All markets can be broken up into three layers because there are three basic kinds of people. Sure, there are infinite nuances of human personality but there are three basic personality types and here's how they work...
- "Have you ever had one of those great clients that relies on your judgment and expertise and values your experience and always pays on time and never haggles about price? They're rare but they're there. They are that Top 15% of the market that I call the "clients" and everyone wants them. But they rarely shop projects once they find someone they trust and once they learn that they can respect you and get good service from you, nine times out of ten, they'll not even send out an RFP looking for bids. You see, these people are all about trust and relationships and once you build that trust it's something that no "low-baller" could ever come in and destroy. These people know what they are worth and they do business with you because you know what you are worth as well -- and they'll send a "low-baller" packing because it's clear to them that the low-baller knows what their self-worth is as well! These people are quick to recommend you to their friends and associates -- usually, people just like them as "birds of a feather really do flock together" -- and they will actively try to help your business grow (just as they see you offering ideas to help them grow their own business).
- In the middle of the market is what I call the 70% middle market and as a group they are, for the most part, fair-minded, honest and they do not usually beat on you for deals -- though they do appreciate a good but fair price. They may not have the sense of loyalty that the top 15% of the market have but they do try to be fair (they know they are not perfect and they have made their peace with themselves and they treat you the same) -- and they will try to work within relationships wherever possible. Within this middle 70% group, you can fine-tune their reactions by their proximity to either the Top 15% of the market or the Low-End 15% of the market. As these middle market people get closer to the top or the bottom, they act accordingly and take on traits of excellence or traits of ugliness that you will live to regret if you choose to do business with them (if they near the crossover point where they fall into the lower 15% of the market). As you learn to spot where within this majority 70% market area they stand, you will quickly be able to spot those "clients" you wish to work with or those "grinders" that you want to send packing -- nicely of course, but packing nonetheless!
- I am always amazed that the Low-End 15% of the market is the first part of the market that most new businesses set out to work with. Some do it consciously and others unconsciously but the end result is the same -- a lot of work for very little money, if any. This often happens because many people think that you have to undercut existing businesses to build a new business. That's simply not true. But if you believe that you do have to undercut the market and you price yourself as a "low-ball" artist, you set yourself up to attract the people that occupy the lowest 15% of the market. I call these people "Grinders" and for good reason: They will grind you and demand that you treat them like the people in the Top 15% category -- and they will expect that treatment from you as they push and push to get things below your cost. They'll promise you more jobs down the road and that just this one job needs a deal -- the others will make you some money. Yeah, right! The truth is: they'll never let you make a dime off them while you suffer through insults, mistrust, constant changes and arguments over what you agreed to or didn't -- and no matter how well you do, nine times out of ten there will almost always be something wrong with the job you did. They will never be happy. They do not recommend you to their associates and this is probably due to the fact that they know themselves quite well and think that everyone is like that creep they see in the mirror every morning. If they need to invent a reason not to pay you, they can get incredibly creative! The Net is full of stories of people trying to collect on debts made by these people.
Now that you know how these basic personality traits manifest in the business world, what can you do with this information to help you in the days ahead -- what's the "real world" application of this knowledge?
When you set out in your next negotiation or even a job interview -- it always works the same -- watch how the three market types are something that you can count on like clockwork. Adjust your presentation to interact with these people. If they are a Top 15% personality, focus on things you can do for them. Build your stock in their eyes by letting them know what you can add to their business -- now that doesn't mean sell yourself, it means sell their story and how you can empower it. Sell them on the research you have done on their company without telling them you've done so -- make their story come alive to them. After all, you are a communicator and you are there to sell them on your abilities to champion their cause, are you not?
If they are in the middle market and it's a job you want to take, then work with them so that they understand that you have a vision for their project. If you do have to give something away to get the deal, then do so by taking something else away from the project -- it doesn't have to be something huge, just something that establishes that they can't get something for nothing. (They understand this and will respect it.)
But if during the course of your negotiations it becomes clear that you have a "Grinder" on the line -- then for goodness sake, pull the hook out of their mouth and throw that smelly ole fish right back into the water! If you don't, you'll surely come to regret the decision just as sure as eggs is eggs!
Trust me: They're not good eating and they're just full of bones anyway!