Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Overcoming A Distaste For Negotiation

Some people are leery of negotiating a sale. They feel that the process is somehow dishonest or demeans them, their product, or even their prospect in some way. In fact, I often encounter sales managers who proudly point out that their prices are firm. They insist that every customer pays the same price and that’s the one set by the sales manager. They would rather forego a sale than violate their holy pricing policies. These sales managers need a strong dose of reality—and they often get it in the form of declining market share.

There is nothing holy about a given price, nor is there any moral law that says that every customer is entitled to the same terms. In fact, certain religions make a pretty strong moral case for customizing prices and other terms according to each customer’s individual needs. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with having a firm pricing policy. But let’s not hide the reasons for it in some kind of moral cloud. Firm pricing is a matter of what management feels is best for the selling company. Ideally (from their standpoint), it controls demand to produce the maximum profit from the available supply. And having firm prices makes the administration of the revenue stream easier, which makes the sales manager’s job easier. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But there is nothing wrong with negotiating every sale, either. Humans have been doing it for thousands of years in one way or another. In fact, the most successful economic system yet invented, the free market economy, is predicated on the freedom of sellers to offer different value for various prices and for buyers to accept or reject them.

Isn’t that what happens when your favorite department store puts an item on sale? Apparently, the store’s customers made the choice to not buy that item at the previous price, and the store made the choice to offer it at a lower price as a result. Isn’t that a form of negotiation?

Western retail negotiation just doesn’t happen face-to-face (usually) like the haggling that occurs in a Middle Eastern souk. It’s the same process, but the department store is haggling through the medium of its displays and signs rather than having hawkers standing in the aisles soliciting offers for the merchandise on the tables.

In business-to-business sales, nearly every sale is openly negotiated. There may be published price lists and standard terms, but very few buyers would keep their jobs if they didn’t at least try to do better. And few sellers would keep the revenue flowing if they didn’t make pricing adjustments to stay competitive.

Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.

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