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The Art of Negotiation

Until the lockdown has lifted and you can welcome paying clients back in the salon, you need to ensure you’re outgoing are as low as they can possibly be. Keith Mellen from Anne Veck in Oxford talks us through what he’s learned from negotiating with the salon’s suppliers

Keith Mellen and Anne Veck

“I suspect that for many salons there are still lots of negotiations happening.  I think it’s really important to get these agreed this week – week three is where we consolidate where we are. We have found, without exception, that there is a way through with suppliers, or partners, as we prefer to call them.

We have been systematic, upfront, honest and open and here are our tips – and I’m very happy to talk anyone through it:

  1. Be confident, be assertive, be realistic. Don’t be proud, just be very straightforward and honest. I’ve found it important to make contact first and to begin the discussion, that way I’ve retained some essence of being on the front foot. That way I’ve had a bit of control over the conversation and outcome.
  2. Keep to the script, don’t get defensive, aggressive or hostile. And remember that the person on the end of the communication/negotiation is not responsible for the position you are in.  It isn’t personal, so keep it professional and, if nothing else, repeat and repeat again: ‘We have no income since we closed, so how do you think you can work with us to find a way?’. Keep the questions open.
  3. Your suppliers need you to be there at the end of this and you might like them to be there too. That is why most, if not all, will agree to a reduced fee for a reduced service. Some offer payment holidays for two or three months and others might continue to give you a level of service now that perhaps balances out in the future. There are lots of different ways; there’s no single right or wrong solution.
  4. Don’t be put off by generic messages telling you in the sub-script that ‘We love you/keep safe but that unfortunately because of their specific circumstances, it will not be possible to discuss reductions at this time’. To these off-putting messages, I recommend that you respond personally proposing an arrangement that will work for you, to be reviewed monthly. Let me share an example: we had two suppliers who took this line but I now believe they were buying time to work out what they should do. It took a few days, but both responded to my repeat emails and calls with very reasonable proposals and now everything is hunky dory and we can see a way forward again!

So overall, after a worrying first two weeks, I’ve been impressed by the positive approach by almost everyone. I think of this as a circle; we keep everyone going a little bit and the circle of business doesn’t break. It’s no longer ‘them and us’; it’s about ALL of us, all in it together.  And if we respect each other, help each other and ask for help when we need it, we will all come out of this changed and hopefully stronger at the other end.

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Anne Veck