Negotiating the Sales Deal

November 21, 2011

A good salesperson is usually able to get to the negotiating table. Once there, however, it takes a great salesperson to close the deal. The difference often comes down to an ability to negotiate skillfully. Here are nine negotiating tools to help salespeople improve their closing percentages:

1. The preparation tool. Remember the scouts' motto. Get your facts straight before you start. If you have to keep delaying the process so you can find more information, you're probably making a bad impression. Never walk in cold.  

2. The bottom line tool. Before you sit at the negotiating table, know what you want and what you'll settle for. Set upper and lower limits. Ask questions to find out what your customers need. Then, read between the lines, make realistic proposals and keep your options open. Needs change as more information and new ideas surface.

3. The expectation tool. Aim high. Lofty expectations generally produce lofty results, so ask for more than you expect to get. This lets the other side understand your needs and gives you an opportunity to make a counteroffer after a proposal is made. Rather than criticize the prospect's proposals, make new offers. Brainstorming alternatives can sometimes produce an agreement that no one considered.

4. The harmony tool. We all prefer to work with people we like, so even if you don't care for a customer, get over it. Don't let personal feelings cloud judgment. Show respect and build trust. If you create a good rapport, information is more willingly shared and defenses are dropped.

5. The filtering tool. Don't let discussions get sidetracked by minor issues. Put them on the back burner and focus first on the big differences. You can get back to the small stuff later. When you do, you may find it no longer matters.

6. The patience tool. Often, the person with the most time wins. Salespeople are frequently urged to act quickly. But if you feel rushed, the other side may be able to outwait you and get a better deal. Give yourself time to step back, weigh the issues and make an informed proposal.

7. The note-taking tool. You've seen the police shows on TV where each witness remembers the crime differently. The same thing can happen with a potentially great sales deal. To avoid mistaken assumptions about the terms of an agreement, write them d own so everyone understands them precisely.

8. The silence tool. Sometimes, the best tactic is to just keep quiet after an offer or concession is made. Silence can prompt an immediate and positive reaction. Let the customer talk himself out of objections. As the other person talks, you listen. Then ask more questions and listen more. Reveal only as much information as you need to.

9. The final tool. You go to a sales meeting knowing your top and bottom limits. In the end, if you can't resolve the issues to everyone's satisfaction, there are only two words left: "No deal." Don't be afraid to walk away.

"Everybody has a price. But many negotiators go wrong when they attach dollar signs to that price. They believe if they can just agree on how much cash should be passed across the table, all parties will be happy. This logic . . . ignores the non-economic elements of a deal, the psychological needs that buyers and sellers bring to the table."
- Mark H. McCormack, 
"What They Still Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School"

The art of negotiation is to find common ground. Use these tools to come out a winner while you build lasting relationships and chalk up new sales.

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