One of the prime components of our Network Selling model is “Win-Win.” What does this mean, and why is it so important when it comes to a sustainable series of sales relationships?
Since the beginning of time, sales has had a tendency to be overbalanced on one side or the other—on the side of the seller, or on the side of the buyer.
The buyer is always seeking the best price for the best product. The industry in which the buyer is shopping will compel consumers to do things like getting out of bed at 2AM to “get the best deals.” Then there are Spring Sales, Summer Sales, and other seasonal sales. Now there seems to be sales just about any time of year, and the consumer is chasing them all over the place. They don’t want to miss deals—why should they pay retail? Today you can even find websites that compare prices so you can always know you’re getting the best price.
Consumer quests for deals can even drive technology. I was recently visiting a retirement complex in which the owners were installing the highest-speed internet in all rooms. While visiting I asked where everyone was because it had over 1,000 residents and the place seemed empty. The staffer told me that residents are almost never there—they’re constantly on vacation. They use that high-speed internet to find the very best deals on cruises, airfare, and hotels.
On the seller’s side, it’s exactly the opposite. The seller is trying to sell at the highest possible price with the best possible margin. For a retail seller it’s a constant conundrum: when yesterday’s sale ends—the one advertised in your store window or website that brought lots of shoppers in—what do you do offer now?
In a perfect world, the buyer’s best deal and the seller’s best profit would somehow mesh in total harmony. But we don’t live in perfect world.
Bringing About a Win-Win
So how does this all work in B2B sales, and how could a win-win actually come about?
As I’ve said many times, a great sale, a win-win, hurts both sides just a little bit.
If the deal causes too much pain on one side, it’s no good. If a seller has to sell too far below their price point, and it’s going to be a continuing relationship, you can bet that seller is going to recover that lost margin somewhere up the line, perhaps by padding another sale. If the buyer considers they’ve paid too much, they’ll be doing the same from their side at some point.
Both of these scenarios disturb a seller-customer relationship, and that is why I say a great sale hurts each side just a bit, but not too much. Everyone has to give up a little bit.
Just as in any relationship, you can’t bring negotiating points to the table and claim to have none. In negotiation, everyone must find a compromise.
Both the wise seller and the astute buyer, knowing they’ll be working together for some time to come, will find the “sweet spot” for both of them.
The one-time sale can be a different story. A seller is looking for that great price and really doesn’t care much about the buyer. In real estate speculation, a seller could sell a piece of property at two or three times its value, on the “promise” that the market will be skyrocketing in the next year or so. Once a seller makes such a sale, they don’t care what happens to the buyer after that.
It can happen the other way around, too. The buyer can pressure the seller by offering cash, in exchange for the lowest possible price. The seller feels the pressure and sells. The price then triples, the buyer makes a huge profit, and the seller knows they lost out big-time.
We’ve seen this kind of behavior in car sales throughout the years—the infamous “used car salesperson” sells a “great deal” and the car falls apart two blocks off the lot. The buyer can do nothing about it as the car was sold caveat emptor “buyer beware”—the buyer is responsible for making sure nothing is wrong before taking possession of the item.
Of course, there are times when a win-win won’t be possible, or it’s actually important to violate it. For example, in order to survive, you must sell something at a certain price so that you can avoid a bankruptcy.
There are principles from the Austrian School of Economics that can apply here. One is subjective value, which means the value applied by a person to a product or service, in a given set of circumstances. For example, you’re wandering the desert, you have a pocketful of diamonds but no water, and you’re desperately thirsty. You come across someone who has several bottles of water—and you very well might end up surrendering a number of your very valuable diamonds in exchange for that water, just to stay alive. In drastic times this is a fair deal, even though in ordinary circumstances it would be ridiculous.
This still might be considered a win-win, though—since you did get the water and survive! How much is a life worth?
Recommendations Are the Currency
A very important reason to push for a “win-win” in every sales cycle is that in our digital interconnected world, recommendations are the currency. If you as a buyer get a bad deal in any form, you’ll never recommend that seller—or if you do, it will be a “recommendation” to beware of them!
Today a seller lives by good recommendations. For example, online reviews make or break future sales for an online business.
As a seller, a win-win deal may not mean charging the best possible price (for you) at the moment. But it does mean you’re going to have a stable flow of relationships you can build on.
There’s an old German saying: Man trifft sich zweimal im Leben. It translates to, “You always meet someone twice in life.” The question is, the second time you meet that person, will you be happy, or will you cross the street to avoid them?
In ancient times, such as in the days of Marco Polo, a bad deal could mean your life. Fortunately, we’re a bit more civilized, now—it only means your future business. So mind those recommendations.
The Stable Foundation
I do understand that there are those that won’t agree with this win-win proposition. They either see the necessity of one side or the other and refuse to look at how making it work for both sides would be optimally beneficial.
If it’s not a win-win, it will affect both parties—I promise you that. Another old German saying is Wie man in den Wald hineinruft, so schallt es heraus. “When you shout into the woods, it echoes back.” This is just another way of saying that the actions you take come back to you.
Win-win is long-term and makes for a good, stable relationship. Both sides can look each other in the eye, say, “This is a good deal” and mean it. It all goes back to mutual trust, without which you’ll never have a win-win. Both parties shake hands, even if virtually. The original meaning of shaking hands was a demonstration that neither side was holding a weapon–they trusted each other.
A win-win isn’t just for that one momentary deal, that extra $100,000 for that piece of property (as in our earlier real estate example). It’s the many deals you’re going to make in the long run. I don’t believe you can, as a seller, mess people about continually and survive, especially in today’s networked world.
Remember that a win-win does hurt a little on both sides. That’s how you know it’s a win-win. Perhaps the seller gives up a bit, like a discount, or an additional service, or payment terms. Perhaps the seller pays just a bit more.
Try it. Once you do, you’ll see it is most definitely the way to proceed into the future.