The words “absolutely not” cost me $1.5 million

A number of years ago I was working with a potential customer. I worked with them for almost 18 months researching how I could save them money on their maintenance expenses. They were paying in excess of 4 million dollars in about 5 different buildings. I spent many days and nights in their facilities doing time and motion studies to see how I might be able to help.

By the time it came down to my final presentation I was able to to save them well in excess of 2 million dollars A YEAR. I felt I had done my work and was ready to present them with a new proposal from my organization.

I shared with my direct contact that I would be able to provide the same services he was presenting receiving for 1.5 million dollars a savings of 2.5 million dollars annually to his company. He was ecstatic and so was I. I had done my job well and was now ready to receive my reward a nice big juicy contract.

I remember the morning well, my contact and a number of his superiors arrived at my office for the presentation. We went to the boardroom and began the pleasentries of introductions. Each of the executives received a package explaining how my organization would go about saving them 2.5 million dollars a year and continue to provide them the service that they were already recieiving.

All was going well or so I thought. After my presentation one of the gentlemen asked me if there was any space for further reduction in the quote. I thought, “i just saved you 2.5 million dollars, that is 5 million in the first two years.” I said, “absolutely not, I have done the best I can and that is my final price.” Well, maybe those war not my exact words, but that is what they heard. My immediate contact who had become a close friend by this time was kicking me under the table, but I was resolute that they were getting a great deal and I was not about to bend.

That inflexibility cost me $1.5 million dollars.

Lesson learned: In almost all cases in life there is a need for flexibility. How many deals are lost, relationships ruined opportunities lost because of our inablity to bend and and be flexible.

From a sheerly business perspective; I thought the deal was done when I had given them the cost savings, I had not been engaged in the boardroom enough to see that the deal intact was not done. The deal is never done until the paper is signed. Stay engaged and aware right up until the last momment.

This story could have had a bad ending but it didn’t. I lost the account to a competitor who undercut me by a tiny margin. But within months, because of the relationship I had developed with my contact, I was awarded the contract.