Let the Games Begin – Not!

Bill Rosenthal

Most customers are honest and open. Though the concessions they’re asking for might be unreasonable communications experts know that every point of view is reasonable to the person holding it. The exception is when the other person is playing games.

Here’s how you can combat some of the games customers might play during tough economic times like these when they’re under pressure to get all they can from their resources.

The “Almost Done Deal” Strategy

It’s been a tough negation but finally the customer says I’m ready to buy. You heave a sigh of relief. There’s one more thing I need, though, the customer adds, and requests another concession. Be wary. The customer may be counting on your feeling so good about closing the sale that you’re willing to make a concession you wouldn’t make otherwise.

Don’t treat this request any differently from those you dealt with earlier in the negation.  Don’t let your eagerness to make a deal lead you into giving a concession you shouldn’t give.

The “Scare the Sales Rep” Game

You submitted a proposal that seems to meet the customer’s needs but you haven’t been able to get feedback. The customer doesn’t answer your phone calls. When you schedule a meeting the customer cancels it. When, eventually, you hold a meeting the customer is aloof or, worse, unfriendly.

It’s possible the customer isn’t able to make a decision. But maybe the customer wants you to get cold feet about the viability of your proposal so you’re willing to make big changes in the terms. Don’t let your fear of losing the sale make you give concessions that you shouldn’t.

The “Heart Attack”

The customer asks for a price. You give what you think is a fair one. The customer feigns shock. What! So much! That’s way out of the ballpark! We could never go for a deal like that!

The customer might be trying to shake your confidence in the value you’re offering. Don’t react to the customer’s theatrics by getting on the defensive. Treat the feedback you’re getting the way you would a more measured reaction.

Asking for Free Consulting

The customer wants a proposal that includes an evaluation of the company’s competitive position. Conducting the research would be costly.  What should you do? Ask for something in return – possibly an opportunity to present your proposal to senior management. Don’t get trapped into doing free work without getting a give-back.

The Hundred Years War Strategy

The negotiations have been dragging on endlessly. It’s possible the customer still isn’t satisfied. But it’s also possible that the customer is counting on your feeling that you’ve invested so much time negotiating that even a barely break-even sale is better than no sale at all. The time you invested is already invested. You can’t get it back. Don’t let your sunk costs make you accept an unfavorable deal.

The “We Can Wait” Strategy

Like the hundred years war strategy, this one is used by customers who believe the rep has to make the deal – whether it’s to meet a quarterly goal or make the plane back home. Don’t let the calendar or clock affect the terms of the deal. Never let it be known you have a flight to catch.

How to Win the Games Customer Play

Any concession you make should be matched by a concession gained. Make concessions that the other side will particularly value but cost little to provide. This is the “bigger pie” strategy, where the parties join forces to create value rather than try to take each other’s share.

As you make tradeoffs you can ask for a concession that you hadn’t brought up before or one that the other side rejected. A negotiation will create more value if the parties make a strong effort to understand each other’s needs, commit themselves to forging a solution that satisfies both, and establish a trusting relationship.

What to do with a customer who keeps playing tricks? It’s okay to say this is my final offer -- but don’t say it unless you mean it. If you say it and make another concession you’ll lose your credibility – and can be accused of playing tricks yourself.

Bill Rosenthal is CEO of Communispond, which has taught more than 600,000 people to communicate more effectively. Go to www.communispond.comfor free access to webinars, videocasts, audiocasts and articles, and subscriptions to the company’s e-newsletter on selling. You can contact Rosenthal at brosenthal@communispond.comand read his blog at http://info.communispond.com/blog/