Free, Perfect, Now

Quality, Service, Price.
Choose any two.

This is one of the very first truths I learned in my solution sales career. It sweetly encapsulates the complex selling battleground too. Every customer expects all three. Anyone that thinks they are buying the full trio is in for a desperately unpleasant shock in rather short order.

I’ve subsequently heard indicators like speed and turnaround swapped in for the second element but the point remains the same. One random blogger with the delightful handle Johnny Knuckles and his commenters sum up the dilemma quite neatly. (You the seller should “pick two: Speed and Quality. Price will take care of itself.“)

I was listening to a talk by a lifelong designer with a couple of useful marketing insights called Marty Neumeier. He entertainingly used slightly different words for the same point.

Cheap, Good, Fast.
Pick any two.

He opined that this was presented as an immutable law of nature. Then he moved beyond this. Nowadays, he began, people rather want;

Free, Perfect, Now

It raised huge knowing chuckles from the audience. And what a result for salespeople that do not sell the cheapest product in their space. A ready-made and charmingly disarming objection handle to use liberally I’d suggest.

Next time someone is trying to give you a kicking under the table around this issue, especially where they’re trying to pin you down to a discount on account of an apparent specification mismatch, I suspect recounting this evolution may well give you some vital wriggle-room.


footnote: here’s a cool venn diagram of this I came across at a later date from a graphic designer’s perspective:

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