Those skilled at the art of customer negotiations have a wide range of behavioral profiles and are flexible in their approach.
But there are 13 beliefs they have in common:
- Prepare and plan with great care. Successful and average salespeople usually invest the same amount of time in preparing for a negotiation. The difference lies in how that time is used. A skilled negotiator develops a wider range of options and outcomes than the average negotiator. He or she also calculates the cost of any concessions for each solution to avoid impulsive and expensive mistakes in the heat of battle.
- Consider a wide range of outcomes or options. Skilled negotiators are concerned with the whole spectrum of possibilities, both those they could introduce themselves and those that might be introduced by the people they’re negotiating with. Average negotiators tend to consider only a few options.
- Concentrate on issue planning and avoid sequence planning. Average negotiators place heavy reliance on sequence planning. In order to succeed, sequence planning always requires the consent and cooperation of the other negotiating party. In many negotiations, this cooperation is not forthcoming. The salesperson begins at Point A and the prospect jumps to point D. This forces the salesperson to mentally change gears and approach the negotiation in an unplanned sequence. Skilled negotiators plan around each individual issue in a way independent of any sequence. They are careful not to draw sequence links between a series of issues.
- Look for common ground. Skilled negotiators look for areas of common ground and not just to areas of conflict. Research shows that skilled negotiators pay more than three times as much attention to common ground areas as do average negotiators.
- Sell first, then negotiate. If they can sell the prospect an unchallenged solution at full price, why negotiate? Average negotiators may give things away too early in the process. Skilled negotiators don’t open a negotiation by offering concessions. They listen carefully to the prospect before explaining their position.
- Never concede, always trade. Effective negotiation involves movement by both parties towards an outcome. Skilled negotiators avoid giving something without getting something in return. When they need to move from any stated position, they make a conditional offer, always looking for something in return.
- Always aim for a win/win outcome. Concluding a negotiation with one side feeling positive and the other feeling resentful is not the basis for a strong, ongoing relationship. Win/win doesn’t mean splitting the difference. Skilled negotiators are far more effective at representing their organization’s interests and achieving their targeted outcomes, while still allowing prospects to feel that they’ve achieved a satisfactory result.
- Power is in the head. Average salespeople may feel that power in a negotiation lies with the prospect. Surveys of prospects come to an opposite conclusion. Prospects feel salespeople have the upper hand, because they need the product or service and can’t afford to have the deal fall through. “Power” is merely a perception that skilled negotiators feel and behave accordingly.
- Plan and ask questions. Skilled negotiators ask significantly more questions during negotiators than average negotiators. By asking questions, they may gain access to the prospect’s thinking and position. They also give themselves breathing space and time to gather their own thoughts.
- Identify and use levers. A lever is a negotiable issue that is of relatively low importance to the salesperson, but is likely to be of high importance to the prospect. It is something that costs the seller considerably less than the value the prospect places upon it.
- Focus on the most important reasons. Successful negotiators use fewer reasons to back their arguments than average negotiators. It’s tied to a phenomenon called “argument dilution.” That is, the more reasons a negotiator gives, the weaker the case becomes. The less powerful reasons tend to dilute the stronger ones.
- Set limits. Skilled negotiators are more likely to set upper and lower limits. Average negotiators are more likely to plan their objectives around a fixed point. Results show that it may be more preferable to approach a negotiation with objectives that fall within a clearly defined range, rather than to base planning on a single-point objective.
- Avoid “irritators.” Certain words and phrases which are commonly used during negotiation have negligible value in persuading the other party, but do cause irritation. Words such as “fair” and “reasonable” have little persuasive power but may irritate prospects because of the implication that they are unfair or unreasonable. Average negotiators used these words regularly, but skilled negotiators tend to avoid them.
Source: Huthwaite, one of the world’s leading sales performance improvement organizations.