I just finished reading a book about negotiating skills. Negotiating is a topic that fascinates me because of the human behavioral elements that influence how people negotiate and respond in negotiating situations. B2B salespeople are often put in situations when they have to negotiate the terms of a sale. So, negotiating and selling skills are intertwined.
This article lists the three most important elements of successful negotiations and expands on how to use these skills in a selling situation.
Know precisely what your goal is before the negotiation begins
Before you even begin your negotiations or move toward closing the sale, understand precisely what you want to accomplish, and I don’t mean just making a sale or getting your way. You may want to make sure a certain set of terms are included in your agreement, and without them you won’t be successful. In a sales environment, you may want to sell a certain product or service, or you may want to achieve a certain profit margin from the sale. You may want to experiment with a new service or simply move your buyer in a direction that ultimately results in a sale.
Whatever it is you want to accomplish in the negotiation or sales situation, make sure everything you do moves you toward that goal. You may find yourself moving sideways occasionally, but if an action or statement moves you further away from your goal, avoid it.
Trust and credibility are required to be an effective negotiator
No matter how tough the negotiation is or the person with whom you are negotiating, you must build trust and credibility – otherwise you’ll make little meaningful progress toward your goal. If the other person is suspicious at all about your motives, it will be very difficult to form a relationship and communicate with sincerity.
Avoid being adversarial, even in tough situations. Kill the other person with respect and kindness. You may even make a comment like, “if I get too aggressive or demanding, please let me know” or “if you feel like I’m being too pushy, tell me because I get so passionate about what we do”. Statements like this increase your credibility, communicate respect to the other person and makes you look real.
Understand the other person’s perspective of things
This is like knowing what cards the other person is holding in a poker game. Knowing what is and isn’t important to the other person is crucial to achieving your goal and creating a win-win negotiation. You simply must understand the other person’s perspective on the things that relate to the negotiation.
How do you learn about the other person’s perspective – you asks lots of profound open ended questions – just like the best salespeople do in a selling situation. Remember, you learn nothing about the other person’s perspective when you are talking, but when you ask good questions and listen, you begin to understand what is and isn’t important to the other person.
In a negotiation situation, you might simply say “I’m interested to know what’s most important to you about this situation”. Or, a statement like, “I want to make sure this is a win-win situation for both of us – what would make this a win for you?” will help reveal the other person’s perspective.
Furthermore, say a customer makes a demand that seems unreasonable. Instead of replying to that demand by saying something like, “I don’t think that was part of the project”, you ask, “what is it you are trying to accomplish with that?” The customer responds and you might say “that’s interesting, just so I understand better, why is this important to you?”
In a sales situation, you might ask something like, “what is most important to you in this situation?” or “what criteria will you evaluate to make a decision about which supplier to use?” Both these questions will get you a long way toward understanding your buyer’s perspective.
Finally, always asking great open ended questions, and listening actively and emphatically will often give you an open door into the mind of the other person. It might also compel the other person to be more open and empathetic to what’s important to you.
An effective negotiator, just like an elite salesperson, should focus on three important elements. First, realize what you want to accomplish and what is important to you in the situation. Second, kill the other person with kindness and respect. It will be harder for the other person to be tough when you are so kind and respectful. Finally, seek first to understand what is important to the other person before you ever express what is important to you.