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Saturday, January 17, 2015



This true story details recent "negotiations" between my gardener Lupe and me, a tale in which the unpracticed, innocent vendor gets the better of the wily sales veteran. Although I hope the takeaways from this vignette are self-evident, I'll offer some color in a moment.

To be fully appreciated, my story requires a few points of explanation:
? Those of you aware that I live in the Phoenix area may wonder about my need for a gardener. While it's true that my "yard" contains not a single blade of grass, I do have numerous varieties of desert vegetation which require a level of attention well above my pay grade;
? Lupe has been my gardener for several years and, as special landscape projects arise, we have a well-established routine for determining what he will charge for the required extra work. I ask him what it will cost, he gives me a price, I feign shock, offer him about 15 percent less, he accepts and the job gets done. It's win-win. and,
? I have tried to faithfully transcribe our dialogue. But please understand that Lupe knows only about 40 words of English which makes his vocabulary roughly 10 times greater than my ability to speak his native language. So I have improvised where necessary.

My original sprinkler system, installed about eight years ago, had started to fail and it cost me $100 every time Lupe had to dig a trench and patch a leak. He repeatedly suggested replacing the rubber tubing with PVC pipes which are guaranteed to last 15 years. After the fourth episode in less than two months, I asked Lupe how much he would charge for the PVC installation.

"$1,300," he replied after thoughtfully rubbing his chin.

"How much?" This time I didn't have to manufacture shock ? that amount was definitely not in my budget.

"$1,300," he repeated, spreading his upturned palms in apparent sympathy.

"C'mon Lupe. I know you can do better than that!" I was still trying to regain my equilibrium and this weak rebuttal was the best I could muster.

"I'm sorry Mister Jon but that?s a fair price.? His demeanor was totally relaxed.

"Okay Lupe, here's the deal. I'll give you $1,100 if you can start right away." I had pretty much recovered and, like it or not, I accepted that Lupe had defined the range of his price. Now I was simply trying to minimize the damage.

"No-no," he said, shaking his head vigorously from side-to-side. "This is a big job, Mister Jon, and $1,300 is what I need."

"Wow, Lupe. You?re killing me." Now I was fully engaged in a process that had played out between us before. I had expected him to reject my first offer and, trying to look genuinely pained, I stuck out my hand as I said, "Alright, $1,200 and we have a deal."

"I'm sorry, Jon, but $1,300 is the price." No more "Mister" Jon. His legs were spread, hands on his hips and he was looking me right in the eye?without blinking.

For a moment I was too stunned to speak. This wasn't how our game was supposed to be played. Finally I managed to stammer, "But Lupe, you've got to work with me."

"Si," he said, momentarily reverting to Spanish. "And I am working with you. If you want, you can come with me to buy the materials and then you can pay me and my men by the hour. You will see ? it's at least a $1,300 job."

At that moment I realized that Lupe wasn?t going to negotiate this job. My choices were simple ? I could solicit bids from other gardeners and maybe get a lower offer or I could simply agree to Lupe's price. But the truth is that I didn't really want another gardener to do the work. Over time, Lupe has earned my trust and respect. I would prefer to pay Lupe slightly more to maintain our good relationship. So I took Lupe's deal.

But I didn?t just take his deal ? I actually liked his deal. By standing firm (and putting the entire job at risk), Lupe convinced me that I was getting good value for my money. However inadvertently, he exhibited a great closing technique.

Those of you who follow my postings know how bullish I am about pricing. I relentlessly exhort sellers to always go in high. And I frequently remind account executives that they must be prepared to walk from business. But I may fail to suggest that these two practices often work well in combination. Lupe did both and is richer for the effort. How about you ? what color is your thumb?

Jon E. Horton is the author of The 22 Unbreakable Laws of Selling available in both paperback and Kindle versions from For more of his blogs, please visit Comments to

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