Negotiation is at the basis of every successful sales situation.
You can negotiate pretty much everything in life. There are some exceptions, of course. However, most of the time, you might be able to negotiate somehow something. It doesn’t necessarily have to be money, it can also be time or commitment from someone else.
Learning the basics of sales negotiation is crucial in both sales and life. If you are running a startup and you are not reading about sales negotiation, then you will find yourself in troubles.
I don’t believe negotiation can be taught through a blog post or a book. You cannot read and automatically expect to learn how to negotiate. You need to apply time and resources to eventually master this skill.
As a soft skill, it actually requires longer time than any other hard skill you might want to learn. The application of such skill is not so easy and you carefully need to evaluate what to and when to negotiate.
Although I won’t try to teach you how to negotiate, I think it’s important to for every startup founders to understand the basics of sales negotiation.
Sales Negotiation is a dance
Yes, expect to dance. Sales negotiation is a dance in a sense that you cannot expect to be doing the whole time the talk or be in the lead. Negotiation takes time and it’s a 2-way process.
Sometimes you are in the lead, sometimes your partner has the lead. You better understand this from the very beginning.
It doesn’t matter who and when is leading the process. The important is that you dance and keep moving with it.
A common sales negotiation process can take from few hours up to few weeks (if not months) depending on what you are negotiating about.
Fail to dance and you will fail at negotiating.
Sales Negotiation varies according to culture
I have been lucky enough to live in 3 different continents long enough to understand well at least 6 different cultures (3 eastern and 3 western cultures).
Every culture has an approach to life (and negotiation) very different. For example, Japanese people will take an incredible amount of time (at least to European standards) to make a final decision. People who are not familiar with their culture, might think that they are not interested or that they are “slow”. An interesting fact, just to underlying this point, about Japan, is that it is impolite to say “No”. They will, however, tell you “Yes, but…”
Depending on the focus of your sales, start understanding your prospect culture. Needless to say that your prospect is not expecting that from you, but if you do understand his/her culture, then you will have an advantage. I have met so many skilled salesmen in my life that failed at understand this basic point.
In every sales negotiation you want to make sure to listen carefully what your prospect is saying. Not only because you will have opportunities to ask more questions, but also because by listening you will understand his/her real pain point.
Listening is such a simple thing to do, yet so many people fail at it, and your prospect knows it!
How many times have you found yourself in situations where you prospect was giving you unclear reasons for not closing a deal with you? How many times have you faced a prospect shifting the conversation focus on smaller points that didn’t really matter?
Your prospect assumes you are not paying full attention; therefore he/she will try to give you as many as unrelated inputs to the topic, in order to confuse you and keep you away. On the other hand, a good sales person will do the same just at his own advantage.
Listening during a sales negotiation is extremely important as it will let you keep the lead in the dance.
You are not going to sell now
You will hardly close the negotiation in your first phone call. Many people who are new to the world of sales make this mistake. They think that in a call and in a 20 minutes negotiation process they will be able to close the deal.
NO! You won’t!
Stop thinking that. In every business related sales negotiation process, there will be several steps and several interactions before the last decision.
Sales negotiation is a (long) process that can happen in a meeting, via phone or emails.
Be very careful when at the end of your first call you hear a “yes!”, you might have just scared away your prospect. I have convinced more people to work with me that at first were skeptical than the opposite.
Sales Negotiation starts when the prospect has a need
You might be thinking you are negotiating already, from the very first interaction. However, does your prospect have a need for your offering or is it just fishing for information?
Until he/she is not open to talk business, you are not negotiating. You are just dancing alone with no partner.
Remember that timing is important. Usually, if you are selling something you have the urge to close the deal. Your prospect, unless specific situations, has all the time in the world to delay or find some excuses. It’s your job to create urge for your prospect.
A typical “secret” to influence your counter-part is to create scarcity in what your are selling.
Don’t make that offer! (and don’t take the first one)
Although very tempting, just don’t do it. In a sales negotiation the first one saying the price, usually loses. This is true in every situation, even a job interview (just a different negotiation type). The moment you say a price, you have either pushed away your prospect (too high) or given him an advantage (too low).
I have done this mistake too many times. It’s just so easy to put that number on the table and get it off your chest. However, those times I didn’t, I gained much more. Let your prospect talk, he will give you gold.
Create value before you start negotiating
Once again, if you are the only one dancing, no one else will join you while you are riding.
The reason why you need to create value in the head of your prospect is that otherwise he/she will not see the reason to even start a negotiation.
Value creation is obviously something strictly related to your product or service. However, it’s also up to you to make your prospect understand the value of your offering.
It’s OK to say NO!
Sometimes, it’s OK to just walk away and say no. You cannot win all the fights and don’t expect to do so.
If you walk in every sales negotiation with the expectation of winning, you are going to get depressed very soon.
There are times in which you won’t be able to convince your prospect to pay what you are suggesting. There other times in which you won’t be able to accept the terms of the sales. You don’t have to accept everything, just because you are selling something. It’s better not close a deal, than closing a bad deal.
The moment you realise that it’s OK to say NO, you will understand its power.
Do you have any other suggestions to take in consideration when thinking about sales negotiation?