Written By Don Archer Connect with him on Facebook
If you’ve ever “gotten into it” with a customer over a tow bill you know how heated it can get. They’re upset because they’re under-insured or just don’t understand your expenses. And you’re upset because you’ve been screwed so many times before. Even though you’d love to vent and tell it like it is, strained emotions will get you nowhere. Because even if you do happen to get your point across and get them to understand, you lose. Because the next time they need a tow they’ll remember that angry guy and call someone else.
World renowned writer, John Carlton, says that; “No one in the history of humankind has ever changed their mind because of an argument.” And it’s true.
Whenever two sides are expressed in discussion and both participants are emotionally attached to their ideals, unless it comes to blows, the only result will be an impasse. And when the discussion escalates into an argument then the likelihood of either side separating themselves from their ego and accepting the other person’s claim is next to zero. For any change to occur, it must be left up to each individual, in their own time, to consider what was offered by the other party. Often times this is not done. But if it does happen, then and only then will a mind be changed. But it will only happen through their own understanding. Rare is the person, who admits they were swayed by another’s reasoned argument.
Sounds like a difficult task, winning an argument. But if you want to give it a shot, if you think you’ve got what it takes, Carlton’s got a three step plan to do just that.
The first step is….To Not Argue.
This flies in the face of all that we know about winning. Nike says just do it…John’s advice is don’t do it. How are you suppose to have a chance at winning if you bow out before it gets started?
But if you’re married you’ll get this one right away. Engaging in an argument with your wife is like…well…cutting off your hand because you have a splinter. There’s no sense in it. And no it’s not because women are ill-equipped, quite the contrary. They’ve got all the tools and can use them quite effectively. Just know this; if you do happen to get the upper hand while arguing with your wife…if you get her “on the ropes”…she’ll dig in and sacrifice everything she holds dear to come out on top. But…if by some miracle…the gods happen to favor you and you do succeed in…pulling-off the impossible and “win”…the resulting silence will be unbearable.
So don’t engage in argument.
The second step to winning an argument is: You must define what a “win” is.
When you were young and played baseball with your friends you might remember wanting to be up-to-bat first. And to get what you wanted you probably went about it by using rules or reasoning. You reasoned that; since the other guys were up-to-bat (first) last time, this time it’s your turn. Or the rule was…”losers bat first”…whatever it was it worked…most of the time.
Of course there wasn’t always agreement and quiet discourse. Sometimes, if a kid didn’t get his way he would cry and threaten to take his ball and go home. But if you were smart and knew what a “win” was- sometimes you let things slide. You learned back then that giving in on a trivial point like (being up-to-bat first) might be the difference between playing and not playing.
Defining what a “win” is, is about deciding what you really want out of the transaction. If you want to stick to your guns for the sake of ego that’s fine. Just know that, if your goal is to develop a business relationship or play a game of ball…stubbornness isn’t the vehicle to get you there.
Step 3 is to be like a used car salesman. Come in through the side-door. Whatever objections you receive about your statements should be listened to and considered with positive acknowledgement. No “yeah but’s” or vehement pleas for understanding- you must be the one who understands. A used car salesman must listen with genuine concern while steering the conversation in a direction that makes the sale. “You say you can’t afford it? Well I’ll see what kind of a payment plan we can get for you.”
It’s unfortunate, but many have forgotten what a “win” is. As most people get older they become more confident and comfortable with their opinions. They’re self-reliant and know how to get things done. Values change and many times they’re inclined to SAY IT LIKE IT IS, and let the chips fall where they may. There’s nothing wrong with this philosophy if you like being and alone with little money.
But if you want to have great relationships, great customers and you want your business to thrive you need to find a way to get what you want while keeping others happy.
Good advice Don, and it isn’t just customers it works with.
Here’s an example from real life a few days ago!
I arrived with my tow truck and a broken down van outside the electronically controlled gate of a national communications company’s compound at the weekend so the premises were closed, no guard, no one around, just a big closed electric gate. But on the gate a sign said if it’s closed to call a number for ‘remote access’. So I called up the number and a very nice lady answered and explained they were the security guards for the compound and how could they help ? I confirmed my identity and asked for the gate to be opened remotely so I could drop off my towed load. The nice lady said sorry but the gate you’re at isn’t remotely controlled so you’ll have to come back after the weekend.
Now I’d driven 23miles to get there and faced another 40miles to return to my depot still loaded – ok so probably the customer would have paid for the wasted trip and for bringing the van back again – but then again maybe the client would argue the point.
Now I could see from the kind of security gate and the sign posted on it that this was 99% sure to be a remote controlled gate but from bitter experience I knew not to enter into an argument with the nice lady but rather to use my ‘Avoid an Argument’ strategy that you so wisely recommended in your article.
Drawing a deep breath I proceeded to ‘barter’, ‘negotiate’, ‘flatter’, ‘joke’ and ‘laugh’ about the scenario with the nice lady……..I made her smile, I made her laugh, I made her feel sorry for me, I made her want to help me out. I didn’t challenge her (she said it wasn’t a remote controlled gate, but I knew 99% it was!) I didn’t confront her, I simply came at the situation from a totally different angle. Half way through the laughing, joking and bantering, Sue (by now we were on first name terms) said “just a moment let me double check this with my supervisor”. She went away and came back a few minutes later admitting she’d been looking at the wrong ‘gate code’ and the gate I was parked in front of was in fact remotely controllable – hey presto it suddenly started to roll open !
I can tell you for a fact that if I’d started off by arguing with Sue that she was wrong and I was right I’d never have got through that gate. I also know that insisting Sue double check the information or insisting she go ask her supervisor would probably only have stood a 50/50 chance of success.
However years of experience have taught me that backing off, changing direction and relaxing the situation usually gets you into 99% chance of winning the ‘argument’. In essence I guess I’d distill this into ‘avoid confrontation at all costs if you want to win an argument’.
Just thought I’d share this with you Don and thanks for all your great articles, tips, videos and advice. Although we are based in the UK we follow you with great interest and we have all learnt a lot from you which is much appreciated.
Keep up the good work.
I live in Phoenix, Arizona and for that tow all of the smaller companies would charge about a $50 to $60 hook and $3 a towed mile. So, what I get out of this article is,being on rotation with the police you don’t have to have competitive rates because people don’t get a choice.
Thanks for all the information you put out there. I bought your book and have read it twice.
Yes they always have a choice.
When in involved in an accident and the motorist has the ability to decide what towing company they want to tow their car, their choice reins supreme. If on the other hand they have no preference of towing company or have been taken away in an ambulance that’s when the police rotation kicks in. But remember you can still remain competitive without short-changing yourself. If you aren’t charging for recovery you may be leaving money on the table.