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“How much you got?” (the death knell for negotiating)

Ok ok. Full disclosure. This “negotiation” tactic is one of my pet peeves. I will do my best to be fair in this article, but I am starting with a bias.

That being said…ONE OF THE BIGGEST MISTAKES AN ARTIST CAN MAKE!!…breathe… is to outright ask how much money a buyer has to spend. That question immediately sends a signal to a buyer that you don’t have a defined value.

Imagine if you called up a hotel for a room, let’s say it’s the Ritz-Carlton, and got this very question. You 1) wouldn’t appreciate it or 2) you’d be elated to start from such a great bargaining position! Either way, I hope you get my point.

The Problem

Asking this [horrid] question not only tells the buyer you don’t have a pre-established value, it also tips them off to two other important things:

1: you are fishing for their budget;

2: they know they can start with a low budget and work up from there.

Taking this weak business position creates a steep climb for you to recover from - particularly when the buyer is aware of what you are doing.

Now, some of you might say that you’ve had success asking this [vile] question. Let me note here that in very select situations, this tactic could be smart as well as appropriate. But 99% of the time my reply to you would be that a broken clock is right twice a day and you have no clue what damage you're doing to your reputation. You are likely inadvertently creating pricing consistency issues and buyer retention/referral problems. Professional buyers always talk to each other and transient (one-time) buyers definitely talk amongst themselves.

The Solution

So, if I’ve taken away one of your tools for doing business, please indulge me in suggesting some replacement strategies.

  1. Know your defined value, or at least your desired range for any given job.
  • You might have multiple packages that vary in cost. These variables give you an advantage in negotiating in that you can back up your pricing as well as consistently test your prices in any given market.
    • Translation: charge more if the market supports it.
  1. Qualify the customer with questions.
  • The “when” and “where” (and sometimes “how”) are important variables to feel out.
    • For example: If you are a musician and the gig is on New Years Eve 800 miles away, you should definitely be charging more than an average Wednesday in the summertime.
  • For the clever ones, be careful to ask too specific of questions- like “what venue are you having this event?” Also be careful about digging for the name and status of who’s actually paying. Some buyers won’t catch this as an attempt to possibly charge more, but the ones that do will not be happy.

The moral of the story is to know your prices (packages and all), ask the important questions, and CONFIDENTLY quote your price (this is very important…Don’t mumble!).

From there, with practice you’ll develop a feel for ways to keep your desired price range AND your customer. I hope this helps you close every deal you desire to.

Here’s a famous quote that sums most of this article up : “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca

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