Analytics, studies and research can seem very artificial with inherent template formats used for some the most important business decision making tools. But there’s a major flaw – no, it’s not the logic of it, but the design and structure. It’s the same build-up of results to a final set of actions. It makes us think in a repetitive fashion, making us see a situation only through one lens. In a tool like SWOT we go through the same clockwise focus on each consecutive element starting with the first quadrant always.

Monotonous, isn’t it?

Unimaginative.

How then do we move from the monochrome and make it a kaleidoscope? How do we bring ourselves to see a threat and find a solution to it when clearly our strengths aren’t enough and weaknesses several? Or an opportunity we see we aren’t yet ready for but we get ourselves to dig deeper to making our threats seem larger so we have no option but to seize what we have and then play our cards around it to make it a success?

Bargain shopping is a skill, art and science all combined. And that could be the answer.

To a novice it seems like a bunch of people haggling to get low-quality products at the cheapest price possible from a vendor who couldn’t care less than to target the next person walking by to buy his wares at spoken rates.

But only a true bargain shopper, or in my case – a seasoned observer of bargaining would you realize the depth at which this phenomena unfolds.

  1. Scouring vendors and wares before deciding to focus your energies. Getting a feel of the market before shortlisting who to engage with (an addition of resource planning and management) Some would even deploy trusted friends to scour with them and in turn use their expert abilities best (more points of view for the same goal – increased chances of an innovative solution or identifying a new opportunity)
  2. Ranking the items from the most valuable and fashion-forward to valuable and classic. (This 2 dimensional ranking is also making use of a BCG matrix like structure – think of the high value high fashion product as the star and the value and classic product as the cash-cow). Note how anything less than valuable doesn’t even make it to the list? A very hard to follow but important rule in bargaining is “Only buy what’s more than your money’s worth or go home”
  3. Begin with looking for defects. When a deal seems too good to be true, bargainers know the first reaction in such a situation is to look for errors in the product than to celebrate wins. (The threats are categorized into two – known and unknown – what can be predicted greatly depends on how well you have researched the market and it’s offerings – everything from the product, average price, customer bargaining power, density of competitors, substitutes and even seasonality of such deals.) Managing a conscious comprehensive list of threats ensures you search for your opportunities and actively turn them into strengths fast.
  4. Negotiating and  bundling. A true bargain hunter knows buying a bundle of 2 or more items from the same vendor is a much better chance at scoring a high value bargain than just one. Although it seems that the deal is only happening at the present moment, an expert wont forget the mention of their next planned purchase timeline  (adding a whole new variable to the seller’s SWOT of the customer, a promise of future inflows that may be of greater value than the present). Negotiations are also the best platforms to test how well you mask and pivot your weaknesses. From speaking in the vendor’s native to flipping your handbag to not show the original Kate Spade logo on it – we have all engaged in real-time A/B testing.
  5. Closing. If you scored a great deal, congrats! You are feeling a little better about yourself, walking a little taller but yet not excitedly showing it right in front of the vendor as he packs your items and hands over the bag to you – maintaining poise is always with the thought of “if I come here again, I still want him to continue thinking that his products value much lesser so I can bargain some more the next time too”. (We are making sure we’ve managed all possibilities for any situation that may arise – present and future). Of course, this too was learned through past experience.
  6. Choosing to not give in rather than buying something of less value than your money and time’s worth. Sometimes, luck doesn’t favor you or you simply aren’t at the right place – nothing appeals to you. What to do? Walk away. You’re much better going home empty bag but with a full wallet than just a whole lot of regret and a bag you’re not really interested in. (In business too, just because a brand is great or the publicity as a result will be awesome it’s important to keep in mind the medium to long-term effects apart from the key benefits of why you’re buying into an idea or a partner).

The next time you or your friend, spouse or colleague is with you and bargaining, don’t shy away or feel embarrassed – instead take it as a chance to observe and learn their skills and the way they combine each of them to get their desired outcomes and try them out yourself.

I find this “method” a lot more intuitive and natural. By breaking down the dictated formats and building structures and schema of traditional business studies we may be able to bring in personality and make the entire process aspirational. And with the number of young companies cropping up and established giants seeking to cultivate a start-up culture in their offices I am certain this ideology of a natural process of analysis will find many takers.

 

Art by Julia Veenstra at juliaveenstra.com

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