16 January 2007

Selling to the little old lady

Earlier this month, my mother-in-law decided that her house needed some work and asked a firm to quote for replacement barge boards and soffits. A salesman went around and offered her a price for the work. She knows enough negotiating to keep a trainer in business:

"Do you want to go ahead at that price?"

"No, I know that if I don't then you'll reduce it."

This was an opportunity for the salesman to do some value selling, but he didn't. He gave her a 18% discount on the spot and asked her again if she would close at that price. She didn't. Off he went with the 18% discount still live.

They sent another salesman. This was a young man who thought he might be able to play the sympathy and empathy card. He told her that he found it very expensive to live in the area, he was hoping to get married soon and money wasn't going very far. He also brought the price down again by another 9% on the last offer - just over 25% below the initial price - and asked for the business (you've got to admire some aspects of their training, they knew how to ask for a close!). She didn't buy.

She got a phone call from their manager - and after he offered her another small discount, taking it to just over 27% below the initial price, she caved and bought. When the surveyor came around to measure up he asked how much she was paying for the job and when she told him, he said that he didn't think that they could do it for the price. He might be right.

My mother-in-law comes from a long line of negotiators and she likes a little challenge during the day to keep her amused. The barge boards and soffits are just the latest example. Her double glazing came in at 25% less than the "absolute minimum price" - a final discount of about 80%. The double glazing salesman was speaking the truth - the firm went out of business just after completing the work.

Sales is a tough job, and if the only lever you have in your negotiation is price then you had better not try and sell to my mother-in-law, not if you want to make your bonus this quarter.

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