When I’m buying anything, I always ask a simple question at the very end of the conversation. This question is harmless, doesn’t offend, and its responses never fail to amuse me. “Is this your best price?” might be the buyer’s best friend and the seller’s worst nightmare if caught unawares.
I learned about “Is this your best price?” from my father-in-law, who related a yarn about his own late father. “My dad would go into a watch store and ask about the best price on a single timepiece and negotiate the price down,” he said. “Then he’d ask, “How much for ten?” I always loved that story. It conjures up images of the dad in A Christmas Story and every menacing purchasing manager I’ve ever dealt with. Sales negotiations always walk a fine line between love and hate. CI businesses can fall prey to a phenomenon called “loss aversion” where it’s all too easy to buckle under the pressure of answering the “best price” question properly. Instead of playing to win, most of the time we can find ourselves inadvertently playing not to lose.
Also by Henry Clifford:
As I’ve studied vendor behavior when I buy, it’s a great teaching tool for what not to do. Over the last 25 years, more than 90 percent of vendors will offer to lower their price when asked the “best price” question. Ironically, their willingness to further lower the price doesn’t make me feel grateful, it makes me feel resentful. That’s right; I asked them to lower their price, they did, and I resent them for it. That makes no sense, but it’s also true. Since humans are emotional creatures trying to convince ourselves we’re logical, it actually does make sense to me. The trick I’ve been trying to perfect is how to teach sales people how to politely stand their ground. It requires confidence and the ability to shut up for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, these two qualities are usually in short supply with rookie salespeople.
Here are 2 examples:
Example 1 — “The Rough Shoot”
Buyer: “Is this your best price?”
Seller: “Ummmm… let me check for a second (typing rapidly). I think I can knock another 10 percent off.”
Buyer: “Sounds good (secretly resenting the discount). When can you start?”
Now the buyer is trained to ask for discounts from now on. That “one-time special price” you offered? That’s now the standard price.
Example 2 — “The Smooth Shoot”
Buyer: “Is this your best price?”
Seller: “Yes.” (Silence)
Buyer: “OK. Let’s do it (feeling confident she’s chosen the right vendor).”
I know what you’re thinking: “Come on Clifford, it’s not that easy.” Actually, it is. When a buyer asks that question, they’re seeking to verify, one last time, they’ve made the right decision. You can either seal the deal by shutting up or torpedo the relationship by running your mouth and buckling at the knees. While sometimes the “No” may need to be qualified (sometimes I will go into our pricing process and talk about the need to run profitable jobs to ensure long-term viability), it’s more often than not exactly what the buyer was looking to hear. Once any buyer gets a sense prices are soft, all bets are off. Why do you think Mercedes doesn’t discount? Why does Bose enforce such rigid pricing policies? Both of these are examples of building brand equity and trust. It’s all about trust.
What will you say the next time someone asks, “Is this your best price?”
Stay frosty, and see you in the field.