Neanderthal Negotiators! Not Extinct.

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Bullies are alive and some live in Kansas. Bullies take no hostages and revel in unearned victories.

The Fearless Negotiator met her match in the form of a 250 pound, 6’6”’ car repair shop owner and his tow truck cave man accomplice.
The mission was to help get a friend’s car out of the repair shop following an accident. A friend and I entered the body shop, introduced ourselves and shook hands. That was the last cave man socially acceptable action that the two bully business owners took.

The negotiation goal was to get a tow bill explained and hopefully a slight reduction in an exorbitant tow and storage charge for a two-mile tow.

Within 30 seconds of our arrival, the two men proceeded to yell insults at us, threatened to call the police, pounded on their chests in a primitive behavior, strutting around the lobby while telling me to shut up when I attempted to ask a question. Additionally, their logic included suggesting that people of my type, were one of the primary reasons that the United States of America was in disastrous shape.

Two petite American females were contributing factors in ruining America for the loyal red, white and blue Neanderthals that strutted before us. I had no idea that my physical stature could so do much damage to the Free Enterprise System by attempting to get a copy of an invoice and receive an explanation for the tow charges.

Bullies are not rational nor do they approach a discussion in a logical manner. They may choose to forgo doing business with someone again rather than risk losing a negotiation, especially while they promote their position in front of an audience.  The body shop lobby confrontation had drawn a peanut gallery of tow truck drivers and mechanics who wanted to add their two cents with occasional laughs, snorts and grunts. For awhile the scene resembled a spectacle between four gladiators in the Roman Coliseum.

Tips When Facing a Bully Negotiator:

  1. Do the Homework First: Research the company you intend to negotiate with. If the opponent is a tow truck operator or body shop, consider watching Tow Truck War TV shows that deal in the world of vehicle towing. Know your opponent!
  2. Show No Emotion: Do not raise your voice, yell or use profanity. Bullies want a fight and love seeing their opponent love their composure.
  3. Avoid Physical Violence. This is a battle of the mind, not a street confrontation.
  4. Call Them On Their Game: Say, “Most people don’t find it necessary to raise their voice when speaking to me. I am interested why you need to do that.”
  5. Anticipate their Tactics: Address upfront, by saying, “I do hope that you’ll yell at me at least once during this conversation. If you don’t you will not live up to my image of people in your line of business.

Happy Ending?

I’d love to report that I reasoned with the two business owners and they understood my concerns. Or that they gave my friend a discount. Neither happened. The only method of payment they would accept was cash. No checks nor credit cards today at least not from the two people who could ruin the American way of life by asking for a discount.
We paid cash and got out before we were physically harmed. Sometimes it’s best to walk away. As Kenny Rogers sang in in The Gambler, You’ve go to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em and know when to walk away.

I am wiser today. If there is a next time, I will take someone who speaks Neanderthal.

Who Wins if Employees and Customers Disagree?

Did you open the doors to your company to serve your employees or to attract loyal customers? Sometimes those two groups appear to be at odds with one another. Choosing between the two may  require the wisdom of Solomon to decipher where allegiances lies.

Many business owners say, I want both reliable employees and dependable customers. Successful companies want customers with whom they forge long-lasting business partnerships. Those businesses pay their bills on time, make reasonable service requests and treat your employees respectfully. In return, they rely upon you to help them achieve their growth goals. When they prosper, your future  expands with theirs.

Entrepreneurs search for employees who, follow rules, policies and procedures, possess great attitudes,treat customers respectfully, arrive punctually,work for a fair wage, are competent to perform the work for which they are hired and are honest.

When conflict arises, being the boss gets complicated.

The Owners Dilemma.

EMPLOYEE Alienation : Side with the customer and the employee may feel you let them down. They were following orders when refusing to honor the customer’s special request.

CUSTOMER Abandonment: Back your employee and you risk losing a customer for today and maybe forever.

Four Options

  1. Listen Care-Fully. “When you listen carefully, you show you Care-Fully” about both sides and their viewpoints. Sometimes you’ll locate some fine print in your policy and procedures manuals or sales contract that would allow  this situation to be treated as “business as usual.”

Maybe neither your employee nor customer took time to read the agreement. Knowing your contract may save you from                     setting a new precedent. The fine print saved you.

