Power of Options

On November, 4, 1804, Toussaint Charbonneau, a French Canadian trapper, walked into the winter camp of the Lewis and Clark expedition at Fort Mandan. he had with him two shoshone women who had been captured. Charbonneau had won the women (who he took as wives) in a bet with the warriors who captured them. Lewis and Clark were eager to acquire the services of Charbonneau because his wives could speak the language of the mountain tribes.Charbonneau was aware of the communication difficulties Lewis and Clark experienced with the Sioux, which almost lead to full fledged war.
On March 11, 1805, Lewis and Clark sat down with Charbonneau to make a contract. Aware of the enormous contribution his wives could offer, Charbonneau took the high ground and tried to dictate the terms which, included being free of the type of work the other enlisted men had to do. Agitated at Charbonneau’s arrogance, Lewis ordered him to leave Fort Mandan immediately, taking his family with him. Lewis and Clark began discussions with Joseph Gravelines, a trapper familiar with many tribal languages. After four days Charbonneau sent a message to Lewis and Clark, “to excuse his simplicity and take him into service.” Charbonneau showed up to Fort Mandan again and chose Sacagawea, one of his wives who was 15 years old and 3 months pregnant, to accompany him on the journey.
Similar to the demands of Charbonneau, many buyers attempt to intimidate sellers by making price related ultimatums. Like Lewis and Clark, highly effective negotiators balance those demands by exercising the power options.
Unfortunately, the power of options is most often interpreted as strictly a buyer power. After all, what options does a seller have with a buyer who has the ultimate ability to say “Yes” or “No”? We all know that only buyers have options. I mean, what options could a seller possibly have over a buyer? A lot actually.
Many sellers have a limited vision of their power in comparison to buyers. Sellers often imagine that buyers do not have to make a decision, that they can say “No” or “Not right now” and merrily go on with life. This is not always the case. Many buyers are forced to make purchasing decisions because of personal, production, quality, financial, or other related pressures.
Sellers can reduce or negate buyer options by forcing the buyers to invest TIME (Time, Investment, Money, Effort). When buyers invest TIME in the evaluation process, it is not realistic for them to walk away from the sale. They have “Too much skin in the game” to give up and start the process again.
Sellers can also reduce buyer options (and thus power) by communicating features, capabilities, and benefits unique to their good or service. The more needs a seller fulfills, and the more benefits a seller offers, the less competitive options a buyer has. Not all solutions are equal. If one solution is superior to another, the other options become less viable. The fewer options a buyer has, the less power a buyer has, and more power the seller has.
The primary way sellers exercise the power of options is by projecting demand and avoiding any indication of being desperate. Desperate sellers project they have no options, or that the are unwilling to walk away from a sale. Sales people who are willing to walk away from a sale gain enormous negotiation power. Sellers who have “walk away” power exercise greater control and influence over a negotiation than sellers who don’t.