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Sliding windows

Ellis Croft
Negotiation Windows [Converted]
© Adobe Stock

Earlier this year I had one of my window frames fixed, under guarantee. Not particularly exciting, nor ostensibly relevant to a negotiation-themed blog. Although to be fair, the repair took place 22 years after the installation. Oh, and 12 years after the expiry of the 10-year guarantee that was the standard offer…

How did this come to pass? Back in 2001, having decided to make an investment in my home, I looked around for a reputable and reliable company to engage in replacing my home’s windows. Using a combination of the new-fangled internet search capability offered by exciting upstarts Google (ridiculously I maintained for far too long that these newbs would never usurp the superb search offering of Alta Vista*, but that’s why I am not a tech investor) and recommendation from family and friends, I invited quotes from two companies. Both struck me as being entirely acceptable options given my objectives and budget, and their quotes were broadly comparable. How to choose? During a visit from one, the representative was talking me through the benefits of his company’s products when he asserted that their quality was such that while the guarantee offered as standard was 10 years – industry standard – they would easily outlast that and be good for 25 years at the minimum. Once upon a time, I may have wearily taken this assertion as typical sales hyperbole (especially as I was a sales professional myself and familiar with such approaches). However, I had spent the previous handful of years burnishing several skills and techniques I had learned on a particular training course. So, rather than rolling my eyes and thinking “Well, you would say that”, I took a different tack. Instead, I asked whether given this admirably robust lifespan it would therefore be a simple and easy request to agree to extend the guarantee to 25 years, instead of the 10 on offer. Seemingly surprised that he’d been listened to and heard, the representative said he’d need to check. “If you were able to get that agreed, I think I’d almost certainly choose you instead of company X” I suggested. An extra dollop of motivation to get the sale over the line. It worked.

Fast forward to 2023 and having emailed a scan of the guarantee (amazingly they were sceptical I had the guarantee for 25 years so required evidence – to be fair they acted in entirely good faith subsequently) I benefitted from a repair that would have been painfully costly in its absence. For a negotiator there are perhaps two lessons: firstly that listening is a skill that you can develop, because it will benefit you in a number of ways. Secondly, that value is relative – an extended guarantee wasn’t on my agenda as an objective, but as the opportunity arose it was a good idea to take it. I’m glad I did, as its value increased as time passed. The training course that prompted this behaviour? Modesty forbids. But suffice to say that as well as making the organisations I’ve worked for a substantial sum in savings and incremental revenue, it’s done pretty well for me as well.

*for younger readers, Alta Vista was the pre-eminent search engine of the early to mid-1990s. You used to access it using Netscape**

**for younger readers, Netsc… Oh, you get the picture…

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