  1. Make an Exception. As the boss, you have the right to make an exception for special circumstances. Let’s assume this buyer is one of your top 10% customers. They request a discount after your End of Month Inventory Reduction Special expires.You may choose to grant a one-time rule exemption. Explain your decision to both your employee and the customer so that everyone is clear this is a one-time occurrence granted as a reward for the client’s long-time loyalty.
  1. Back the Home Team.  The final decision rests with you. Perhaps the request for a special discount is from someone who has never done business with your company before and has a “slow-pay” credit reputation. It’s easy to go with your employee on this one.
  1. Exception Exemption. Follow the original sale deadline, no discount extension granted. You back your employee AND offer a special customer discount, product rebate or incentive for their next purchase. Advise both parties that with the next purchase, the customer will receive advance sale notices and a bigger discount than all other customers because they were so accommodating this time. You rewarded them for their loyalty and patience.

You indeed are as wise as Solomon. Well done, boss!

10 Rules from the Best Business Coach: MOM

Mom had a high school education and was a full time homemaker and mother of six. She died at a young age and never saw me apply her business basics and power negotiation lessons.

My favorite business seminar came at age 13 when I learned about market research, procurement, negotiation and the power of cash at the St. Joe, Missouri Friday Night Auction. At my mother’s side, I watched the family Chief Procurement Officer, Mom, conduct consumer investigation data collection, pricing comparisons, and demonstrate self-control and extraordinary patience.

Business Rules from a Master Negotiator

  1. Market Research: Know the market. Mom was searching for a sofa for our formal living room. The fabric had to be durable to hold up to a family of eight. The formal living room was frequently used for visits from 16 first-cousins and numerous aunts and uncles.
  2. Conduct Needs Assessment: Mom wanted a sofa with classic lines and a useful life of at least 10-years. It also must fit into the living room and co-ordinate with other furnishings.
  3. Product Availability: While visiting all the local retail suppliers to examine their brands, sales people educated her about spotting quality furniture. Never shy, she asked lots of questions.  
  4. Warranties and Product Reliability: She read the manufacturer’s guarantees and warranties and knew which manufacturers stood behind their product.
  5. Price Comparison: She compared retail store pricing while learning when stores took markdowns and conducted sales.
  6. Negotiate: Never Pay Retail: She knew how to track down bargains and shopped in second-hand stores before it was cool.
  7. Acceptance: After completing the research, Mom realized we couldn’t afford new furniture. Used it would be. The next stop was an auction house known for carrying home furnishings.
  8. Financial Considerations: Know your budget. Mom knew Cash Was King! As a cash buyer, she didn’t have to ask for payment terms or credit. Nor did she have to ask her husband’s permission to make a purchase. Mom was the Decision Maker and she carried cash.
  9. Stick to Your Budget: Mom practiced self-control and would not overspend.  
  10. Patience: She was the queen of patience and did not allow us to see her feelings of discouragement at buying used furniture. She kept her “poker face’ with everyone at the auction. No one could read how much she lusted for the tan and black,custom-made sofa she spotted in her reconnaissance mission the day before the auction. Sitting beside her I sensed her excitement as “her” sofa came up for bid.

At the end of the night, mom, triumphant was the owner of a fabulous “almost new” modern sofa that was the envy of the neighborhood. And she had cash to spare in her purse.

Thanks Mom for that lifetime lesson. I only hope I can be half as good as you were in business.

Low Hanging Fruit Picked. Now What?

New products are exciting. They give us a reason to call on current customers. We have an excuse to go see them. But what happens when you don’t have a new product to sell? How will your business survive? You picked the low hanging sales opportunities in 2013. What’s the magic for 2014?

What if I have to Go Back to the Basics of Selling?

Recently, I taught a workshop to customer service representatives at a software company. Selling commissions were 40% of the service rep’s income.

Their job included:

  • Manage customer problems after software implementation and training.
  • Build strong relationships with all customer contacts.
  • Uncover new customer needs. Present solutions. Close the sales.
  •  Sell software license renewals.

In 2013, they had a new, exciting product to sell. Sales were phenomenal, easy and prior year company sales records were broken. The Sales and Service Management were trying to figure out how to hit 2014 goals.

They were looking for some new sales technique that was new. A Sales Silver Bullet.

SHOCKING NEWS: There is no Sales Silver Bullet.

For sales veterans this is when real selling expertise is required. It’s back to basics. What made you successful in the past will get you to your sales goals in 2014

Eight Rookie Reminders-Even if You’re a Veteran.

When you were new to sales, you placed a list of sales basic reminders near your telephone to keep you on track. There’s no time like to present to dust off the old list and use it to sharpen your sales tools once again.

1. Do your homework before going to see your customer.

a.       What’s new at their company? How about new products or people. Anyone Fired?

b.      Where’s their pain? No Pain, No Change. 

c.      What Challenges is their industry facing.

d.      Has new legislation hurt them and if so, how?

e.      Be sure you know how your service department has been treating them. Don’t walk in to find out they hate you and your service people.

