I’ve often spoken of the “martial arts” of language, which means taking the other person’s momentum and turning it back at them. For example, when you’re asked, “What is your fee?” you respond, “I don’t know, what are your goals?” (“What can you do for me?” “I have no idea, yet. Tell me about your priorities.”)
Lately, I’ve had more questions than ever about people trying to be tough negotiators in the preliminary stages. Once you establish a relationship WITH A TRUE ECONOMIC BUYER, then there should be no problem, since partners don’t try to take advantage of each other.
But if you are confronted with an obnoxious (and often, just stupid, objection) use what I call “stiletto questions.” Read on and I think you’ll understand the reason for the sobriquet.
Buyer: I’m not going to pay for anything before I see results. So you’ll have to create a payment schedule that reflects my paying once I see those results.
You: What business are you in?
Buyer: You know our business, it’s consumer electronics.
You: And do you allow customers to tell you that they’ll pay once they’re happy with the device, or do you charge them when they’ve made the purchasing decision?
Always turn the question around to the buyer’s business, and 99.9 percent of the time, you’ll find that you’re being asked to do something that the buyer wouldn’t condone in his or her own business.
Also, always be prepared for either answer. Example:
Buyer: I want you to give me a better fee. Reduce your fee by 25 percent and we have a deal.
You: Do you reduce your fees for clients by 25 percent just because they ask you to?
Buyer: Of course not.
You: Then why would you expect me to do that?
If buyer says: As a matter of fact, we do!
You: Then that’s why you need me, and fast!
Wittgenstein said that the limits of his language were the limits of his world. That’s certainly true of your business world. Mastering language requires no capital investment and can be quite rapid. But you have to have the tools (never “dumb down” your speech, that’s for amateurs) and the self-esteem (you’re not “selling,” you’re providing value).
One final example, against a very powerful rebuttal, one that sends most consultants scurrying for the exits:
Buyer: Please don’t waste your time, we have a policy against hiring consultants here.
You: You’d be shocked at how many of my best clients said that during our first meeting!
Speak powerfully and confidently, with expression and influence. The alternative is poverty.
© Alan Weiss 2010. All rights reserved.