Itâ€™s the question that everyone hates to be asked â€“ or more importantly hates to answer â€“ â€œWhat is your budget?â€. When the sales person on the other end of the line asks you this itâ€™s not always a bad thing. The immediate reaction from many people is to assume that the person asking is being mercenary and the question is designed to deign if you are worth talking to, or if you are a cheapskate. True, there are people that ask for that reason â€“ and you are better off hanging up there and then â€“ but for the most part itâ€™s a genuine question. We all have a fear that if we say Â£500 is the budget â€“ that the sales person will make the item be Â£499 (when 60 seconds before it was Â£399). Or that you will be losing out on your bargaining chip if you answer honestly. Equally sometimes we have no idea what the budget is, or needs to be! How often have you purchased a multifunction colour laser, multiple paper supply, self lubricating, portable printer? Not often anyway â€“ so how the hell am I supposed to know what the budget is?
But sometimes you need to understand why they are asking. If you imagine that a good independent office furniture supplier would have perhaps 150 ranges to choose from â€“ and with an individual desk ranging from Â£60 to Â£5,000, you can see why they ask the question. They need to know what â€˜ball parkâ€™ you need them to be in â€“ although this may be answered by the other questions that a good sales person should be asking at the same time.
The key with building a good relationship with a supplier is communication. And like life in general you canâ€™t start a meaningful relationship based on a lie â€“ or an untruth at least. If you really want to get what you want, then you realistically need to know what you need. If you are open and frank with a supplier and give them an opportunity to find what you need then the odds on you getting what you want are that much higher.
It sounds like a very obvious statement, but how many times do we say we want something â€˜stylish, good quality and contemporaryâ€™ when what we really mean is â€˜cheapâ€™. If you had asked for a glass desk for Â£200 instead of asking for a â€˜good quality, stylish glass desk on a sensible budgetâ€™ then you wouldnâ€™t have been offered the various solutions for Â£600 that your supplier has just come back to you with. You end up feeling that he hasnâ€™t been listening, and he feels that you are wasting his time. He could have saved your time and his with a frank conversation in the beginning. He would have concentrated his efforts on showing you glass desks at between Â£150 and Â£300 â€“ and likely would have come up with the goods! Perfect.
Of course you need to find a supplier that matches your own values in business â€“ and itâ€™s rarely the ones that boast about being the very cheapest. If you want a supplier that offers good value, good service, and professionalism then you need to look for certain things. An informative website that focuses on product rather than price is a good start. A friendly and helpful response to a telephone call is another.
An ability to listen is probably the key to a good business supplier â€“ but an ability to speak is a vital ability on your behalf as the customer. As Bob Hoskins in that awful BT advert in the 80â€™s said â€œItâ€™s good to talkâ€