Sales people are increasingly being put under pressure from buyers to give them a better deal, a lower price or indeed a combination of both. If they cannot negotiate effectively then both revenue and profit margins will suffer.
The modern sales person has to improve their ability to negotiate if they want to succeed in today’s competitive and challenging commercial environment.
Here are seven habits that successful negotiators demonstrate. How well do and your sales team measure up against these?
1. Plan & Prepare
Successful negotiators take the time to plan and prepare for every negotiation. They will consider what they and the other party want to achieve, what areas the negotiation is likely to cover, what variable factors both sides have to trade with and what they will get in return for any concessions they may make. They will also consider the personality and behavioural profile of the people they will be negotiating with so that they can anticipate how the person is likely to behave.
Successful negotiators will set themselves stretching goals as research shows a strong link between ambitious goals and higher levels of performance.
2. Anticipate Don’t Assume
As part of their planning successful negotiators will anticipate the scenarios that are likely to present themselves during the negotiation and they plan for how they will respond to these if they occur. Effective negotiators assume nothing. They anticipate possible outcomes, needs and demands but they do not assume anything. They carefully gather information during the negotiation and they check and clarify to make sure that they have a full understanding.
3. Gather More Information Than You Give
Successful negotiators focus a great deal of their time and attention on gathering information from the other party. They ask considered questions, listen very carefully to the answers they receive, and probe further to test their understanding is correct. They focus on finding out what the other party needs so that they can structure negotiation proposals that will benefit both parties.
4. Proposals Advance Negotiations
Although they will spend a lot of time (up to 70% of the total negotiation time) gathering information, successful negotiators know that considered proposals advance negotiations. So when they fully understand what the other party wants, have communicated what they want and have defined the range between each parties ideal solution within which a deal can be done, they will make a proposal to move the negotiation forwards. Without firm proposals negotiations will start to slow down and stall.
5. Understand the Difference between Wants & Needs
Effective negotiators understand that there is usually a difference between what someone states that they want and what they actually need. They probe and explore the demands of the other party in order to clarify what elements are essential and necessary for the other side to be able to conclude a deal. Successful negotiators know that the more someone defends a position to more entrenched they become in it, so to avoid any risk of deadlock they question carefully so that they understand the needs that lie behind someone’s stated position.
6. Remain Focused & Flexible
Successful negotiators are persistent in pursuing their objectives but are not rigid in pursuing any one particular solution. They look for ways that they can give the other party what they want but in a way that works for them too. They think about where they can be flexible and how they can re-package the deal to make it meet both everyone’s needs.
7. Trade Concessions Effectively
Successful negotiators know the importance of giving to get. They know that there nothing is wrong with giving in a negotiation so long as you get something back of equal or greater commercial value in return. They look for things that they can offer that will cost them very little but that will be highly valued by the other side.
In my experience of consulting with a wide range of leading companies and training their sales forces to sell and negotiate, it is often the case that salespeople are more confident in their ability to sell and less confident in their ability to negotiate.
Many buyers are aware of this and will attempt to exploit this in order to get a negotiation advantage. I hope that these seven principles will have gone some way to improving sales people’s confidence to negotiate effectively with the modern demanding customer.
By Simon Hazeldine MSc FinstSMM, international speaker, consultant and trainer in the areas of sales, negotiation, performance leadership and applied neuroscience. Simon helps forward thinking sales leaders create high performance sales organisations that people want to belong to and is the originator of the unique neuroscience based "Brain Friendly Selling" system. He is the bestselling author of five business books: Neuro-Sell: How Neuroscience Can Power Your Sales Success, Bare Knuckle Selling, Bare Knuckle Negotiating, Bare Knuckle Customer Service, The Inner Winner.