2. Be Prepared. Listen to them. Stifle your brilliance. It is NOT about You.

3. Ask great questions. Remember open-ended questions begin with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

4. Take good notes that you can decipher later. These will not only save you from a loss of memory, it may give you ammunition to close a sale.              

5. Be the parrot. Repeat to them what you thought you heard. This technique confirms you understand not only what they said but what they meant. We’re still human and our memories play tricks on us.

6. Verbally summarize commitments and timeframes before leaving the customer’s office.

7. Send an email confirming commitments and a follow-up timeline with responsibilities clearly defined.

8. Meet all commitments in a timely manner.

The only Sales Silver Bullet is “Remember the Basics.” Success is ahead. 

Have they been hit with new legislation that has impacted how they do business?

We Save Time Using Email, Don’t We?

The curse for many business professionals is a dependence upon email instead of talking to customers by phone or face-to-face. I recently experienced a volley of frustrating emails with a dealer’s service manager. He prefers email to talking.

Email use is encouraged as a time saver.

People believe Two Email Myths.

  1. Email Saves Time.
  2. Email allows communication with many people quickly and efficiently.

Here’s a sample of an email exchange that probably sounds familiar. Change the subject matter and it fits for every business owner and sales person.

The Email Eternity Circle:

Dealer: “You must sign by Friday for the discount.”

Customer: “Cash flow is tight.”

Dealer: “How about leasing?”

Customer: “You offer leasing?”

Dealer: “Are you interested in a lease?”

Customer: “Maybe.”

Dealer: “What kind of lease do you want?”

Customer: “What kind of lease do you have?”

Dealer: “That depends.”

Customer: “On what?”

Did either party think about picking up the phone and breaking the mindless exchange?

Myth #1 Email Saves Time——You can break The Email Eternity Circle.

  1. Don’t use email if the subject matter is complex. Call the customer.
  2. Never try to close a sale with email.
  3. Emails are to be short and succinct, not 3-page Epistles.
  4. If the customer is upset, do not choose email to convey negative information.
  5. If the message is long, include a well-crafted attachment.
  6. Some spam filters block emails with attachments. Make sure your email is received and opened.
  7. Email can’t convey passion, concern, caring or warmth. Email is flat and one-dimensional.

Myth #2 Communicate with many quickly.

  1. Who do you really need to copy in your email?
  2. If you copy “everyone” more people know if you screw up.
  3. Does everyone want more email? Employ the “need to know basis” guideline.
  4. People seldom read email message completely.No examples needed. You know I’m right.
  5. Some emails seem to be an attempt to share blame or pass the buck? Consider motivation and potential outcomes.
  6. Emails, once sent, cannot be deleted. They could end up in court as evidence. Before hitting send, think–Is this what you want to appear in a court transcript?
  7. Watch out for selecting “Reply All.” There are times when some people should be excluded from an email chain for a variety of reasons. One of those mistakes ended a friend’s career at a great company. In making a snide comment via email regarding a recent promotion, the individual chose reply all and copied the entire company email distribution list.

Restraint of pen and tongue is a virtue that should be employed daily in business. It saves money, pain and relationships.

Equipment Uptime: How is it Measured?

A printing company owner I’ll refer to as Samuel, called me for help solve his problems with 2 digital presses. In his words “the stuff is always broken.”

This saga is still unfolding. Our lesson today, is what is about the definition of Equipment Uptime? I thought it meant how many hours a day equipment is running great. The Equipment Service Performance History Report touted a 95.5% uptime. WOW you think. What’s the problem?

Until I learned that this report measures the time between when a service call is placed and the arrival of the service technician. The digital press could have been out-of-service for hours or days. But Bill, the tech arrived on the scene in 45-minutes.

Samuel only cares about how quickly his equipment will be running, not jamming and producing high quality work. He is not excited that Bill set a land speed record to reach his plant.

Today Samuel and I had a conference call with the Regional Service Director (Greg), the Print Production Specialist and the sales rep for Samuel’s account. They all work for a large national distributor of printing equipment. Bill, the service tech couldn’t be on the call. He was busy  fixing one of Samuel’s  copier.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

  1. Samuel will receive a weekly in-depth service reports on the service problems of the prior week and what corrective action was taken.
  2. The Regional Service Manager will meet with Samuel every week for the next month to review the service problems of the prior week.
  3. Samuel’s key equipment operator will maintain a log of every service call, the problem experienced and the resolution of the problem.
  4. Samuel and Greg will compare the Distributors service records with his own for discrepancies.

DOES THIS SITUATION SOUND FAMILIAR? If yes, stay tuned. I will keep following up on this. I am quite impressed with the commitment the equipment distributor has shown to date help their customer fix all the problems. Let’s see how this evolves.