offering
>Create value by understanding your audience and speaking to them
>Create value by executing on your ideas with passion and confidence
>Retain customers and make them loyal by providing an amazing customer experience

Basically, find the core aspects and optimize. Product and brand. Customer's desires(value driver). Traction, growth, scale.

Doing the right industry standards, and methods to improve satisfaction, profit, growth. Is this the thing?

  SpadoCochi 1

Pretty much!

tnguyen241 3

Thank you for a great post. Very well-written. Cheers!

  SpadoCochi 1

Thank you!

BurdenofPain 3

Great piece. Well worth the time to read.

  SpadoCochi 2

Thank you!

Willbo 8

After years of selling IT services I came to the same conclusions. I started selling services at a low price, and I attracted the archetypes you would expect: low budget, didn't care for tech, high/unrealistic demands, didn't understand my work or trust me much. I would constantly get requests for things that were out of scope or unrealistic, spend a lot of unbillable hours guiding them, and would run into clients that didn't want to pay.

I quickly got burnt out and decided to pursue a formal 9-5. I built a name for myself and still had clients reaching out to me, but since I wasn't interested anymore I would quote them prices 2 to 3 times more than I would normally charge, as a polite way of saying no.

Surprisingly, they would always come back to me and agree to the project. I found out that I would get much more developed/thought out requests, do more meaningful work that was billable, and reach better clients that actually had budgets set aside for IT because they valued it. Not only was I happier, my clients were too. It was a completely different archetype I was working with.

I'm still trying to understand the creation of value part too, and would say the clients are half the equation. To be honest, I'm still doing the same amount of work, maybe even less, but clients are willing to pay much more. I haven't really changed much, I have more experience now, a history, and I'm able to ask better questions, but I'm not sure how "tangible" or obvious this is to customers or what exactly causes them to demand me more, to trust me more, and to pay me more.

  SpadoCochi 2

What it comes down to is that you were already offering a quality of service that was above what you were charging---you just weren't positioning yourself in a way (or maybe you were but you didn't realize it yet) where you felt comfortable charging a certain amount of money.

This happens all the time, and it's usually just a disconnect between what you think people are willing to pay, and what they're actually willing to pay.

Of course, there is a line where what you can charge can start to be a bit of an overcharge---but if your client agrees to it, they can legitimately afford it, and they're happy with the plain and simply haven't overcharged them.

Value creation is just in getting clients to realize (especially from an IT standpoint) how much time, money and frustration they're saving in the FUTURE by having the work done CORRECTLY this time around.

As you know better than me, technical debt can be extremely expensive, and if you charge 10k for something but save them 15k in future work by doing your work correctly over the guy that charged 5k---you just saved them 10k plus time and headache and opportunity cost and untold other things.

CreateorWither 9

Great post. Cutco was my first sales job too haha. There is a very underrated book called "Loyalty Rules" that covers a lot of this type of thing. If you can find it, it's the best business book on creating loyal customers I've found. One example in the book is Howard Johnsons Hotels. In the 80s they were the king of family hotels and had insane customer loyalty. They blew it though and the story is very good at showing how exactly they blew it. There are several other case studies as well.

  SpadoCochi 2

I'll def check it out, thank you!

CreateorWither 1


jayd42 10

Tell me more about the process that creates an average closing rate of 60% for 1200 sales people.

  SpadoCochi 12

Vector Marketing/Cutco. Basically they have a bunch of young kids/colllege students call up their parents and friends parents to ask them if they can show them a presentation on cutco knives and they don't have to commit to buying anything.

Cutco pays $20 per appointment (which is true, I was also a manager) but even though the sales process is shitted on because it's direct marketing, the products are actually amazing.

I use em.

Every time I see my friends parents they always tell me, 15-18 years later how they still love the knives.

That said, Cutco gets a bad rep, gets grouped with MLMs (which I understand) but when I was 19 it was my first job and I didn't know any better.

Plus I sold 300k of the stuff so it worked for me, and again, the product is actually great.

So the point is that because the presentation is scripted, you walk in, cut a penny in half with the scissors, slice through a rope in one slice---it's a heck of an opening, and so even if you suck at selling, the products sell themselves.

Project-MKULTRA 3

That’s not selling though. Scripts? Novelty tricks? Any tin snip can cut a penny. It’s zinc ffs. The only thing I’ve heard from you that is even close to creating value is your personal recommendation and that’s only like 10% of the battle. Products don’t “sell themselves”, it’s a knife, the people are buying something beyond a tool wether or not the person in front of them is creating the value around a sharpened piece of metal.

