Negotiations: Whose problem is it, anyway?
  • sales
  • Blog post

Negotiations: Whose problem is it, anyway?

A business owner is tossing and turning in bed one night. Finally his wife turns on the light and asks him what’s wrong.

“I have a terrible problem,” the man says. “The company owes a million dollars to the bank. The note comes due tomorrow and we don’t have the money to pay it.”

“Do you have the banker’s home phone number?” the wife asks.

“As a matter of fact, I do. Why?” the husband replies.

His wife reaches for the phone and starts dialing. After a few rings, a sleepy banker answers. “Hi,” the wife says, “my husband owes you a million dollars. It’s due tomorrow. He’s not going to be able to pay you.” And then she hangs up the phone.

“Now it’s his problem, not yours,” the wife says. “Get some sleep.”

As a salesperson, you want to help solve your customer’s problems. But you have to be careful not to confuse problem solving with problem shifting. That’s what the business owner’s wife did. She didn’t solve anything. She simply dumped the problem on someone else.

Some buyers will try to do the same at with you. “We need to cut costs,” the buyer says. “So you need to cut your price.” Or “My boss is a jerk, so you need to give him everything he wants.”

No you don’t.

By politely refusing to accept your customer’s problem as your own, you set the stage for problem solving. “I understand you need to cut costs, just as I’m sure you understand we need to get a fair price. So let’s look at how my products and services can help you reduce operational costs. And I understand your boss is demanding. So let’s figure out how to deliver what she needs at a price she’s willing to pay.”

2 Comments

  • Jim Sandler says:

    This is essentially the same article as the famous article by Harvard Business Review entitled ” Whose Got the Monkey”, which is a terrific article and one of the most read articles in the history of HBR. I refer to that article many times when coaching my clients on delegation

  • Jim Sandler says:

    This is essentially the same article as the famous article by Harvard Business Review entitled ” Whose Got the Monkey”, which is a terrific article and one of the most read articles in the history of HBR. I refer to that article many times when coaching my clients on delegation

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