“Twelve hundred dollars!”, snapped Lily. “No way, too much,’ I snorted. The pocket-rocket snatched the calculator from me and punched in a counter offer: “One thousand!” “No, no. Still too expensive,” I replied. Back and forth went the calculator like a tennis ball fizzing over the net in a grand slam final. Deep into the fifth set, Lily’s frustration became obvious, her wide smile morphing to a frown. I had moved in the negotiations marginally, while she had discounted to less than 10% of her initial asking price. But that’s how the game is played in downtown Shanghai, China—a bustling marketplace—replete with all the delights and junk a discount hungry tourist can buy.
Lily and I ground to an agreement. She sneered, “You’re a tough man”. With a chuckle, I said goodbye, knowing I had still left money on the table. But to spend another five minutes squabbling over what was essentially a few dollars seemed counterproductive. It was my last day in China and I was on a mission to buy as much cheap stuff as I could in the smallest amount of time. In every stall I observed salespeople applying a similar method. They always request a ridiculously high price. Rejected by the customer, the salesperson asks what the customer wants to spend. Incremental counters then move the customer towards a price that both agree on. In the west, haggling is frowned on; in Asia, it’s simply part of a common respected and tested sales process.
If you look more closely at this technique, you will find some real genius. For one, the salespeople apply their process and fully trust in it, and it rarely fails them. They begin by asking what the customer wants to pay, successfully gauging the customer’s expectations. They proceed to explain all the benefits of the product to position it in its most valuable light. The salesperson then sets a price, the customer’s counter-offer establishes their level of buy-in, and so the process moves forward.
The salesperson understands that the more time a customer spends in dialogue with them, the more likely they are to buy. If a considerable amount of time passes in negotiations, and the customer then walks, I have witnessed amiable vendors mutating into spitting vipers, disgusted by the customer exiting the sales conversation without an outcome. In short, they are fiercely conscious of their time and how important every opportunity is. Wasted time is dead money.
Most importantly, they demonstrated the most vital element of success in any field: persistence. Incredibly relentless in their pursuit of the sale, these sales people work with a tested method that most Western salespeople couldn’t be bothered with. This process is gruelling, with every target customer being engaged in a structured and patient way, and it takes discipline, persistence and resilience —essential characteristics for success, no matter where in the world you do business.