Profit Prospects: The Fine Art of Customer Negotiation

Profit Prospects: The Fine Art of Customer Negotiation


If you are an FBI hostage negotiator, someone’s life is on the line. Chris Voss negotiated for real lives in real situations. His book, Never Split the Difference, with coauthor Tahl Raz is great reading for anyone dealing with the public. Every customer discussion is a customer negotiation of some type.

Voss challenges the business world to accept the realities he learned, which are not what Harvard teaches. Moreover, he had a negotiation session with academics and won.

The Ivory Tower world believes negotiations are based on mathematical, logical thought processes. However, everyone dealing with the public knows that buying decisions are emotional, not rational. Yet, customers want to believe and need to believe they are acting rationally. The question is: How do we help customers meet their emotional and rational needs while turning them into ambassadors for our business?

The key to being successful in taking care of customers is this phrase: “God gave you two ears and one mouth; use them in that ratio.”

The Art of Customer Negotiation: A Classic

The famous sales trainer Zig Ziglar wanted to be hired by a company but needed the CEO’s approval.

The chief said, “You’re the great salesperson, huh? Sell me something.” Zig paused and asked, “What do you want me to sell you?” The quick answer was, “Sell me that pen on my desk.” Zig responded with, “Why would you want to even buy that pen?”

Subsequently, the executive waxed eloquently on all the benefits of his pen. When he paused, Zig waited then asked the open-ended question, “What else?” This caused more virtues of the pen to be noted. Finally, the owner of the pen said he was done. Zig had made no comments about the pen. Zig said, “Listening to you talk about that pen, it’s very obvious you’re sold on it. And I am, too.” Zig was hired.

Letting the customer talk is more powerful in building trust and sales than salespeople babbling.

If They Cry, They Buy

Experienced photographers or lab personnel can recall a customer weeping when their pictures were first shown to them. These are wedding pictures, baby pictures, graduation, restored historical family heirlooms or memorial images. That emotional tug on customers’ heartstrings is what makes imaging so special. Our products connect with people in a heartfelt way. As an industry, we can fulfill the emotional needs of our customers, if we listen as well as offer appropriate solutions. customer negotiation ProfitProspects-2-2020-AOnline, a well-known retailer offered routine quality prints as well as premium quality that cost 50% more. More than 60% of the online customers ordered premium. In the store, the number was 20%; that’s because salespeople weren’t offering the customer the option. However, when the in-store personnel had a spiff or sales contest, all of a sudden, the in-store customers ordered the better quality prints.

It is not good customer service if the salesperson does not educate the customers enough so they can make a wise decision. Bottom-feeding price shoppers don’t traditionally visit specialty stores and labs; nor do they deal with true professional photographers. Customers are coming to us for what we can do for them.

Give Them Control

In many ways, online customers feel more in control than those customers in your store or calling you on the phone. Digital Imaging Reporter’s 2019 Dealer of the Year was Stan and Shelly Grosz from Horn Photo (Fresno, California). The couple had heard Paul Maietta (Fitzgerald Photo Imaging, North Perth, Australia) speak at last year’s IPIC convention. Maietta told how his website has the customer option to add a $10 “Enhance Image” option. This service gives the customer everything practical to enhance each image, short of a full restoration.

Being in California, Horn Photo knows the magic—and long lines—at Disneyland. As a result, they added an additional option, calling it FastPass. For $10, the order goes “to the head of the line.” The customer is asked to insert a desired completion date. Indeed, there are numerous orders where Enhance and FastPass charges are more than the print costs. These prints are important to customers. Horn Photo found a way to cover small-order handling costs while giving customers more control over their orders.

Consequently, their customers are happier because they feel they have more control, especially over the delivery. Furthermore, it has added thousands of dollars in Horn Photo revenue while reducing calls and inquiries for expedited or enhanced services.

What encouragement, what information can you give your customers that can enhance the benefits they get buying from your business? Truly listening to every customer, allowing them to express their needs, opens the door to customer enjoyment plus repeat and referral business.