There is an old expression where I come from, and you may have something similar where you are. It’s something about knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Surely it would be better to understand or appreciate the value despite the cost? And does the price tag indicate the value? Probably not in my recent experience. Anyway…what is value? It’s a perception, right?
I was recently attending my business mentorship programming Zurich, when one of the key mentors, Kane Minkus, set the group of 30 a lunchtime challenge. He gave each of us one match. It was actually a very small match and intrinsically held no value at all, unless it was the last match held by Winston Churchill as he was about to light his last cigar. Then suddenly the value of the match increases, for some people and so it goes.
Sadly, my little match had no such provenance. It was just a match that I was challenged to generate some value with or from.
This is an interesting exercise in resourcefulness with lots of lesson to learn. The first lesson was how to overcome the notion that anyone would be willing to trade anything at all for a single match, without even a striker to light it with. My first effort was appalling. I failed even in an opticians where they often just give away glasses cleaning clothes for free. I found one that charged 10 francs for one and didn’t think sharing one for a match was a good deal. Frankly I can’t blame him but then came the bit I had missed. This wasn’t his shop and I wasn’t talking to the budget holder.
Next I tried my luck in a twinkling fashion shop. Lots of sparkle in there and lots of small items one of which had to be worth a match. Success!! After much flattery, explanation and fun I got myself a postcard with Happy Birthday written on the front. Now, who doesn’t need a birthday card at least once a year? I had something with value attached, but not yet enough value.
Over the road from the fashion shop was a small independent florist. My strategy, as it emerged, was to target business owners rather than franchises or chain shops. On the way in I noticed some small plants outside for between 12 and 18 francs. A birthday card for a small plant? Now that has to be a good deal (for me). It was nice and cool inside but as I entered I noticed the 4 women who worked inside, and fortunately one of them was the business owner. She patiently listened to my story, delighted in my feature and benefit sale of the new and unused birthday card, revelled in the banter and did the deal on a real lavender plant, value 18 francs! Onwards and upwards.
Success breeds success and boosted with my own I entered a gift shop that had a sale on. This time the owner was not in the shop and would be away for some time. However, on hearing the story it was clear the two ladies in this shop wanted to help. On a whim one of them suggested I could swap my real lavender for one of their realistic, no need to water, prune or dead head artificial ones. To be honest I was a little reluctant but their fake plant had a price tag of 59 francs, way above the 18 francs of the real one. A deal was done and I walked proudly down the road with a fake plant in my hand attracting some rather odd looks form several passers by. Clearly a novelty in this area of town.
Stunned at my success at turning a match into “59 francs” I called in to what would be my last transaction. I was running out of time. It was another gift shop with lost of items that looked more expensive than they were. The assistant and I chatted and started to select what might be a good trade. We both know that the retail price is no where near the acquisition price so I thought I was on to a good thing, that is until the owner came back in. At first she, the owner, was somewhat shocked at my proposition but rapport is a beautiful thing. Remember I am in Zurich, Switzerland and to start with this lady wouldn’t open up in English. With a bit of banter, and pointing out that I am only doing what one of her posters on the wall was saying …”If you don’t ask for what you want, you won’t get it”, we became friends in trading. The big challenge here, for me, was she didn’t rate the price tag on the fake lavender. She told me in fact that the quality of this piece of plastic was awful (not her actual words, I’ve toned those down for this piece!) and not worth anything. That said I now believe this to have been a savvy negotiating tactic as I walked out of this shop with a proper gift. A beach style lantern complete with candle and a price tag of 94 francs.
From a single valueless match to a lantern priced at 94 francs in just over an hour.
So, what can I learn from this?
- in any negotiation make sure you are talking to the budget holder
- in any negotiation the other person is always negotiating too
- build rapport and keep it building
- politeness and humour go a long way
- value and price are in the eye of the beholder and not related
The other thing is that in this room of 30, only 6 people took up the challenge and ran with it. Would you? What could you achieve if you just stepped outside of your comfort zone and asked?