My friend Thomas (name changed for privacy sake) was sharing this event that he encountered with his customer a few weeks ago. Thomas is in the flight ticketing and tourism business. He mentioned casually that he realised the importance of having strong persuasive skills and decision-making skills after this specific encounter with his customer. I probed further and this is what happened.
Let’s take it from the top.
A few weeks ago, I introduced Thomas to one of my friends, Bernard (name changed for privacy sake) who wanted to go to South America for a religious cause with his church friends. As Bernard was one of the youngest within this group, he was tasked to find tickets for them – about 30pax.
Naturally, when Bernard approached me to recommend a good travel agent, I recommended Thomas. This is where it gets interesting. Listed below is the chronological sequence of events that followed.
The two get talking.
The group had to fly off on the 30th of September.
Thomas finds tickets to South America at $900+. Bernard is happy and updates his group via WhatsApp. His group advises him to wait for a few days as prices are about to drop. Bernard updates Thomas accordingly
Prices haven’t dropped. Bernard asks Thomas to check if he can get cheaper flights via a longer route. Thomas proceeds to do as instructed.
Thomas comes up with alternate routes and alternate flights that are slightly ($50+) cheaper than the current prices in the morning. Thomas urges Bernard to make a decision as prices will start going up soon if he doesn’t make a decision. Bernard insists that there is definitely a cheaper option and proceeds to find alternate routes and prices online on his own.
Ticket prices shoot up to $1,100+ by end of day. Bernard doesn’t lose hope. Continues with research.
Bernard realises he isn’t able to find a cheaper price than what was quoted by Thomas. Ticket prices have gone up to $1400. Bernard informs his group that the prices are going up. This is when one of his friends from church ask Bernard to check the cost of private flight charters for 30pax to see if it is a viable option.
Flight prices shoot up to $1800. Bernard inquiries on private charter. Thomas is annoyed at Bernard’s request, as Private Charters cost way, way more than regular flights and do not host more than 16pax in most cases.
Tells him it’s not any cheaper than $1800 per pax. Bernard starts to feel regret as he did not manage to obtain cheap tickets for his group and was unable to persuade them despite having Thomas consult him and urge Bernard to buy the tickets on his own.
Prices shoot up to $1900+
Bernard resigns to the fact that he won’t be able to get any cheaper ticket and proceeds to buy $1900 flight tickets for himself with a heavy heart. His church members also move to buy their own tickets on their own at $1900+
Many executives and business owners who are involved in procurement face such similar challenges.
Now, let’s analyse what happened in this scenario.
This is a wonderful case study as it applies to personal leadership – be it at work, with friends or any other group.
Bernard is seen as the ‘ping-pong ball’ where he gets knocked back and forth from his Church group to Thomas and back.
What are some lessons we can draw from a situation like this:
- Trust the expert. Trust the friend.
You don’t have to know everything. In fact, it is important to respect the expert’s experience when they share their industry. Another interesting point to take note is to know that a friend will not and cannot afford to cheat you especially he runs his own business.
It is a given that you are paying for his best experience and knowledge. If Thomas does a good job, it would mean Bernard will recommend him to others through word of mouth. The opposite is also the same if he did not do justice to his work.
Jack Ma once said, ‘When selling to close friends and family, no matter how much you’re selling to them, they will always feel you’re earning their money, no matter how cheap you sell to them, they still wouldn’t appreciate it.’
There will always be people who do not care about your Costs, Time, Effort. They rather let other people (or businesses) cheat them, allowing others to earn, then supporting someone they know. Because in their heart, they will always be thinking, ‘How much did he earn from me?’ instead of “How much did he save/make for me?”
I remember Thomas mentioning, “While we were both talking, at one point in time, it felt to me as if he thought his one day of research experience on the internet… can get him a better deal than my five years of field experience hahaha”
2. Too many options is not an option
I get it, sometimes it’s hard to make a decision with 1 option. However, if you start looking at 10 different options that do not compare apple to apple, you will end up with analysis paralysis. It is hard to have a clear mind when your mind is buzzing with numbers and benefits. Which is why most procurement agencies take a look at 3 different quotes and pick the best among the 3.
3. Fast, Urgent Service + High Quality + Limited Budget = Very Rare.
A common problem that most people don’t realise – it’s hard to get all 3. Very rare in fact. If you know anyone who can promise this, share the contact please :p
4. No matter your position, it is very, very important to be able to persuade and communicate effectively.
If Bernard had complete trust that he’s getting the best deal, he could have asserted himself with his $900+ price to his Church group and saved them from the eventual ticket price rise.
Even in a regimental environment (i.e. Army/Navy/Airforce), it is possible to persuade your superiors if you have the right persuasive communication skills. When it comes to Persuasion, it is more than just facts that win.
In the movie Rush, Niki Lauda calls for a meeting to cancel the race on a rainy day but fails. James Hunt, his number one competitor, who also happens to be very persuasive, with strong people skills, manages to sway the room to his favour – to continue with the race.
Watch the video below
If we dig deeper, we can see that it would have saved him plenty of time (6 days of discussing back and forth) and lots of money ($27,000). Now, if you put a monetary value for his time, the loss is more than $27,000.
I spoke with Bernard about this. Yes, he is remorseful. It is only human to feel the regret. But at the end of the day, Bernard has learned a valuable lesson and I’m sure he will be able to make faster and better decisions in the future.
What are your thoughts? How do you think this could have been avoided? What about Thomas? Could he have done something different? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.
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