Early in my commercial career selling printed packaging, I found myself in a meeting with a buyer who threatened to take a piece of routine business which my company had supplied for many years and give it to a reputable competitor. The reason, he said, was price – the competitor had quoted a much lower price than ours. So much lower that I was suspicious. Taking the bull by the horns I asked if he would show me the competitor’s quotation. I expected him to say ‘No’, that it was commercially confidential. Instead, he rifled through his paperwork and pulled out a telex (remember those???) from the competitor with the price clearly indicated – way cheaper than ours.
I was nonplussed. I didn’t know why, but it felt wrong. I told him I needed to consult colleagues. He pressed me for a price reduction; I passed.
Back in my office, I came to the conclusion that I was being ‘played’ although I couldn’t work out how. So I went back and told the buyer that I couldn’t come anywhere near the competitor’s price and my company had decided to withdraw. The buyer was appalled. He told me that he wasn’t expecting us to match the competitor, just to give him a better price than currently. That made me even more suspicious. I stuck to my guns.
Shortly after he called me and said that (reluctantly) he was going to leave the business with us, at our regular price, because he wasn’t prepared to give the competitor the business due to changes in the print design which were very sensitive (in fact they weren’t).
Some time later I met the Sales Director of the competitor involved, and I told him the story. He was intrigued and promised to investigate. He came back and told me that there was no record of his company sending a quote for that work at that time. The penny dropped. The telex was a fake. The buyer had manufactured it himself, very easy to do, expecting that he would not get found out. The perfect crime. Except that it didn’t work. And he had no Plan B.
Situation - What would you do?
A Salesperson is negotiating the terms of a significant deal with a Buyer.
If the deal goes through it will be the start of a relationship between their two organisations.
The venue is the Buyer’s office.
The deal is close to completion.
The Buyer gets a telephone call and steps out of their office for a few minutes to deal with a problem, leaving the Salesperson alone.
The Buyer’s papers are strewn across the desk.
If you were the Salesperson would you try to take a peek?
Find out the answers to this question and six others in our new Book, which also includes advice and life experiences from our Chairman and Negotiation Expert, Stephen H. White.