Negotiations—Four Steps for Smooth Selling

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Whenever stakes are high—as with negotiating, fear and anxiety tend to dominant our minds.  Instead of fearing negotiations, approach them with the same process and perspectives as those who have mastered the art of the deal.  Here is how.


Define a win-win strategy.  Sales professionals sometimes refer to an upcoming pitch as, ‘Going in for the kill,’ or a closed deal as a, ‘slam dunk.’  Instead of having a combative mindset about negotiating being a zero-sum game, shift your mindset to focus on how best to achieve a mutually beneficial end goal.  Ideally, the goal of every sales rep. is to sell a product or service, however the benefits the customer will receive upon implementing the solution are equally important.  Unlike a battlefield, keep conversations positive and productive by proving how the solution will benefit the prospect.

Evaluate the prospect’s goals and motive.  Dale Carnegie’s 17th Human Relations principle, ‘Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view,’ is paramount to sales success.  Without keen insight into what the prospect hopes to accomplish, sales professionals are unable to appeal to their motives.

Whether the solution is more reliable forecasting tools so the prospect can more accurately forecast and therefore attain production goals—and ultimately receive her quarterly bonus, or project management software that automatically identifies project risks and delays—so he isn’t blindsided when plans go awry, we must understand how the prospect is motivated.  After all of the steps of the sales process have been followed, the sales representative can paint a picture in which the prospect sees herself attaining the goals we invested time in learning.  Appealing to her motive is critical during negotiations. 

Anticipate objections beforehand.  In The Art of War, which many have referred to as the negotiation Bible, Sun Tzu instructed generals to know their enemies.  While we don’t regard prospects as enemies, the more we know, the better we can handle their objections.  Before embarking on a negotiation, review your pitch and/or proposal from the prospect’s perspective.  Which aspects will they value most and where might they push back?  Are there any areas of concern or could be confusing? 

Once you’ve identified what is essentially a list of potential objections, begin planning appropriate responses.  Not only will you feel more confident when you kick off the meeting, but the prospect will appreciate that you are armed with answers instead of the canned, “Let me talk to my technical/production/quality assurance team and get back to you,” response. 

Learn when to walk away.  While negotiations shouldn’t be viewed as a zero-sum game, it certainly is possible to lose.  If making concessions such as deep discounts or sub-par payment terms becomes the norm rather than the exception, it is probably best to walk away from the opportunity.  Dale Carnegie’s 10th principle, ‘The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it,’ underscores the importance of knowing what your bottom line is and sticking to it.

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