How does a business mentor deal with the client of the client?

It is a situation that I come up with frequently. My client will ask me:

“We have made a pitch. We really want the job. However our potential client is demanding a discount, better terms, and a free car. What should we do?”

Actually these sorts of questions come up in many disguises, and they do not just apply when handling customer relations. Similar discussion can be had when handling new partners or even suppliers. Yet the questions remains; how to react to such a challenge?

Most people build into initial price proposals a certain flexibility. Thus, when their own customer threatens to walk out, they can offer a discount or a giveaway as a sweetner. Nothing new in this tactic that goes back to biblical times.

For me, the issue is more relevant to how my own client has made their initial pitch for the business available. In other words, have they stressed their USPs – their unique selling points? Is the customer fully aware that he is being offered “a winning package” that cannot be matched by competitors? And, has that offer been delivered a manner that the customer cannot fail to understand?

The point is simple. If a clear winning message has been imparted, there is less room to request a better proposal and there is less need to alter the terms of contract. To give but one simple example. Many years ago, my wife and I were looking to move to a new home. The sales manager of what we eventually bought clearly explained what he was selling and the advantages. Without exaggeration, he made the sale in five whole seconds. It became a no brainer.

I have not hesitated to quote Dr Robert Brooks in the past. He most recent writing focuses on “strengths” in a school setting. It is interesting how he quotes teachers. For example, one observed:  “I may not have a say in a number of factors that impact on my classroom, but as you emphasized in your workshop, I do have control over the relationship I develop with my students……….” Many a business person could have said the same about their standing vis-a-vis their own clientelle.

Brooks continues by discussing his vision:

At many of my workshops, I mention a dream I have; namely, that schools would develop a roster that contained each student’s name. Next to the name would be what that student considered to be his or her island of competence, and next to this information would be at least one idea generated by educators of how to reinforce and display that strength……………

To put this in a commercial setting, it is all about allowing your client to recognise their own strengths and then selling that message accordingly.

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