This post isn’t about tactics. There are excellent books on negotiating tactics, including Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and William Ury, and one of my favorites, The Street Smart Negotiator: How to Outwit, Outmaneuver and Outlast Your Opponents by Harry Mills. You should be more than familiar with common negotiation tactics so that you recognize the tactics some people employ in negotiations.
But in B2B sales, the person you are negotiating with is your client (or future client, anyway) not your opponent. If you have done a good job developing relationships throughout the sales process, reducing the deal to writing should be very natural and easy. If it is adversarial, then you are beginning the relationships on a weak foundation, and you will have to work very hard to create a win-win deal (let alone execute what is contained in the agreement).
1. Never Lose the Ability to Walk Away
I hate to put this first idea at the top of this post. This idea is really about negotiating final contracts, which is a really important negotiation. But there are dozens of negotiations that occur throughout the sales process, all of which are important. But this one has to come first because you cannot negotiate from a place of strength without it.
You must create win-win deals, or you must walk away.
You should walk away from Lose-Win deals. If the deal isn’t good for you and your company, you should not make the deal. These deals cost your company time, they cost your company resources that are better dedicated to other clients, and most of all, and they cost your company emotional energy invested in trying to make something out of a bad deal.
You should also walk away from Win-Lose deals. If the deal is good for your company but bad for your client, then in the long run, you will not only lose the client, you will lose something more. You will lose your reputation. You will lose the ability to be trusted, and you will have created a community of people who will be happy to share their negative experience of doing business with you with anyone who will listen.
Thanks to the Internet, the whole world is a small town now, and everyone knows your business.
Retaining the ability to walk away from bad deals gives you a powerful platform from which to negotiate. You don’t have to accept a bad deal, and you never have to try to give a bad deal. But to be in this position, you have to make sure that meeting your quota is never dependent upon any single deal. This is why prospecting is so very high on this list. A strong and healthy pipeline is what allows you to be able to afford to lose.
2. Be Prepared to Talk Honestly and Creatively About the Sticking Points
You have to be able to think on your feet to be great in sales, and this skill is surely required of great negotiating. But that is no excuse for not being prepared. To negotiate well, you need to prepare. This starts by making a simple list of the critical deal points that your client will need to create a win, as well as a list of the critical deal points that you will need to create a win.
Highlight the critical points that are difficult for you and the ones that are difficult for your client. Then, remember that the best negotiations are really conversations about how to get through the difficult points together. Prepare for an open, honest, and creative dialogue about the sticking points.
Great negotiation isn’t about winning. It is about creating something that is difficult to create because of conflicting needs. This requires a willingness to focus on the outcome of a win-win deal, and being resourceful enough to create and discuss new possibilities. Some of that will occur at the bargaining table, but there is no reason not to prepare alternative solutions and ideas.
Before going in to a negotiation, get with a group of thoughtful and creative people within your team and your company to brainstorm other possibilities, other potential deal structures, and alternative proposals. Prepare a presentation as to how your ideas may allow you and your client to create a win-win agreement. Think about how you make the pie bigger for both of you before you start claiming your share.
Know that great negotiations are built on creating ideas that overcome conflicting needs and desires with better ideas and solutions, not just trade offs. Also know that the simple value claiming that often leads to entrenched positions is really a lack of resourcefulness or an unwillingness to be creative.
To be effective in sales requires the ability to negotiate. But negotiation with organizations that we intend work with for years, and with whom tremendous competitive value is created, isn’t about value claiming. Instead, it is about being creative enough to create win-win deals that overcome the sticking points. Use these ideas to improve your ability to negotiate.
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