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The Gateway to a Deal and the Door of Opportunity

David Bannister
Negotiation Fence Gate

You can tell that Spring is in the air when you get out the paintbrushes and tins of Farrow and Ball and start to “freshen up” the house after the winter.  Like many people, I have recently walked around my own home and noted things to do.  Recently I decided to have a new fence and gate leading to the side of the house and also to replace the back door with a composite version.

As you do, I contacted a number of suppliers and asked for designs and quotes. One supplier came and looked at the fence and gate project and went away to consider the work involved. He quickly sent me a quote which included details of the type of fencing he would recommend and the matching two-metre high gate for the project. The materials would be sourced from my local woodyard and timber merchant which I know well and where all prices are displayed online. The process was very open – no smoke and mirrors and a clear proposal on the date for the work.

One of the quotes for the door – given on the internet without surveying the site – seemed attractive both in terms of the design of the door and the price for it and its installation. Shortly after receiving the email with the details, I received a call from the hopeful supplier. I asked her several questions – all satisfactorily answered – and then said: “What happens next?”. The sales lady said: “We will send out a surveyor and, if you are happy with the price, we will have the door made for you and agree on a date for installation”.   “What”, said I “if I am not happy with the price?”.  She said immediately, “We would be happy to talk to you about the price”. Bingo! I thought. They had given me what seems to be an aspirational price and beneath it probably lies a more realistic price.

I invite you to contrast these experiences. My fence installer adopted a very transparent approach – I  know what the materials cost and, even if he gets a trade discount, the amount he charges for his own work is calculable and, in my view, entirely reasonable. However, the door is a different issue – to get my work, they will discount and I  have everything I want in their quote – how long it will take to make the door and what it will cost. My job becomes that of putting pressure on the price, where they have told me that they will be flexible, and getting the best deal I can for me without scaring them off by being unreasonable.

Often negotiators are frightened by disclosure, clinging to the belief that ‘knowledge is power’.  That is not always the case – using your knowledge can give you power, however.  If, like my fence installer, openness manages expectations and makes your position strong, then you should always consider it – “What do I know that I know they don’t know which, if I told them, is influential in my favour?”. 

Signals of flexibility, like those from the lady selling the door,  are things you should listen for and respond to – sometimes with a question of clarification inviting the sender to build on the signal.

The fence and gate were installed this week and the door is on order and both sellers and buyer are happy – result!

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