Try it before you buy it

What do ice cream shops, online entertainment streaming services, and car dealers all have in common? First, to make a sale, most are willing to let potential customers “try before they buy.”

I started my first company with extraordinarily little money. I learned one critical lesson: never be hesitant or apprehensive about asking for something that would shame or embarrass most others from pondering, even though it may be a bit unorthodox. It really got down to TINA, the now well-known acronym for “there is no alternative.” We just couldn’t afford to be wrong or to squander resources on something that might not work.

Businesses of every size should consider asking the seller to grant meaningful concessions before signing on the dotted line. Nothing should be off the table if it’s ethical. Even something that makes the supplier swallow hard falls within those parameters.

My learnings began with easy-to-grant asks, including extended payment terms, and then accelerated through the years for various products and services that grew to price tags of seven digits. There are always willing sellers, provided they are moderately sure that you will write the final check if they satisfy the request. In making this type of request, it’s critical to do the homework to understand the seller’s business, its competition, and the price elasticity in what it’s offering. Timing is also essential because convention and decorum require that the seller qualify the buyer at the first meeting, just like any initial encounter. To blurt out the bold request for a short-term freebie would immediately identify the acquiree as a tire kicker and not a thoughtful purchaser who is ready to make a deal once the test drive is completed.

“Trying before you’re buying” saves an inordinate amount of time because you can evaluate as you go and avoid the costly missteps of making the wrong choice.

Most companies have plans and protocols that allow these types of hands-on, even extended, demonstrations. But typically, sellers don’t go out of their way to make such offers for obvious economic reasons and in hopes of facilitating a quick sale. Unless the product is scarcer than toilet paper was at the start of the pandemic, very few companies will not consider a request that proves to the buyer that the solution works and is worth the investment.

It’s essential to train your team to give off the right vibes, translating into sincerity, enthusiasm, and understanding of the product or service. Doing all of this contributes to underscoring to the seller that your company is the real deal.

In finishing this column, I realized quickly that there is a good chance that I will be blackballed by all the ice cream shops, streaming services, and car dealers that I frequent by exposing my occasional pre-purchase tactics. But I decided to proceed with “taking one for the team,” which in this case are the loyal readers of my monthly column.

Next time your company buys or contracts for something significant, you’ll do so with confidence because you have already given it a try. ●

Visit Michael Feuer’s website to learn more about his columns, watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”

Michael Feuer

Founder and CEO, Max-Ventures