During many years of experience as advisor, I learnt to manage many incredible situations. Among all the difficult ones, there is one that beats them all and that I would like to share with you.
Here it is.
I had a client, her name was Heba (an invented name for privacy reasons). She had south-eastern origin, she was an HNWI’s wife and lived in the Emirates.
Heba had a 2500 m2 villa under construction and she wanted to decorate it using almost exclusively the furniture of a well-known brand.
As Heba did not need to work for living, she had time to follow and check constantly how the works were going on. The works had been entrusted to a famous architect, a partner of us and owner of a single-brand store.
After many months of work, the project was completed and contained 80% of the furniture that we provided. The architect issued his invoice of about € 600,000.
Without any precise reason, Heba asked the architect for a 60% discount (yes, you read it correct), a proposal that the architect obviously declined.
Unhappy with that, Heba called me hoping to be luckier this time. I explained her that a 60% discount for a project (moreover, completed in a perfect manner) was a proposal that we could not accept.
So, I decided to arrange a meeting with her and the architect at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, Italy, in order to discuss about the issue and find a solution.
Unfortunately, the meeting started taking a turn for the worst. There was also the top manager of the specific brand with us. Heba was inflexible on the point and she started arguing that four years earlier a friend of her got a 60% discount, and she asked to be treated in the same way.
After having explained her that what she was telling was not true and that the two projects were not nearly comparable in size and in applicable discounts, the top manager offered Heba some very convenient options, with the sole aim of closing the negotiation quickly and….avoiding any other pain in the neck.
It was the typical offer you cannot refuse.
And Heba, needless to say, refused it.
Tension was running high.
The top manager told Heba that he could not do more than that, then he stood up and took his leave politely and smiling (I still wonder how he could be so quiet).
Heba did not want to give up. She tried to convince me in a brazen way and using every possible mean trick. She even asked me to have the internal price list of the company. Obviously, I could not hand it to her, as it is reserved for internal use.
(Get ready for the fun part!)
After my rejection of handing her the internal price list, the day after Heba succeeded in obtaining a copy of it and submitted a written proposal containing a 60% discount plus an extra 10% discount for the inconvenience caused with the architect (a sort of bribe!)
The architect did not even think about it and spoke with me. Together we tried to explain her that we could not tolerate such a behaviour from our clients.
Heba started crying and apologizing. At the end of the day, no solution was found.
Two months later, I received a call from one agent who works for us in South-East Asia (I am going to name him Singh) who told me to have received – guess what – an order with the same materials and the same quantity required by Heba, for a total amount of about € 600,000. The only difference was that the total was split into 4 different lists, apparently to mislead us.
I asked Singh to reject the € 600,000 order and he immediately did.
Finally, after six months Heba gave up and sent the final confirmation of the order, without any request for a discount. In order to decrease the cost, she decided to ask her own workers to mount the items, without any kind of assistance from our side.
One year later, Heba called me to thank me and to ask for my assistance during the installation phase; she received our assistance without any discount, needless to say.
And they lived happily ever after.
To sum up, it has been possible to complete this project only thanks to the relationship of mutual trust that I have built over the years with the top managers of my suppliers and with the agents we work with all around the world.
What lesson have I learnt from this story? They are two, actually.
- Respecting the others (but also ourselves), be patient and professionally correct are essential and always the best option, at least in the medium and long run.
- Enjoying the trust of your partners is priceless.
Well, it has a price indeed: Singh cancelled a € 600,000 order just because he trusted me.