These aren’t shaping up to be get-fat-rich-and-happy times for small business owners. With the economy losing altitude fast, many of us are tightening our belts, cutting back and hoping this doesn’t turn into a full-blown depression.
In the meantime, a breed of so-called “customers,” better described as predators, is on the prowl. These folks are more euphemistically referred to as bargain hunters looking to take advantage of cash-hungry business people. They mostly bring bad business, and from my experience, bad business is worse than no business at all.
They’ll drive you crazy, waste your time, and leave you with little if any profit. Here are a few examples:
The thief. This predator is looking for a freebie. As a consultant, I’ve found that this is the prospect who wants to see the proposal, the outline and as much detail as possible before committing. During lean times in my younger days, I’ve darn near given away the store in hopes of getting the contract. More often than not, they took the idea and then did the project themselves. What to do: Call the thief’s bluff by saying something like, “I can give you a quote for preliminary research, which will be taken off the final bill if the proposal goes to contract.”
The friend. This is the customer who knows you’re in a cash flow crunch and tries to convince you that he or she is willing to help you meet your cash flow needs by taking product off your hands…at a loss. What a pal. What to do: At the very least, split the difference. Remember, this predator still needs your product, so turn the tables. “I can’t give it to you for that price, my friend, but I will give you X percent off my regular price. That way, we’ll both come out ahead.”
The teaser. This is a variation of the friend, but one that tempts you with the casual bit of information that goes something like this: “Well, I only need one now, but I’ll in the market for another 50 by August 1…that is, if the price is right.” What to do: Explain that, “I can give you a fair and competitive price today. Then, when you’re ready to act on the next 50, I know I can beat anybody else in the area.”
Everyone wants a bargain, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them roll you, pick your pocket, and leave you for dead in an alley. Remember that the predator who shows up looking to squeeze you today will definitely return tomorrow, but only to squeeze you a second time. Predators are not loyal customers. They want just one thing — another deal that adds up to a win for them and a loss for you.
That’s bad business…and that’s worse than no business at all.
John R. Ingrisano
The Freestyle Entrepreneur
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