Managing the sales negotiation process

By, Michael Schatzki

How many times have you heard:

  • "You've got to drop your price by 10% or we will have no choice but to go with your competition."
  • "You will have to make an exception to your policy if you want our business."
  • "I know that you have good quality and service, but so do your competitors. What we need to focus on here is your pricing."
  • "I agree that those special services you keep bringing up would be nice, but we simply don't have the funds to purchase them. Could you include them at no additional cost?"

Every time you hear statements like these, you're in the middle of a difficult sales negotiation. How you handle that negotiation will determine whether or not you close the sale and how profitable that sale will be. In order to give you a real edge every time, I have listed below some key points taken from my sales negotiation training program.

 
Managing the Sales Negotiation Process
 
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Don't Believe Everything You See and Hear

Part of a good salesperson's skill is to learn to read people and situations very quickly. However, when it gets down to negotiating, you have to take everything you see and hear with a grain of salt. Buyers are good negotiators, and thus they are good actors. You may be the only person who has what she needs, but everything she does and says, from body language to the words she uses, will be designed to lead you to believe that unless she gets an extra 10% off, she's going with the competition. Be skeptical. Be suspicious. Test, probe, and see what happens.

Don't Offer Your Bottom Line Early in the Negotiation

How many times have you been asked to "give me your best price"? Have you ever given your best price only to discover that the buyer still wanted more? You have to play the game. It's expected. If you could drop your price by 10%, start out with 0%, or 2%, or 4%. Leave yourself room to negotiate some more. Who knows - you may get it for a 2% reduction. You might have to go all the way to 10%, but often you won't. A little stubbornness pays big dividends.

Get Something in Return for Your Added Value

What if you discover that the buyer wants to be able to track his expenditures for your products or services in a way that is far more detailed and complex than is standard for your industry? What if your account tracking system is set up in a way that you can provide that information at essentially no cost to you? Often the salesperson's overwhelming temptation is to jump in and say, "Oh, we can do that. That's no problem." Before you do, however, think about your options. You could throw it in as part of the package and try to build good will. Or you could take a deep breath and try something like, "That's a difficult
problem that will require some effort on our part, but it's doable." In the second case, without committing, you've told the buyer it is possible. You may not be able to get him to pay extra for it but you may be able to use it as a bargaining chip in resisting price concessions. Which way you choose to go will depend on who your customer is and on the situation. However, you do have options.

Sell and Negotiate Simultaneously

Think of selling and negotiating as two sides of the same coin. Sometimes one side is face up, and sometimes the other side, but they are always both there. This is particularly true in your earliest contacts with the buyer.

The face the buyer sees is that of a salesperson demonstrating features and benefits. The hidden face is that of a negotiator probing and seeking out information that may be invaluable later should issues like price, terms, quality, delivery, etc. have to be negotiated.

Be Patient

Finally, and most important, be patient. Sales is a high energy, fast moving business. Patience is one commodity that is in relatively short supply, but if you're impatient in a negotiation, you'll lose your shirt. If I'm negotiating with you and I know that you're impatient, I will hold out just a little longer, no matter how desperate I am to make a deal with you. As long as I know you're in a hurry, I'll wait. So be patient. Take the time that you need, don't rush to give in, don't show your anxiety, stay cool and don't panic. Negotiation is a process and a game.

Use the process and play the game. You'll be astonished
at the difference that it makes!

About the author
Michael Schatzki, MPA, CSP, is Principal of Negotiation Dynamics and has designed and delivered hundreds of negotiation seminars for businesses and organizations throughout the world.

(c) Michael Schatzki - 2004. All rights reserved.

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