In your sales career, you will be faced with opportunities or situations where negotiation is called for. You may be putting a deal together, working out a solution to a problem, or something will come up that highlights a difference of opinion between you and your customer which needs to be resolved. Negotiations may involve something as simple as a discussion of whether or not you need to meet a competitive price for a future or current sale. They may be as complex as working out a major business deal, or a contract involving long-range pricing, terms, and many other parameters for different products or services.
However, most salespeople will benefit substantially from a few fundamental tips that can help you get started. In the beginning, it is important to establish agreement to the basic facts of the situation. If you cannot agree on the facts, going forward is usually futile, because everyone is looking at a different picture. During negotiations, try to identify any shared interests. By confirming the shared interests and facts, you have established an excellent place to start. Here is where completely understanding the other party’s positions and interests is so valuable. You can do this by asking clarifying questions or seeking additional details or information. Even though you do not agree, and let them know that, it can help to restate the other party’s interests so they can see you really do understand their viewpoint. When the customer realizes that you fully understand their situation and interests, they are much more likely to work to understand yours. Excellent communication is the key to negotiation. Good listening skills are very important to prevent misunderstandings and clarify issues. If possible, after understanding the customer’s position, it’s much better — if you can — to cast yourself and your customer on the same side of the problem looking for a mutually acceptable solution. People develop positions based on underlying interests. Some of these positions can be very difficult to deal with because they may end up being sticking points and the parties become closed to other possibilities. Repeatedly verbalizing and stressing the same points by either party tends to “harden” negotiations. Try to avoid going in that direction if at all possible. If someone becomes adamant and keeps returning to previous issues, you may be able to step back a little — try to reach agreement on the underlying broader goals of the negotiation to change the focus of the discussion, and perhaps a better solution will be clearer and those interests can be satisfied with a different approach or solution. I recall a situation where, during a negotiation, two products that complemented each other together were being offered to the customer. The customer had convinced himself that he only wanted one of the products and was not interested in paying for the second one. Going back and reviewing the original interests showed that their main goal was to speed up their production, and even though one product would help, using both would work better. Some questioning revealed that the customer was worried that his people would not be able to learn to use the second product effectively so we emphasized the simple training procedures that were available to help with that. By going back to the beginning and concentrating on the original interests and goals, we were able to break the “logjam” around that one product and resolve the negotiation successfully for both parties.
Excerpt from Chapter 14, Negotiation , Don’t Give the Store Away
5 Star Selling: From Beginning to Excellence