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Mfonobong Inyang: Negotiating With your Clients in a Language They Will Understand



The first day of this month marked our entrance into the second half of the year 2021. A lot of people and businesses have done assessments of their activities so far with a view to improving those outcomes. I checked my email a few days ago and I saw an invoice with a disclaimer at the bottom page: “these rates are only valid for seven days after the date of issuance” – a prime indicator of how volatile input prices have become, hence, a clause to renegotiate in any event the window closes was included.

One of the things you can do to shore up your bottom-line is to up your negotiation game. This is because, in business, you hardly ever get what you deserve. Instead, you almost always get only what you negotiated. I will spare you the orotund jargon but instead curate simple scenarios and positions you can adopt when negotiating. These hacks can make the words of your account officer sound like music to your ears. Pay attention, you might learn something.

Sorry, Not Sorry

Many people have a problem with confident folks, it is usually equated with arrogance. Such people love that performative humility – where you are walking around with your head bowed like a bookie who just lost some huge stakes. Be careful that they don’t condition you to always apologise for your healthy self-esteem. When the other party suggests a figure that is way beneath what you believe is your range, it’s completely okay to excuse yourself and take a walk. This isn’t a licence to be nasty, it is just you being cognizant of the equity you have built into your brand and the potential of your work to run up the numbers for the other person.

Now here is a major key alert: this kind of talk is only reserved for the bosses – kings and queens who have put in the work, paid their dues and have the crown on their heads. These people are living the dream; they dance to different drums. So if you’re still a greenhorn, you may want to leave this group chat. In Economics, it’s known as inelastic demand. In English, this means the client doesn’t mind paying more for your services owing to your superior value proposition. The level is not determined so much by how high you want to charge but by what you have become – so be careful not to put the cart before the horse.

Sapa Bien Merci

Forgive my French but it can be frustrating to find yourself in the lower rungs of the economic ladder where you don’t have much leverage. At the end of the day, these bills will not sort themselves out – you gotta make that 2k from site. You just have to make soup and swallow your pride because it’s advisable at this level to choose a lower income over unemployment of your human resource. Take your L and keep it moving but also commit to upskilling. Find out the value-add that can earn you better incomes. You will not get a bigger payday simply because the other person decides to have pity on you. Trust me, at this point anything is better than zero – someone can still visit you bayi.

Ama Leave the Door Open

Sometimes you have to humble-brag, you lay out your value to the client but also leave room for concession. Know what you’re doing; identify a price floor that you cannot go below when heading into negotiations but add a buffer that is relatively expendable in a worse-case scenario. In the Art of War, stooping to conquer is a very brilliant strategy – the world of business is no different. Make sure you’ve got plans – you may have to lose the battle to win the war; that’s a strategy that is as smooth as silk. “Never” – don’t say that!

Recently, one of my clients asked for a service and I gave him a quote. So being a very shrewd business person, he negotiated wholesale instead of per unit. Basically, I would be getting less that the standard fee per unit but in the context of a bulk purchase, it meant more income for me – that, for me, was a fair trade-off. You can even negotiate retainership or other long-term engagement as a pre-condition for waiving regular pricing.

Badman, Don’t Threaten Me!

In business, I believe mutual respect should come before mutual benefits. It rubs off the wrong way when a client is very condescending towards you. It’s almost as though he or she is doing you a favour and not that you both are exchanging value. The interesting thing is that there is really nothing inherently wrong with a take-it-or-leave-it deal, the issue has always been how it is communicated and the undertones of the offer. It is the disrespect for me.

This is where you weigh your options, if the deal is worth all the hell you have to go through, then, by all means, proceed. However, if you think it will exact a great toll on your dignity, resources or brand, you may want to take a walk. Anyone that makes you feel like a dot on God’s green earth just because of money isn’t someone you want to be in business with for a long time. It’s hard to negotiate with crazy.

Seeing Green

You should know a bit of market segmentation, not just when selling but also when negotiating. It is possible to sell almost the same thing to a mass market and premium market respectively, and charging each market a significantly different fee. Never enter or conclude a negotiation without having an idea of who the client is. By profiling, I don’t mean “DM for price.” You can sell a low-end service to a client and if you perceive that he or she fits the description of a premium client, you can then upsell more expensive packages to them or even offer custom services.

Some clients have the capacity to pay more but you first need to show them that they have a problem for which you’re ready to provide a solution. Someone pre-ordered two copies of my book and I got the greenlight that she aligned with my customer avatar so I promptly pitched my premium ghost-writing services for aspiring authors. She saw the perks of curating her wealth of experience into a book and promptly signed up for it. These days you don’t just sit and expect clients to come to you – if the mountain doesn’t come to you, nothing stops you from going to the mountain.

At the end of the day after all is said and done, it all comes down to self-awareness. Know your worth and make sure you add tax because you’re all that and a bag of chips. Also set your sights on the global market. With the Naira turninoninown, earning greenback income or any other first-world FX while incurring expenses in our local currency issa forever mood!



Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

Now available in select bookshops and on my Selar Store - get your hands on my brand new book, Hope Is Not A Strategy; Faith Is Not A Business Model - Mfonobong Inyang is a creative genius who works with top individuals and institutions to achieve their media, tech and communication goals. As a consummate writer, he offers ghostwriting, copy-writing and book consultancy services. A master storyteller that brilliantly churns out premium content for brands on corporate communications, book projects, scripts and social media. A graduate of Economics – he speaks the English, Ibibio, Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa languages. He appears to be a gentleman on the surface but the rumours are true - he get coconut head! Reach out to me let us work together on your content project(s) - [email protected]