I always amazes me how little negotiation goes on in chemical B2B transactions. Buyers ask for the price of an obscure chemical and that may be the last you hear from them. Only rarely do I see pushback. Either a purchase order arrives or it doesn’t.  I’m not referring to trainloads of soda ash or other mass quantities of commodity chemicals. I’m talking in the one to 100 of kg range. People naturally take prices as fixed in concrete.

This is especially unfortunate or even tragic for materials that are very unusual. Items that have a low volume or minimal competition are products whose price has not been made rational through the forces of the market place. Competition has not forced the price to an optimum level.

Price is determined by what the market will bear. If there is limited exposure of a product to the market, then a rational price probably has not been reached and someone is leaving money on the table. Prices are initially based on some reasonable multiple of costs. The demand picture and the sellers anxiety to move product determine the real price point.

Much has been written about negotiation. I have no new concepts to add except a reminder that the best deals can come from multiple iterations of offer/counter-offer. Only by going into cycles of offer/counter-offer can you find out exactly what is possible to get from the bargaining.

Some companies, like SAF for example, are notoriously rigid in their approach to sales. I have found that they do fix their prices in blast resistant concrete. SAF is uber-aggressive in the marketplace because they are after total global domination. But not all companies are like this. Many are pleased to make a deal to get some material out of inventory.

What is troublesome for manufacturers of new or obscure products is that the initial price may frighten off a buyer. If the buyer recoils in horror from a price without any attempt to negotiate, then they lose the benefit of that product and the seller loses the sale and perhaps the entire market future of the material. I have seen this happen many times.

What makes this a difficult issue for the seller is that you don’t want to seem too anxious to drop your price. That just telegraphs to the buyer that they should expect a better price. The seller should have a front price that they want and a fallback price that they can live with. It is better to have the fallback price than nothing.  The skill comes in the smooth application of salesmanship.

A good sales person watches the prospective buyer carefully for flight impulse and silently swoops in like a vampire for the seduction and the lusty bite. 

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