Back in the day, when money was flowing and people were feeling fine, giving a little without getting anything in return was not a problem. Today, it’s a problem. Volumes are down, margins are shrinking and you have to add more to the bottom line. How? By taking negotiating the deal as seriously as each and every other part of the sales process. Here are five things you can do right now to improve your negotiation skills, and the quality of the deals you land.
- Treat a request to make a price concession as an invitation to make a tradeoff. Just because a customer asks for price concession doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. You can and must get something of value in return.
- Ask a whole lot of clarifying questions. Sales executives consistently tell me that their people don’t ask the right questions. At the bargaining table, the right questions are open ended questions that elicit hidden motivations. (My book has a list of these questions.)
- Make more counteroffers. Rather than agreeing to what the customer says without hesitation, make a counteroffer. Say something like, “What if we were to, . . .?”
- Prepare to negotiate. Mentally, negotiating is different from selling. It is less about overcoming objections and more about leveraging common ground for a mutual benefit. The bigger the deal, the more important your negotiation skills become.
- Recognize that every sale requires some sort of negotiation. The world changed on us in the Fall of 2008. You cannot blithely expect that deals will close without negotiating some aspect of it. In fact, negotiation skills will be increasingly important as a differentiator in the market place.
If you want to thrive, and not just survive, you must negotiate in this economy. It is so much more important than it was last year. Take time right now to acknowledge that the world has changed and that you can improve your sales process by improving your negotiation skills.