Customers love to buy. They don’t always like to be ‘sold’. Your negotiation skills are the difference between sealing the deal or killing it.
Sure, you know what you want from a negotiation. Do you know what your customer wants? Understand and respect the buyer’s perspective. Win them over by showing you’re reliable and trustworthy, not manipulative or underhanded like some clichéd salesperson TV character. Fairness is almost always rewarded with fairness. It sounds obvious, but unfair treatment or exploitation ultimately leads to the collapse of the relationship – whether you get the deal or not.
How you behave at the start of the sales cycle colours the customer’s attitude at the negotiation table. Be subservient or passive in your early engagement with a prospective buyer, and they could control the negotiation as you try to close. Negotiation starts early and, to be honest, never finishes.
A position is a particular stance taken by one party in a negotiation, typically pointing to their preferred result. Interests, on the other hand, are what they really care about: needs, desires, concerns. Distinguish between the two and you’ll shoot the lights out. Great negotiators know their own interests, and those of the other party.
One of the easiest things you can do in a negotiation is to let the other party know you are listening. Pay attention to what has been said, repeat it and use this knowledge to explore the customer’s interests and ultimately, deflect them from their position.
It’s never wise to pay too much, but it’s also unwise to pay too little. You can lose out because the thing you bought may fall short on what it’s supposed to do. Smart buyers don’t always squeeze every last drop of blood from a deal. They value reciprocity. They know that you will be more inclined to support them after the sale if the deal is a true win-win. Though, they may not want you to know that.
At the end of the sales cycle, it’s common to have your customer’s procurement team handle the final step. For this, your buyer needs to be on your side of the table, explaining the value of the product you’re delivering. In short, helping you to sell it. Having a negotiation partner reduces the stress for everyone involved.
Offering a discount in exchange for a quick contract signing rarely works in B2B sales. You are signalling to the customer that you’re prepared to cut your price and will still make a profit. Remember, it’s difficult to increase your price again without hurting your credibility when the ‘sign-before’ date passes.
Before you begin to negotiate the price, make sure it’s the only issue left to discuss. Other than the weather. Price is easier for the buyer to negotiate, whereas you, the salesperson, can only bring your price down. Never up. If you discuss price too prematurely, any cost concessions become the starting point for the next round of negotiation.
Timing is everything when closing a deal. Poor negotiators rush to the finish line or delay unnecessarily due to fear of failure. Both approaches produce sub-par results. Closing before the buyer is ready is pushy, and damages the relationship. Delaying allows time for other competitors to enter the fray or for new projects to take precedence.
Great negotiators understand the how, when and where. They bring everything they need to the negotiation table. They can identify outstanding points of conflict, resolving them one at a time. Help the buyer by providing them with a list of everything that needs to be agreed on to close the negotiation. When you have addressed each of the points, ask for the order, close the deal and document the agreement.
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