Sales People and Negotiation … are they really just 3 year olds in disguise?

1 Apr

Over the last week I have been deeply involved in negotiating pricing for a new service my company, Palo Alto Software, decided to purchase. It is an SaaS (Software as a Service) and is a service that will help Palo Alto Software grow by providing some good infrastructure. We needed to upgrade our current home-grown system, and our COO evaluated every last option available. We finally settled on one particular SaaS and started down the road of getting pricing. I have to say I was shocked at the whole experience. The whole process was almost enough for me to make the decision to NOT buy this particular service, even though it was our best solution.

As I negotiated the deal I started to feel more and more like I was negotiating with my three year old.  He and I make “deals” all the time. It’s my way of helping him choose the right options. For example:

Me: Timmy, let’s make a deal. If you go to bed and go right to sleep, without making a peep, we can go to the park tomorrow instead of running errands.

Timmy: OK Mommy.

Me: Timmy why are you out of your room?

Timmy: Well Mommy I wanted to talk about which park we are going to go to tomorrow. I don’t want to go to the “sand” park.

Me: Timmy remember the deal was that you had to go to bed  quietly and not come out of your room?

Timmy: Yes Mommy but I just needed to tell you……

You get the picture. It was the same way with this sales person that I was dealing with. It seemed like every step we took forward, he would then turn around and move us 3 steps backward with some ridiculous  item added to our estimate. Ever single line item needed to be negotiated, and there was just this general feeling that they were trying their best to just get as much money as possible from us, disregarding whether their pricing was fair, and giving us good value.  After a lot of work  and a lot of not so nice calls we finally got to a number that I felt happy with.  But the whole experience was just so arduous and felt so wrong. Why can’t they just price their services fairly? Why do I have to get into long not so nice negotiation calls when they could just provide their service at a fair price and I would pay it?  I just don’t see how companies win using these practices. They put you in the position of feeling that if you don’t negotiate you are getting taken for a ride. They put you in the position to feel like they think you are stupid. Why not just do honest business and make everyone feel good about the whole process?

I feel very strongly that people who work hard and do honest business will eventually get ahead. It may be naive. It may be wrong. But I truly believe that it is the only way to do business.  I don’t understand how anyone can justify being slimy, shady, sleazy, etc. At the end of the day this company came very close to losing my business. And not because their solution wasn’t the best one. I just can’t believe that they wouldn’t close more deals if they treated prospective clients like intelligent business people and not stupid monkeys.

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One Response to “Sales People and Negotiation … are they really just 3 year olds in disguise?”

  1. Brian April 11, 2008 at 12:08 am #

    I have two small children ages 3 and 5, and I works with software salesmen often. You hit the nail on the head. The sales people in many SaaS companies are trained to use the “give – get” negotiation rules, when they would be better served following the “golden rule” and treating clients with kindness. Many of these companies calculate on average a higher margin with the flex pricing. But I am not sure they are calculating long term customer satisfaction, or customer churn.
    Now I am off to negotiate bedtime with a 3yr old.

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