• Louise Roke

When Buying Sweetcorn... Remember to Negotiate!

Today, I'm touching on the art of negotiation. It's a big subject and we could go on for ages. This is probably one of many podcasts that I'll do on negotiation because negotiation is about your life. Everything you do in life is to do with negotiation. It doesn't matter what it is, every day something happens where you're negotiating something. It sounds crazy, but let me break this down for you. When you're driving, you're negotiating. You might be negotiating to move into a lane and for the person behind you in a traffic jam to let you in, you may be negotiating in queues, negotiating with your boss. It goes on and on and on. So negotiation is a huge part of our lives. The other day I had the experience of somebody who was selling something and it was such a bizarre experience that I thought, gosh, I must actually talk about it.

I had a friend stay for a few days and she very kindly said, look, I'll cook dinner tomorrow night as part of the dinner. She cooked these lovely corn on the cobs and they really are quite delicious when you have them and they are perfectly ripe. And so it reminded me that, hey, this is sweet corn season. So the other day when I went away for the night, I was in this little town and there was a guy sitting there and he started to set up his stall and he was sitting down waiting. He had it all ready by the time I went and saw him. He had his corn in the back of his truck and he had a sign up saying sweet corn. So I got a bit closer and then I saw that it said $2 each.

I said to the guy, I said, Oh, this is fantastic. The corn, they look absolutely brilliant. I said, is that the going rate? And he said to me, what do you mean? And I said, well, what's the going rate in the shops for sweet corn? Well, as soon as I said that, he just about hit the ceiling. He started… I don't know what the going rate is in the shop. This is my rate. If you don't like it, you can go somewhere else. And I said geez, I was just asking what the going rate is. It's like asking somebody what the going rate is for gold. I mean, unless you know what the going rate is, you wouldn't have a clue buying a gold ring for example and not knowing what the going rate for gold was! I mean it's a new season and I had been given some the previous day; I wasn't the person who went to the shop and bought it.

So it was a question of what is, roughly, the going rate around. He could have said a number of things to me. He could have said, Oh look, my sweet corn is absolutely superb. Look at it. Juicy, plump and I literally just picked it yesterday or today or whatever. I get so much great customer feedback every year. Or look, my corn is $2 and I believe that is roughly what it is selling for. My corn is a superior product. It hasn't been sprayed or whatever the case might be. The fact was, he shouldn't be selling his own corn because he certainly is not a salesperson. And quite often I'll say to people when they're selling their house privately, they shouldn't be selling their house privately. The main reason is because they take everything personally. People are there to buy something, whether it be a property or whether it be corn and they want to make an educated decision when they buy.

So he wasn't a salesperson and I was very shocked at the way he replied. My question, which was just the way I said it, “so, what's the going rate in the shops these days?” Because as I said, it was a new season and I had absolutely no idea. He could have told me, quite frankly, that has corn was 20 cents or 50 cents more than in the shops. But like I said, you won't get a better corn than my corn. I've nurtured this corn since the day I planted it from a seed. I'm not saying his corn was more expensive, but what I'm saying is if you're selling something that is more expensive, you’ve got to tell people the benefits about it, why it is superior and therefore justify the price. So I probably would have bought his corn even if it had been more expensive than the shop.

But his attitude to me asking about his product was enough for me to say goodbye and good riddance, which I didn't say, I just laughed actually. So that's what I'm talking about today, is negotiations. When do you have the power to negotiate as a buyer? And let's talk about being a buyer in this instance for any product. Think about a product you want to buy, it doesn't matter what it is. Usually in this particular instance, we are talking about probably going to see the person who is selling it, so it may not apply online. Sometimes it might apply online because you might be able to contact the person direct and ask them questions, but in this particular case, I'm really talking about when you're face to face.

So this is the question again. When do you have the power to negotiate? And I'll come back to that. Now, some people don't like it when they go to countries and they go to the market and they have to bargain. But really in a lot of different cultures, bargaining is all part of it. And like anything in life, you can either make it a negative or positive. So what you need to do is think about what you're prepared to pay. And if you see someone else with that product, you could always ask them what they paid for that product. So for instance, if you were going to go and buy say, a particular shirt or a necklace or whatever and you see these things around or a technical gadget, you could ask the person how much they paid for it. So you get an idea of how much they paid for it. This is more in a market or shops. So when you go and bargain with people, you've got some base rate. In other words, it's like anything, when you're looking at properties, you go to open homes. When you're looking at properties, you go and get some stats to find out what the properties are selling for in that area and you know how one compares to another. No two things will be the same, but when you're talking about gadgets or other items, you have a pretty good idea they are going to be pretty much the same. Negotiating is to not take it too seriously. Once you take things too seriously in life, full stop, that's going to be the problem.

