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Tips on Selling

Certain tactics nibble away at profits
Certain tactics nibble away at profits

Retailers must beware of the nibbler

Some customers will chip away at your profits while you unwittingly chase the sale. BRIAN JEFFREY offers a simple way to stop the nibblers in their tracks, protect your bottom line and retain your product’s value.

If you’ve been in sales for any length of time, it’s highly likely that you’ve experienced at least one ‘nibbler’.

No, a nibbler isn’t a person who nibbles on your ear – it’s someone who nibbles at the deal you’ve just made.

Nibblers are different than hagglers. Hagglers want to haggle over cost and enjoy the sport lowering a price. Some people haggle because it’s part of their culture and they are trained from birth to never pay the list price for anything.

Others feel that they’ve got nothing to lose by asking for a better price – and often they’re right! Foolish as it may be, salespeople will often cut five or 10 per cent off a price just because they are asked.

Not only is this a bad habit to get into because you’re giving away your profits but you’re also training customers to haggle the next time.

Whenever a salesperson gives away a dollar, they’re giving away a dollar of profit, not a dollar of cost. Give away too many dollars of profit and eventually you no longer have a business.

Let's make a deal

Salespeople can sometimes feel that they won’t get the sale if they don’t give the customer something. While this is sometimes true, selling on price is never a good way to build a long-term relationship with a customer. Instead, convince the customer that the product is worth the price.

Nibblers are those who don’t quibble about price and appear ready to buy but they start to nibble just before they finalise the purchase. It usually begins with a request for a sweetener, like a gift with purchase: “Would it be possible to throw in...?”

"It’s like that old joke: how do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time! Well, how do you get the best out of a salesperson? One nibble at a time"

It’s so easy to say yes. After all, the sale has been made and all you have to do is give this little concession; however, beware because that first nibble was just that  – the first.

Next comes, “Oh, one more thing. Do you think you could also...”, and another nibble has just been taken out of your margin. Once the nibbling process has begun, it is difficult to stop because each bite doesn’t really hurt.

It’s only when the nibbler has finished that you realise you’ve been attacked by a human piranha and there is very little left of your profits in the sale.

It’s like that old joke: How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time! Well, how do you get the best out of a salesperson? One nibble at a time.

Nip the nibbler

There is no doubt that the nibbler is worse than the haggler. With the haggler, the haggling comes to an end as soon as you either put a stop to it or negotiate the price reduction; however, with the nibbler, you never know when it will stop. Just when you think the sale is in the bag, the nibbler pops up with “Just one more thing...” and the games continue.

Luckily, salespeople can stop both the hagglers and the nibblers quickly and effectively with one simple technique. If the price of a product is fair and honest and if you are comfortable that you have shown the value of your offering, then all you have to say is, “I really wish I could. Unfortunately I can’t.”

That’s it!

Say this sincerely and with a smile on your face and you’ll find most customers respond with, “Well, I had to ask” or “Hey, there’s no harm in asking, right?”

If you feel compelled to bow to the pressure and offer a discount, remember the general rule for price reductions: Don’t give any money away without getting something in return. Get a concession from the customer first before you start discounting. If they want something from you, they should give something back. It’s called the Law of Reciprocity.

What can they give? Perhaps a larger purchase order of whatever you’re selling would be appropriate, or maybe early payment? Even getting a solid referral, online promotion or testimonial might be acceptable, depending upon the size of the discount the customer wants.

Selling is a game where the rule for success is that the salesperson “plays well with others”. Nibblers and hagglers are just two of the players. Understanding them and how to deal with their strategies is a sign of a sales professional.

The best part of the game is that the more you play, the more you learn and the more you learn, the better you’ll play.

Happy playing.

Brian Jeffrey

Contributor • Quintarra Consulting

Brian Jeffrey has more than 40 years' experience in sales management, training and business consulting. Learn more:


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