  SpadoCochi 3

Im going to have to respectfully disagree with you.

Feel free to use a normal pair of scissors to cut a penny.

Many tried. Obviously there are other scissors in the world that do it, but the average pair doesn't.

Thats what you're demoing.

You're not doing a magic trick--you're demonstrating quality products. A little showmanship is absolutely a part of selling and creating value.

Remember, at the end of the day, most of us are essentially selling the same thing as our competitors.

Selling value, then, is about branding and positioning. Not actually needing to be any different.

If the products back them up, which they do, they are basically your wingman sales guy. They are partially selling themselves.

Also, using a script doesn't stop you from being in sales.

Take it from a guy that was running 100 person sales teams at 20 (through that company)

In communication, its rarely about the words and more about the enthusiasm and charisma you have when you say them.

So literally the bland reps that did everything wrong were selling 40%, because the customer can see that the product is of a great quality.

Thats the products selling themselves.

I think you have that to the point no bullshit philosophy which is fine...but most people don't think that way.

What is value adding to you isn't necessarily what is value adding to them.

Project-MKULTRA 1

See that’s the issue, running a “100 person sales team at 20” doesn’t mean all that much when 95% of those people it’s their first job and I’m sure there’s an insanely high churn rate. I do believe the knives are good, but if we’re acting like cutco is anything beyond a numbers game, IE: reach as many people as you can and a certain number of them on average will close, then we’re lying to ourselves. This super salesman guy you’re pointing to with the gimmicky hair is case and point for me on what I think about when I think of scripts and “liner” type salesmen. They don’t create value, they go lowest common denominator and close as much as they can, the medium and hard sells walk.

  SpadoCochi 2

Yea I understand where you're coming from. I mean, again, Vector Marketing isn't the most genuine company when it comes to their approach. They throw bodies at the world and see who comes out on top. In THAT sense, they are going for the lowest common denominator.

However, at the end of the day, what they're doing is the smartest way to do it.

When it comes to a broad market product like cutlery, sales is always a numbers game.

That's the one thing I think you're missing here, unless we're just disagreeing on semantics at this point about what value creation actually is.

In my experience, Cutco and Vector as a company create a tremendous amount of value. By the time the sales rep shows up, in following the presentation (which the good reps don't, which is also sort of the point) they don't have to really add much, but the ones that DO, like Henry, are closing at remarkable percentages.

The "medium and hard sells walk" line doesn't really apply when you're closing 80%+. It just doesn't. You're also not going to the lowest common denominator in terms of customers at that price point. There were plenty of people that, like you, don't care that much about the entertainment part, but they again see that the product is great. My very first presentation was to a doctor (good friend's parents) that went and bought the most expensive thing I showed them.

They didn't need me to add value in that transaction because they already knew me, and my only job was to show them that the product was solid and that it would fill a need/desire they had, which was to improve their kitchen cutlery.

At that point, as a rep, you get out of the way and let the customer decide what they want, with a little bit of consultative guidance.

I've had other sales management positions at companies where we spend half a year developing relationships, and companies where the good reps start off cold-calling 300+ people a day.

The principles are the same.

Be a vessel that communicates what your company spent countless iterations perfecting, THEN start to develop your own personalized approach that fits your personality, so that you can communicate that message even better.

So my main point here in relation to my article is that value creation starts at the top---your sales reps are just an extension of that.

By the way, thank you for your comments---I like these talks.

Project-MKULTRA 1

Same, I'm not digging on you or your experience, but having been in sales I tend to cut through to the root of most matters very quickly. I know what it's like closing 80% when everyone else is doing 20-30% cause I'm usually that person, and you're right, it is just creating value. But that's just the end result of listening, positioning, problem solving, educated guessing, etc. I'm not enthusiastic when I sell, quite the opposite, I'm very monotonous and don't do the cringy Billy Mays style selling. I don't have ridiculous spiky hair, I don't distract, I cut through all of that and deliver true value to those that I talk to because they're coming to me with a problem they need solved. If I can solve it for them, then that's when they buy. So excuse me when I hard cringe at gimmicky stuff like a bleach blonde spiky hair'ed "that guy" cutting pennies with scissors.

  SpadoCochi 1

Yea. I would just caution against an assumption. Cutco had some very serious sales talent come out there, and this guy was top of the top of the top. I mean, we had millions of reps come through Vector over the years and he had the best metrics of anyone.

He had spiky hair, but he wore well-tailored suits, expensive shoes and suspenders...and was not goofy enthusiastic but charismatic enthusiastic.

