And the Sale Drags On, La-De-Da-De-Dee

You want to close that sale. The customer wants you to throw something in to seal the deal. You have authority to do so. “Sure,” you say, “Do we have a deal?” you ask.

“Hold on. Not so fast.”

And the sale drags on.

Listen to this oldie I was reminded of as you read.

This happens too often. It happened to me in my green days as an aspiring sales professional. Banging my head against the wall would have felt better. At least I would have known why I hurt. Stu, the president of our company and one of my great mentors, gave me an unforgettable live lesson during a sale he closed with a major airline.

Stu was working on a national travel agent incentive campaign. The negotiations were completed and approved, so they led him to believe.  The VP of Marketing had Stu in to finalize the contract. Stu brought me along to further my education.

The VP, who we will call Paula, was an avid football fan. It was Super Bowl season and she talked about pools, the over-under, and the point spread. Now that we were buttered up toast, she launched into her “problem.”

“I’m sorry” she began, “Finance cut my budget by 5%. I thought we were all done when I sent the proposal approved with my signature. My budget was preapproved. I guess the economy is creating some stress for the bean counters. What can we do Stu?”

Stu sat with a sheepish look for a couple of long quiet minutes. “Let me call my operations wizard and see what we can do.” Stu made the call right from her office. He explained the situation to Mike, listened intently, replied with uh-huhs, groans, yesses and noes before softly hanging up.

Stu turned to Paula with a slight blush in his cheeks. “We want your business Paula. I’m not sure how much we’re going to make on this campaign, but we will make this concession if you promise the next project to us and more fruitfully.”

“Do a good job on this one Stu and there will be more and better business down the road. We need the quality and delivery you’re promising,” Paula committed.

“Are we all done?” Stu asked.

“Yes, we are all done Stu and thank you for making me look good.” She reached out and they shook hands with smiles.

We silently road down their N.Y.C. Park Ave. office building elevator, walked through the revolving glass doors, and grabbed a cab. I broke the silence with “Stu, I feel bad.”

He belly laughed, “I got you!”

“You lied! I’m really disappointed in you Stu.” I was upset with him.

“I didn’t lie. We want their business and I don’t know how much we are going to make. Yes, we will make a profit, but not what we agreed to or what we expected. It is not a bad sale and we are happy, but I am disappointed and would have been happier at full price.

“Why the show Stu?” I had to know.

“If I would have said, “Sure, we have a cushion built in just for you, we would still be negotiating and it would have dragged on until there was no profit left. And, this would be the precedent for future negotiations.”

Here is what he taught me:

Never give anything away free. No one values free. Get something in exchange that creates value, a promise for future business, a referral, or an endorsement. Anything in exchange helps put the brakes on.

Giving away something without a struggle says there is more on the table. Don’t be impetuous. Take your time and enjoy the moment. The counteroffer says, “We want to do business with you and we want to make the best deal possible.” So struggle and squirm as you should!

Help the customer feel like they got the best possible deal. Not getting full price is painful for me and should be for you. Getting the sale should not be good enough. Let the customer know they got the best possible deal they were going to get and let them know it hurt to make concessions.

3,000 years ago, King Solomon wrote, “It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer, then goes off and boasts about the purchase. –Proverbs 20:14

How do you manage price resistance?

What do you leverage during negotiations?