Are You Serious?

One of my projects at work has been to get an idea of what we’d pay on the open market if we stopped working with one of our vendors.

I nosed around, found someone interesting, and had a preliminary call to check it out. The call went well— they’ve got a system that I like, they gathered a lot of details about my event. I was very careful to let them know that price was a primary concern, and they said they understood and would take that into consideration. They came back with a pretty pricey bid. I presented it to my boss, who looked first at price. She said she would read the information about their technology that I gave her, but I can’t imagine it’s going to be high on her list, because she said right away that it was so significantly more than we pay now that it’s probably not a going concern.

Today, the sales guy called to follow up on the bid. I told him the truth, that I showed it to my boss, but that I didn’t think it would happen.

“But that’s a preliminary bid— it always happens that way. We bid on general information and it’s high, then come down as we learn more about your needs.”

I finally said to the guy “well, I did tell you that we were a small organization and that price was a primary factor for us. Why would you give us an ‘all the bells and whistles’ bid?”

“But if you’re interested in our technology…”

“Frankly, she’s not looking at your technology because we can’t afford you. She started with the bottom line, and you disqualified yourself.”

“Well, let me take a look at it and see if we can get closer…”

This guy puts so much effort into closing the deal— he clearly has notes in front of him referencing small chat from the last time we talked, so I’ll know we’re friends and he cares about me. Why on earth would you send us a premiere package kind of bid when all I talk about is “gee, that sounds expensive… how much does that run?” and “I see you have this low-cost alternative— how does that scale?” It just baffles me. When I saw the combination of the price and the fact that they accidentally included pricing for someone else’s event with our bids, I had concluded they weren’t that serious about working with us.

Maybe this is more geometry at play with me. I am also a bottom-line girl. The first time I bought a used car, I brought my dad with me, because I was afraid the guy was going to “little lady” me and try to sell me on a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t know how to assess. Instead, when the guy left the table the second time to “talk to his manager,” my dad asked me to take it easier on the guy— he felt like the guy was doing his best and I was taking money out of his pocket. I explained to my dad that I had given the guy my bottom line when I sat down and he was still 25 percent higher than that. If the salesman couldn’t do a deal with me, he wouldn’t have wasted the time— he was trying to get more out of me, and because I knew I didn’t have it, I wasn’t going to let him talk me into paying more than I could afford. I was the only one threatening to leave the table, which was how we could be certain he was still making money.

I didn’t get the guy all the way down to my price, but I got him down to something I could afford. I might have, at one point, snarled at the guy to stop talking to my dad and demanded he talk to me— that my dad wasn’t going to be paying him anything and if he couldn’t talk to me as the buyer, I’d find someone who did want to sell me a car; and I might have told my dad that if he didn’t have the stomach for my negotiating he could wait outside—he didn’t have to watch. They both might have looked at me like they wondered if they needed an exorcist. Turned out that in the moment, I wouldn’t let myself be “little lady-ed.”I’m amazed that all these years later, we have made so little progress.

 

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