He went on to start multiple 8 figure companies predicated on his sales models. I really can't say enough about the guy lol.

Project-MKULTRA 1

So what you’re saying is that he was successful despite vector, not because of vector.

  SpadoCochi 1

Lol no

jayd42 8

Thanks. I think I still have a penny cut into a spiral from a scissor / knife sales person that made a call when I was a kid.

  SpadoCochi 4

Indeed haha

createIR4 11

What a great article.Always believed that selling value gives you an unchallenged position in front of buyers and decision makers.Selling cheap has no repeat business and buying cheap is expensive in the long run.

  SpadoCochi 3

Thank you!

awesometographer 32

Personal perspective on this as a photographer:

  • SO MANY photographers in the past 10 years.
  • $50 "microsessions" are the norm now - $50 for the session, and likely another $50 for prints, files, etc.
  • 2019, my average session was $1,790 (and I still get "you're stealing my business" messages on FB - Karen, we're not playing the same game)

    I could charge $50 and get --all-- the work. But I'd burn out REAL quick.

    Or I could charge $1,000+, be exclusive, shoot once a month, have fun, and not lose the love I have for photography.

    This only really applies to side hustles. If I did photography as a day job, I wouldn't have the flexibiluty to turn down jobs that I do now.

    But as a side hustle, getting paid to take picutres of boobs and butts for $20k a year ain't bad.

    Examples, cause whenever this comes up, people inevitably ask [NSFW cause of boobs and butts]:

    (95% of clients are 100% confidential, but occasionally ones, like the above, are comfortable with sharing in exchange for a kickback)
  SpadoCochi 17

I'd just like to thank you for your service and contribution to this post.

Also, great points.

Freelance creatives are likely the demo that needs this post more than anyone.

awesometographer 16

>Freelance creatives are likely the demo that needs this post more than anyone.

Agreed. 10 years ago, I was working $200 per session @ 10 per month, and decided to raise rates to $400 --- 6 per month... What if it was $600? Still 6 per month.

The thing creatives miss (in my experience and with others) --- you're not competing with others, you're in competition with yourself more often than not.

Work to be worth more, charge more, then prove it. Then charge more.

trysushi 85

Very well written, and excellent info. I’ll add one practical, tactical step to this.

The Up Front Contract.

For larger, strategic sales, the very first time you talk to a prospect tell them you won’t be the cheapest option out there, but you’ll be competitive. Then ask them if they’re OK with that, or if they buy primarily on price.

You’ll pre-filter out those that only buy on price, intrigue those on the fence enough to listen more, and gain even more respect from those that already feel the same way.

UEMcGill 3

I once had a woman look at me at a trade show and ask "European equipment? Too expensive"

I replied to her, "How much did your shoes cost?"

It was a guess, but it was the right guess. She started laughing.


Another time a customer was trying to kill me on price, claiming poverty and how expensive my stuff was. I simply asked him if that was his or his wifes Bentley in the parking lot. He started laughing.


Sometimes your customers will tell you one thing, but what they actually do says another.

trysushi 2

Nicely done! I’d say most customers stretch the truth to start, or omit important details. This doesn’t surprise or bother me at all, they’re just used to dishonest sales people.

All the more reason a bit of honest humor works so well. You can call them out without bruising their ego. And it’s all about getting on equal footing, you’re both experts in what you do.

createIR4 5

Spot on

nanotothemoon 5

It also creates a bit of VIP value. Are you qualified to be a part of this club?

  SpadoCochi 24

Yea this is a great pre-qualification step. Some buyers look for the bargain, while others look for peace of mind.

The latter is a much better use of time.

Salaciousavocados 2

Probably doesn’t qualify nearly as much as help justify the sale later on during the close.

Bob, you said you wanted quality and everyone knows you have to pay for it. It’s out of your budget but this is exactly what you were looking for.

trysushi 1

Good point.

Quality is still fairly subjective, so I always strive to anchor it back to something more concrete, and ROI driven.

“Bob, I know there are cheaper options out there. But our widgets use more durable materials that will last longer, and require less maintenance.”

Now Bob is back to thinking ROI and not up front cost. And if his budget concern is real - and it often is - time to talk OPEX models.

  SpadoCochi 1

Yea i can see both sides of this...depends on the process.

crzycav86 17

I’ve found the ones that compete on price tend to be the ones who nickel and dime you in other ways. Not worth the mental stress

  SpadoCochi 3


trysushi 18

“Can you do any better?”
“That’s wild, I was just about to ask you the same thing.”

If they laugh, you’re golden.