Many of us who are in the machine tool business know that service after the expiry of a warranty period is a critical aspect that costs money but is an enormous value providing opportunity for the service provider and customer. The seemingly difficult part is arriving at a win– win outcome. This has to be achieved by
getting the right balance where both stakeholders get the main things that they want. While this seems like a mirage, it is not really so if approached correctly with the necessary homework done.
All customers are not the same, discover what is important to the customer and what you can give, some customers emphasize on scope, some want timeliness (schedules), for others its comprehensive (parts and service), yet others security, each see value differently. It is not always about discounts. Collect all necessary historical information and happenings at customer end like MTBF, parts and labor usage, patterns of problems, human issues, etc., for example, understanding who at the customers’ end benefits, who may have issues, who would back you and who may not because they do not believe that you would provide value.
Preparation with data is the most important step that will help you understand the situation and have a direct impact on your success. The aim of preparation and understanding is to anticipate possible objections that the customer could put forth and have alternatives that could be offered ahead of time. The key to a successful win–
win service business is to have alternatives that could be offered and still be able to meet the desired objective. Many times the alternatives that could be offered are outside of the service offerings, e.g., it could be financing or installment payments, complimentary one time lubricants from the machining ecosystem, etc.
Prioritize your time and offering based on the strategic intent. It could be size, segment, industry type, reach, etc. It is also important to identify and prioritize based on data for customers you will not have service business contracts with.
▶ Engage with confidence
Your engagement with the customer in seeking his business will be a direct result of your preparation. It also makes you believe in the value of your services and ease the pressure during the negotiation process. You must set boundaries for negotiation at the beginning itself and reinforce them in writing. Aid the person sitting across the table by providing them with the right tools and materials needed to convince their management (who could be the decision maker). It is here that understanding who will back you and who will not is important.
Be prepared to concede to something. Preparation teaches us what could be conceded without losing sight of our objective. Many a times it is necessary to concede to keep up customer esteem, as people need to feel that they got something out of the process, such as a targeted price reduction or time extension. But be careful, give in only if you get something in return, e.g., a twoterm renewal, reduction in scope, etc.
▶ Close successfully
Do not give in prematurely, this happens if you have not done sufficient upfront preparation and if adequate boundaries are not set. It is very important that you know where the ultimate decision is made and who that person is. To avoid situations wherein the customer says that he requires a manager’s approval, it is necessary to make sure the ultimate decision maker is in the final meeting. Despite all that we may do, the hardest part is knowing when and how to walk away. If you do not reach an agreement that meets your objectives, politely walk away hoping you will still do this deal another day. Many times we are faced with extended interactions that are done over a period of
time; it is very important to note down key points of the discussions in e-mails or minutes and share it with all the important participants. This is important so that you have a reference and do not find yourself renegotiating points that have already been settled. Finally, it is most important to keep reminding yourself and your customer that it
is not about each one of us getting as much as we can. It is about making a mutually beneficial equation that can be amiable in the long-term.