Negotiation is a big part of doing business. As an entrepreneur, you will have to negotiate with various people in the course of growing your business. Everyone loves a good bargain and that includes your suppliers and customers so learning to negotiate effectively is important.
Previously, we spoke with Adedoyin Adebayo on how she communicates effectively with clients and vendors while building her retail eyewear brand. This week, we spoke with Toluwani Ojo on what has helped him negotiate the best prices with his customers as he builds his catfish growing business.
Please tell us about yourself and your brand.
My name is Toluwani Ojo, I am a 400 level student of Biochemistry at the University of Lagos.
Whiskers Farm is a catfish growing business that started in June 2020. We are hoping to expand into other live stocks this year. We sell fresh catfish, smoked catfish and grilled catfish and we have good reviews from our customers.
What inspired you to start Whiskers Farm? How long has it been in existence?
God gave me the ideas. The pandemic also helped because school wasn’t in session as ASUU was on strike. I knew I couldn’t afford to waste that time at home and I felt the need to do something. Whiskers Farm was the product. It started on the 25th of July 2020.
Our focus today is on negotiation. As a startup business, how were you able to come up with the price you use to sell fish to your customers?
To arrive at the price point I currently work with, I had to learn from others that had been in the business for a long time. I had a mentor, Mr Sunday and I learnt a whole lot from him. He taught me the ropes of this catfish growing business.
To add to the knowledge I gained from Mr Sunday and others, I went into the market. I needed to see how the market women sold their catfish. I needed to understand their prices and the sizes of catfish they sold. This gave me more insight into how to feel my catfish.
How do you negotiate prices effectively with your customers to keep them coming back to you?
It wasn’t easy. Customers always want to haggle prices and get a good bargain. One major way I used to convince customers to pay a good price was to make sure I grew large sized catfish.
I understood that when my catfish are large, customers will not want to beag down my prices too much. They will be happy to pay good money because they know they are getting value for their money.
Please tell us about a time when you had issues with negotiating the prices of your catfish with your customers and how you resolved it?
When I first started my business, I don’t have a scale to use to weigh my catfish. This made it hard for me to negotiate the prices of my fish with some customers. Many customers prefer to know the weight in kilograms of what they want to buy.
Since I didn’t have a scale and couldn’t tell them the weight of my catfish, I lost a few customers. Now, however, I have a scale to use and this has eliminated that issue.
Have you ever had a situation when your customers or potential customers were unsatisfied with your prices? If yes, how did you handle it?
At the start of my business, I had bad reviews. Customers complained that my catfish were too small and were too expensive. This meant that many customers were not satisfied with my prices for the sizes of catfish I sold.
To resolve this, I apologised to them and promised to grow bigger sized catfish. So far, my reviews are much better so I believe I have kept my promise to them.
What are the major challenges you have faced with negotiation as an entrepreneur?
The two major challenges I had was not being prepared and being impatient. There were times customers came to me and I was unprepared for negotiation. This led me to sell at lower prices than I should have and so I made a loss.
There were also times when I was impatient with my customers. Customers will always haggle prices with you and as an entrepreneur, you must be patient with them. My impatience with customers caused me to lose some of them. As an entrepreneur, employing patience in negotiations will leave both you and the customer satisfied.
What is the importance of negotiation in your business?
For entrepreneurs in my line of business, negotiation is very important. It helps build solid relationships between you and your customer. It would also help you grow the business through word of mouth.
No customer wants to continue to patronise a business that is too rigid with prices especially for something like catfish. Since my customers know they can always negotiate prices with me and get a good deal, they keep coming back and even tell others about my business.
How do you get customers to do business with you?
I got customers to do business with me through adverts and support from friends and family. So far, that is how I have gotten most of my customers. I still need to work on advertisements though.
How do you get customers to trust you?
Customers love transparency. To get customers to trust me, I run deliveries by myself. This way, I get to interact with customers and get their reviews after each transaction.
This way, they know me and know that their feedback is important to me. It builds trust in them for me.
What are the major negotiation tips you follow that guide how you do things?
The tone you use to talk to customers matters. There’s a way you’ll talk to them that will tick them off and there’s a way you’ll talk to them that will endear them to you. As an entrepreneur, learning to gauge your time and be constantly polite and friendly with customers is important in negotiation.
Also, you need to understand what your customers want. They are the reason your business exists so you need to understand their desires and fears relating to your business. When you can understand this, you will be able t give them better products and keep them loyal to you.
What are the major lessons you have learnt so far regarding negotiation as an entrepreneur?
I have learnt not to feel discouraged when a customer under prices a catfish. I had to understand that humans will always be humans and everyone is looking for ways to save their money. So, I have learnt to not let customers underpricing my catfish put me down.
I have also learnt that there are times I would lose. Not every transaction ends in gain for me. At the end of the day, even if I lose in some transactions, I will gain in others and my profit will balance out.
What are the work ethics that guide your business?
The major work ethics that guide my business are honesty, respect, and trustworthiness.
As an entrepreneur, honesty is important. Lying to customers or adding unnecessary gain to my catfish can cost me customers. They always want to know that they can get an honest bargain each time.
Respect is also important. Regardless of who my customer is, I have learnt to treat everyone with respect. In the way I talk to them and handle their requests, I make it a point to treat all of my customers with respect.
Trustworthiness is equally an important work ethic. Being a business my customers can trust is very important to me. This means giving them exactly what they had for and delivering their orders to them on time.
I believe you’ve sewn clothes with fashion designers before. What’s your opinion of the industry?
It is a big and fast-growing industry with a lot of creative minds. There’s a lot the industry can achieve.
What were your worst and best experiences with a fashion designer?
My worst experience with a fashion designer was an instance where he didn’t meet up with the delivery date. The outfit was delivered to me much later the expected.
My best experience was when an outfit was made well without me having to stress myself. That gave me joy.
What is the top advice you have for other entrepreneurs on negotiation?
Get yourself a mentor and pay attention to reviews. Mentors help show you the way to go and help you not to make costly mistakes you otherwise would have made. Customer reviews teach you how to serve your customers better.
Thank you for your time.