I want to tell you a story, a true one, as told to me by my partner late at night whilst we were willing (ie begging) our 7 month old to actually stay asleep in his cot (as opposed to lying on Mummy). It is the story of a man who didn’t give in to the customer.
In this story we have Bob (this is not his real name, to be honest, I have forgotten his real name, but it’s immaterial anyway) and Bob worked in a sheet metal fabrication factory. One day a customer comes to the factory, he needs hundreds of special hinges fabricated ASAP. Bob gets specific details and gives the customer a formal written quote outlining the cost of fabricating and supply of the hinges. The customer agrees to the quote and Bob gets on with the job.
Now I don’t know why Bob was creating all these hinges putting them into a wheelbarrow, rather than boxing them from the get go, but nevertheless he happily creates hundreds of these special hinges, placing them in his barrow as he goes. Each hinge is perfect and meets the exact requirements of his customer.
Just as he finishes, the customer comes to pick up his order and he is delighted with the end result. But then he does something he thinks is very clever. Now that the fabricator has created this special order, for a product that nobody else is likely to want, the customer feels he has some power for negotiation. So he tells the fabricator that he likes the product but he doesn’t want to pay the quoted price, he wants to pay less.
Bob; he looks at his customer. He picks up the handle of his wheelbarrow and he pushes the special order all the way across the factory floor to the skip bin. Then he starts throwing the hinges into the bin. The customer is aghast and runs after him, asking him what on earth is he doing, he needs those hinges. Bob, without stopping, keeps throwing the hinges in the skip says:
“I don’t make products to sell at ridiculous rates. If you don’t want to pay what these hinges are worth, then you will not have them.”
The customer, frantic by now, hastily agrees to pay the original price. Bob, being the dead set legend that he is, just keeps turfing the hinges into the skip bin. He had an agreement with the customer. The customer tried to renege on that deal. Therefore, that customer is no longer a customer of his business and is not going to get those hinges.
Now Bob is an extremist and clearly of the ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ type, but I have to admire him all the same time. All too often customers think they can be smart and try and negotiate a fee or a cost AFTER the supplier has committed resources to the job. It’s frustrating, it’s demoralising and it’s disrespectful.
And yet, I can’t tell you how often this happens in the recruitment industry. To be fair, sometimes recruiters get so excited about the opportunity to help, they fail to get agree terms agreed up front, and more fool them if the customer then wants to negotiate. But when the fees have been discussed and agreed up front, please don’t think it’s appropriate to negotiate after we have found the best candidate for your vacancy. Because it’s not.