Embroidery Business The Art of Haggling

By Jennifer Cox, NNEP

How frequently do you hear, “Is this your best price? Or “I can get it for a better price at XYZ Embroidery…” or my personal favorite “Just make it look good, but I only want to spend X…” Most of us have heard many versions of these comments every single day. What your customer really wants to know is this – are they getting the best possible product at the best possible price from the best possible supplier? If you can give your customers the opportunity to “haggle” over something in their embroidery order, they win (in their opinion) and you win – you made the sale!

Haggling is just a form of casual negotiating. No formal or written offers and counter offers – just two individuals working through a process to get what they each want. Successful haggling happens when both sides feel good about the process and feel good about the deal that is struck.

There are two key elements to negotiations – time and information. The timing of an order may be critical to a customer or have no bearing on the order. If they are trying to find something for the staff for the company picnic which is being held this weekend, you certainly can believe that timing is going to be a key factor in their decision-making about where they place their order. If you can make their deadline, you can let them “win” on that aspect of the job and be less flexible when it comes to pricing the order.

Timing can also have impact in another way – if the customer has invested a considerable amount of time in researching products and embroidery suppliers, and you are one of many embroiderer they are researching, their investment of their time in this order is significant. Clearly, they need to know that they are making the best decision possible. If you can position your company as the best possible supplier – based on your quality, expertise and ability to meet their needs, you can place your company at the top of their list.

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Information is the other key factor in the negotiating process. The person that has the most information during a negotiation is in the position of strength. The one with the most elevant information will be able to meet more of their own needs and give up things that are not significant to them. If a customer is telling you that they can order 50 shirts at a ridiculous price from an embroiderer across town, check it out as soon as you can. Shop that other embroiderer to find out if they are indeed making that offer. Ask what the delivery time is for that price – it may be 4 weeks past the customer’s deadline. If that is the case, that specific low pricing has NO impact on your offer, as the customer cannot take advantage of it anyway!

If the customer is demanding a delivery date that is tight, find out if you can swap around some staff hours to make it happen without having to cover extra hours. You can meet their timetable, not drive your staff nuts, and hold firm on your pricing.

If the customer is hunting for a bargain basement price, ask if they can wait a while for the order or if they are flexible about the brand of products. If you have time or brand flexibility, you can research and take advantage of some great offers from the wholesale blanks suppliers as they run some great special promotions occasionally! Your customer wins as they get the price they wanted, and you win because you can keep your profit levels where they need to be when you are able to buy the goods during a promotion.

Haggling about an embroidery order also can be about the size of the design. The customer wants tiny lettering. You know it will not look good. Have some examples on hand of logos with the best small lettering you have done, and then also show some examples of lettering that is smaller, as per that customer’s request. Showing the customer the best possible option may help them accept that what you are suggesting is in their best interest.

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Haggling is second nature to some customers. If you can recognize the “hagglers” among your customers and let them “win” on a point that is important to them, you are likely to develop a long-term customer relationship with them. The key to haggling well is to know what you can give up and to know where you need to stand firm – and to allow them to win as well.

If the customer is demanding pricing, fast delivery and top brands, that is not a haggle – that is unreasonable! The customer does not have the right to dictate your profit levels nor do they have all the power. One key thing to remember is that not every customer that walks into your business is right for your business. If the customer is demanding that you make all the concessions, you do have the right to suggest they go elsewhere for their embroidery work.

Here’s a secret – many other embroiderers may have already shown them the door and you may be their last chance. If this is the case, their demands are no longer as critical – it may be what they want – but you do not have to meet all of their demands. Let them have one key concession – delivery time, quality of garment or pricing, but more than one!

Haggling is when both sides walk away satisfied – they feel that they were able to get what they wanted.  Keep in mind that every time you negotiate on price, you are giving away a part of your paycheck. You might want to “give” in other areas before “giving” on price!