Canadian Rental Service

At your service: Better barter

By Russ Dantu   

Features Business Intelligence bartering customer service equipment rental

Negotiation is a dance – here are your best moves.

I received an order for 1,000 messenger bags in early June from a U.S. firm that I have worked with for about eight years now. Their show is at the end of September, but like many industries, we have had huge shortages in inventory and restocking is slow at best, so I placed the order with my supplier but said I needed to give them a deposit to hold the product until closer to the show date before shipping it out here. 

Their answer: “Sorry, no can do.”

I said, “OK, how about I pay for the product in full and then you can ship it a few weeks prior to the event?”

Their answer: “Sorry, no can do. You can take your chances and see if we have stock left closer to the event date and order then or you can order now and it ships as soon as it will be ready, which will be early July.”

I said, “But you’ve always worked with me before on these orders and the event is at the end of September. I cannot store them for two months. You’ve already said it will be four skids of product. What can we do to have you keep it there until a few weeks before the event?”

Their answer: “Well, the usual price if we store it is $50 per skid per day but, for you, we’ll store them here for $25 per skid per day.”

Have you ever been left with such a bad taste in your mouth that you’d love to pull the order and go elsewhere? But the customer wants a specific tough-to-get item and has already signed off on a contract? Sometimes you are stuck? 

I was definitely stuck and ended up saying, “I’ll figure out storage somewhere on my end.” 

Situations like this should end up being a win-win-win for all parties involved…my customer, my supplier and me. It didn’t. Most of the time, I am a very good negotiator. This time it didn’t go well because the supplier would not come to the table to listen or try and help out a 15-year customer.

If you ever find yourself in a pickle with a supplier or customer, here’s a few skills I keep in my arsenal for good negotiation. First, focus on effective communication. Make sure you are clear and specific with your needs or goals. Know everything you need to say and what their objections might be so you are prepared to answer those as well. Listen intently and with an open mind to fully understand their point of view. Sometimes you will hear something you didn’t think about and then can better understand their position. In this case, there was nothing presented for me from their side, only that they’ve changed the way they do things.

Next come your emotions. Control your emotions and also be aware of their emotions. Getting hot or loud isn’t going to solve anything. Being passionate is fine but keep checking the pulse of your conversation to make sure it isn’t getting out of hand. Be patient. Negotiating isn’t always fast. Other departments may need to be checked with before a decision can be made on a win-win-win situation.

Of course, use the power of persuasion. Learning how to persuade people to see your point of view is truly an art or gift but can be learned as well. Two great books to read are The Art of Persuasion by Bob Burg and Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. 

Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of others. Brainstorming ideas to come up with an amicable outcome is the best way. Bringing in more than just you and the person you are talking with can usually help create a positive outcome for all involved.

At the end of the day, if all parties are not happy, it could mean the loss of future business. Although I will still use this supplier for other items, the next time I have an order for 1,000 or 1,500 messenger bags, I am definitely shopping elsewhere, which means lost revenue for them.

Take care of yourselves and your customers! 

Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer service for over 15 years. Visit 

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