Sign & Digital Graphics

April '19

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68 • April 2019 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S Avoid the Dreaded Premature Negotiation Are you leaving money on the table when customers want to dicker? Vince DiCecco is a business training and development consultant and owner of the Acworth, Georgia-based business, Your Personal Business Trainer, Inc. He has been sculpting his sales, marketing and training techniques since 1979, and he has shared innovative and practical ideas on business management excellence for two Fortune 200 companies, the U.S. Coast Guard, and in seminars at many sign and digital graphics trade shows. Since 2003, he has been serv- ing small- to mid-sized companies in their efforts to strive for sustained growth and market dominance. Contact him via email at or visit his company website, it's too late—that they've been drawn into the vortex of arm- twisting and blood-sucking by a cunning customer. It's pretty obvious there's been no prior planning or discussion with man- agement as to what position should be taken or what authorized alternatives are at their disposal. Isn't it about time we address the issue of how to recognize potential negotiation situations and better plan for them? Meeting the Four Criteria Negotiations are a subset of selling. All negotiations are a form of selling, but not all selling skills should involve nego- tiation. First, let's define what a sale is. A sale is an agreement to pay a price—or provide comparable value—in return for deliverables under specified or implied terms and conditions. I drive into a gas station, see the advertised price for a gallon of fuel on the gas pump, swipe my credit card, lift the nozzle and dispense gasoline into my SUV. When I am done, I replace the nozzle, replace the gas cap, collect my receipt and drive off. There was no negotiating involved in that sale. But let's say I then drive to a car dealership, begin looking at the models on the lot for mere seconds and I am intercepted— a.k.a. taken hostage—by a very assertive sales person. "She's a beaut, isn't she? What would it take for you to drive home in this honey today?" Gosh, I love that sales technique... not! We have here the ultimate case of premature negotiation. What was different between these two sales situations? The price of the car was clearly displayed on the sticker. I can deter- mine the value relative to the sticker price. I know I would have to abide by the terms and conditions of the loan, if I needed one to finance the vehicle. Thus, the answer to the question is that there was really no dif- ference—or shouldn't have been—in the two scenarios. What was different was the sales person's assumption that I was dis- agreeable to the sale. It may not be that extreme among your sales team, but are they volunteering price concessions to "sweeten the deal" when- ever the client takes five seconds to think about it? Too often, sales people misinterpret silence as rejection of the offer, when in fact all the customer may be doing is trying to figure out how he/she is going to get it home, make the payments on B Y V I N C E D I C E C C O Make it Your Business ARCHITECTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL RUNNING THE BUSINESS O ne of the most memorable training sessions I've ever led was an assembly of 20 seasoned, highly accomplished national account managers at a Fortune 100 corporation, for a pilot program in sales-negotiation skills. Each participant was asked to provide an example of a customer with whom he/she would soon have to negotiate. Indeed, everyone completed their pre-work with diligence. But, ironically, among this esteemed group—with more than 365 years of combined sales experi- ence—not a single one of their sales scenarios truly warranted the con- sideration of negotiation in the near future. That is, none of them had completed the selling process suffi- ciently to enter into negotiations on a level playing field. In short, we had 20 cases of premature negotiation. I fear many sign and digital graph- ics business owners are unaware of their sales representatives negotiat- ing on behalf of the company, and potentially leaving gobs of money on the table because of a severe skill defi- ciency in this area. I make this claim because I've witnessed it firsthand at trade shows, on phone calls and when traveling with sales people. Psst. By the way, I realize many of the business owners reading this column are the sales arm for your company. For that reason, it's imperative that four negotiation criteria be met prior to entering into the wheeling and dealing fray. Unfortunately, most sales professionals don't realize—until

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