When you're actually negotiating, try to smile. It really helps to lighten it up. If you lighten it up, the person will give you a little bit more. So the question I'm going to come back to is, when do you have the power to negotiate? When do you, the buyer, have the power to negotiate? You've all probably thought of an answer, well this is my answer. My answer is before you've committed to that thing that you're buying. So next time you're in a shop, go into one of these gadget shops that sell TVs and computers and some of them sell furniture as well and aircons and all sorts of things. Or they sell a wide range of things and they may be a franchise. Go in there and spend an hour on a Saturday morning when it's busy and see what's happening with the salespeople and the people who are trying to negotiate. When I say before you've committed to the product, what do I mean? Say I went in to the shop and I wanted to buy a TV and maybe, an office chair and a printer and something else. Now being committed means that, well, it means a number of things. One of the things it means is I've actually touched their product. I've picked up the product. In actual fact, you will find that a good salesperson will hand you that product. So, for instance, the phone or whatever you want to buy or the earphones or whatever the case may be, they'll actually hand you the product. It's in your hands. Because once it's in your hands, it's a soft type of closing.

And salespeople know this means you're closer and closer to doing the deal. So the first thing you need to do is don't be committed to the product because once the sales person knows you're committed to their product, then you're closer to signing the deal. It means the negotiation is real; they know you want their product so they know they don't have to work as hard to give you what you want - you've already told them with your body language. You've already told them you are going to buy that product regardless of what they give you. So try not to touch the product and to say things like it sits you down to the ground. You're looking for one exactly like that. This is the best you've seen. These are the exact features you wanted. Oh gosh, you've looked everywhere for this. Finally you found it. All those things you are saying, that you've found the product and you want it and you'll be buying it. For instance, let's go back to talking about houses. A lot of sales consultants and vendors who haven't woken up to the idea, think it's all about price. But price is just one of the many things that come with negotiating. If somebody wanted a long settlement because they've got a job where they're moving to and they're not moving for another four months, that might be very, very important to them because they might have to move their furniture, find somewhere to store it, find somewhere to rent or live for the time in between selling and then you know, moving into the new place.

All these things are very, very costly and very, very stressful. So the price is important to them but may not be the absolute critical negotiating part that they really care about. They really care about their settlement date because they need to know they are either going into a rental, they're going to stay with somebody, they're going to have to find accommodation or they are looking around to buy and they need to know a settlement date down the track that fits in and gives them time to logistically move their furniture from one city to another. So a sales person should be asking questions to find out what really matters to the person, extras included. For instance, in that scenario I was giving you where I was in the shop buying things, perhaps I could ask for extras; what are they going to throw in? For instance, if I was to buy an iPad and an iPhone charger, sometimes they can be about $40. So that might be an extra they are including for me. They may not knock any money off the price, but they may be prepared to put some extras on. What's the soft spot for the seller and what's the soft spot for the buyer? Maybe the terms are something the buyer needs to look at. They might say, well listen, if I could put that TV on no interest free for six months, that would really suit me. Are you prepared to do that because I think the shop down the road was advertising something like that. So it's all negotiating and again, like I always say, smile, don't take it too seriously. Look like you want to buy something, but you also want to play them in a friendly way to get the best deal. You want to be at a good place when you both agree to the terms and conditions and that's with anything. You're not there to rip anybody off. You're there to get what's right, what's good for you. Now, the other thing is, you need to be educated. As I said, if you're going to go in there totally unreasonable, whatever you're buying, then you probably aren't going to get the product and you're probably going to piss people off. And vice versa. If the person's selling something for example, a vendor is asking some ridiculous price for their house without the unique factor, then they may find that is going to annoy people. So it's a willing buyer and a willing seller; it doesn't matter whether you're $10 apart, $1,000 apart, $100,000 apart, if you’re both educated and you're willing to negotiate, you should get there. The other thing is, let's talk about uniqueness because unique doesn't literally have a price, and I call this the enth factor.

The enth factor is the reason why one cafe is extremely busy and the other one isn't. They both get the sun, they both have lots of things going for them, but one has got the enth factor and the other one clearly hasn't. Same with say a house. You might see two houses that are very similar in a lot of ways, but there's something about one compared to the other and you can't quite put your finger on it. And that factor is some sort of emotional play that pulls people in. And that has got an undefined price tag attached to it. So that's why, when you're selling something, you need to make sure you get the marketing right because the marketing is going to tap into people's emotions in some shape or form. And that's why smile marketing is very, very attractive because once people smile, it makes them feel good. So that's all food for thought. So next time you go into a shop and you want to negotiate, ask the question, what can you get? Don't commit and see what can happen. Look forward to hearing from you.

Til next time, Lou.

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