By nature I’m not a great haggler. I like to know what the price is and then I can make a decision whether I want to buy. Not everywhere works like that though so, like a good tourist, when I went to Istanbul I visited The Grand Bazaar.
What I found reminded me of some old, tried and trusted negotiation techniques. Very different setting and instead of marketing services it was carpets and spices but the same rules applied.
- Always try to get the other side to open. If I wanted to buy a particular rug I had to ask what the general price for his rugs were (it was always a he). To show too much interest too soon in a specific rug would give away your advantage. In negotiations it’s unlikely a client will show that they’re keen to work with you – to do so would give you the negotiating power. By all means share rate cards but try not to get specific – you need to know what they want and, ideally, their budget before you give them a price.
- Once you know the general price you’re supposed to look around at other stores (if you want evidence of cluster theory visit a bazaar) to see what else is around and, at the same time, show that you’re shopping around. Clients will always say they’re talking to multiple agencies. If they are negotiating with you the odds are though that they are interested. Hold your nerve.
- At this point if you have found the rug you are supposed to offer roughly half of the initial price and be prepared to walk away if this is met with derision. If they come after you there is a deal to be done; if not you have to swallow your pride and offer more or walk away. In agency terms you’ll be told you are far, far more expensive than the other competing agencies. This is where you ask my favourite question “On what basis are you making that comparison?”
- In the bazaar most of the stores are the same. Same produce, similar prices and same sales patter. For my souvenir I ended up in a shop away from the bazaar that had a higher quality of stock with a fixed price – this was their specialism – they had 25 local artisans working only for them and it showed. They weren’t going to haggle because they were confident in what they were selling. Whilst your agency might have to bend a little more than than differentiating your service, making it a premium, quality service rather than a commodity will enable you to hold your prices. It’ll also make our clients feel like they are paying for quality.
Negotiating has been around as long as people have bought and sold. The lessons are the same whether it is rugs or brand consultancy. Stand out with a premium service, try to find the brief and budget from the client and hold your nerve in negotiations – it’s the quickest money you’ll ever make or lose.