How To Negotiate With An Existing Customer, You Can’t Afford to Lose?
Hey there Entrepreneur,
I’m a professional Business Coach and am very passionate about lowering stress of running and scaling a business for entrepreneurs.
Yesterday, I received a frantic phone call from Ashish, a One-on-One Coaching client asking for advice to deal with his customer who was asking for a 50% discount on services in the middle of the current Covid crisis.
Being a business owner, Ashish of course has been involved with closing deals and negotiations many times over.
However, this time it was feeling different.
Ashish was emotionally drained and wanted to give the discount and move on. He was feeling ever grateful that even during the pandemic situation his client was willing to continue working with him. So as a token of returning that gesture, he just wanted to be generous and give away the 50% discount taking a big hit himself.
This was huge for him, as that customer comprises more than 70% of Ashish’s current business. The discount request felt like a double edged sword?
As his Coach, it was important for me to help Ashish with this challenge, but at the same time I had to be careful to allow him to make his own decisions. So I got started digging deep and asking questions. I urged him to remain objective.
I told him we’ll get to figuring out what to do with this customer later. But let’s first just address the Unasked Question that’s playing on the mind here:
Q1) Does it make sense to ‘negotiate’ a deal during a crisis?
My firm response to this is… It is ALWAYS a good time to negotiate.
How you feel about ‘Negotiating’ depends on what you imagine about it in your own mind. If you are currently thinking that negotiation means ‘Win-Lose’, then obviously it makes you feel lousy for wanting to Win and keeping all the money for yourself in the current crisis. This is flawed thinking.
Negotiating should be a WIN-WIN, i.e. a win for both parties isn’t it? Else, it’s called “Compromising” and compromises always make one of the parties feel taken advantage of and that party sometime or the other will surely want to ‘get back’ in one way or the other.
We’ve learnt and heard about WIN-WIN a hundred times before. Yet, when we actually face the situation the devil in the head gets to work and makes you feel guilty. So the job is to fight out that devil FIRST.
Now if we have to make both parties Win. What’s the next best question to ask?
Q2) What’s the Discount for?
Now, this may feel like a silly question, as you are already feeling both sorry and generous for your customer.
But let’s stay objective here.
The response to the above question cannot be “I don’t have money”….why would somebody buy if they cannot afford it?
So just ask the customer objectively, What’s the Discount For?….meaning what are they looking to trade the discount against?
The possibilities could be any of the following or something else. Let’s not assume. Just ask them politely and urge them to be transparent :
- Change in scope : It’s possible the customer is facing a genuine budget issue and aren’t able to spend the money required to fulfil their service needs. Find out what their exact available budgets are and then work from there. Hand hold them to buying less or different, to match their budgets?
- Increase in volume of business : Gather insights on how much assured business is expected in the year, so you could work out the spread of expenses at your end accurately. This could help you arrive at a Covid special price offer, for a definite period of time. Get on top of your numbers.
- Re-jig of payment terms : Revalidate if it is a temporary cash flow crunch situation at the customer’s end or a full budget slash? If it’s a temporary cashflow crunch situation, workout if it’s feasible to provide extended credit term for a short time and retain the total revenue.
There’s a reason why prices are what they are, all around the world.
Your customer has been doing business with you for a reason. You are adding value and they are willing to exchange that value for a fee. Unless, YOU believe you are adding value and need to be compensated for it. Nobody else will.
The purpose of a sales price is to pay for all the business’ expenses AND make a profit on top of it. If a business does not manage to make profit, then its very existence is at stake. So why would you want to do business with a customer if the sales price doesn’t assure you your own business existence?
Remember, it costs your customer nothing to ask for a concession. You can always say No. They will still do the deal.
This is what finally happened with Ashish. He made sincere attempts to remain objective, asked deep dives questions, was assertive and was able to strike a WIN-WIN deal. Customer retention has increased.
But many sellers — especially inexperienced ones — say yes to even the most outrageous customer demands. Shrewd buyers can lure even seasoned salespeople into deals based on emotion rather than on solid business sense.
I do know that a lot of you reading this will feel that it’s easier said than done.
So, let me give you one more question that you must work on :
Q) What’s the final no regret price or walk away point for this deal?
In every negotiation, calculate and set a walk away point in your mind. This walk away point obviously must aim to still keep you profitable (lower margins maybe, but not loss making).
Then NEVER EVER go beyond your walk away point. Build this as a hard habit. Once you know what your “Laxman rekha” is then it becomes very easy to think and stay objective.
Giving price concessions just trains the customer and you both, to expect more price concessions in the future and then you land up turning professional negotiations into ‘haggling’ rounds. Haggling drains relationships and it’s not worth your time and effort.
So if you’re facing a similar situation, then use the above three questions to help you navigate this challenge objectively.
Try it and let me know how’d it go for you.
Decision making is a large part of what we help entrepreneurs with.
The tips we share are a small part of what we do at our coaching sessions.
If you’d like to take the whole framework and install in your business, then do drop an email at [email protected] with subject line as “Scale Session” and we’ll reach out to you with all the details quickly.