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Evil Sales Representatives

February 6, 2013

Would a sales representative ever try to mislead a customer? Yes, according to ICN. In an enjoyable article, they discuss the ploy beloved of technology companies “I’d love to say yes (to your negotiation request), but it would not be fair to other customers to set a precedent”.

I recall this approach from my days at IBM. It was used on pretty much every occasion, with the 1970’s anti-trust suit and settlement used as an excuse. And, the sales rep woould point out, “If I give this away, you are bound to wonder what other customers are getting, so actually my refusal to negotiate saves us both a lot of time and angst”. There was usually a comforting follow-on. “In any case, don’t worry what the contract says – we always do much more than the contract promises”.

It is in some ways surprising if technology sales people are still using this tired excuse to avoid responding to their customers. Though I must say that some buyers are no better (and this is a point ICN do not mention in their article). Many Procurement staff also lack negotiating authority and increasingly it is the buyer’s paper that forms the basis for discussion. So what do you do with a buyer who denies the ability to alter terms and then says: “This will have to go to Legal and that takes at least 6 weeks to turn around”? Of course, no sales person wants to face that delay so they fight tooth and nail to get their company to accept the customer’s standard term, however unreasonable or inappropriate it may be.

In the end, many sales people are driven by speed. They want to close the deal – not just because they want their commission, but also because they have targets, they know that delay can cause a change of mind and until the deal is closed, they are always open to competition. It is these factors that make them averse to most meaningful negotiation, no matter what its source. They do not want to have to go back to their internal staff groups to push for a contract change. It takes control of the deal out of their hands and creates a high degree of unpredictability.

So just as buyers often fail to focus on value (because they are driven by price savings), so sales people often fail to structure the best contract. In the end, it is down to measurements and time, rather than any evil intent.


One Comment
  1. Negotiation always occurs when the party’s both want to make the deal and both have other options. Do buyer’s use end of quarter/year sales needs to get something better? They should.
    Do suppliers, use leverage they have when they know the buyer wants or needs their product?
    Absolutely! Are there times when buyers focus on value rather than cost or price savings? Yes, but that depends upon what they are buying?

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