There are over 15,000 books on negotiation available for purchase on Amazon. The range of topics and approaches they cover is staggering Every seller needs to know how to be a better negotiator, but there is no one-size-fits-all negotiation advice. The desired outcome, negotiation setting, personalities of the parties involved and state of the economy all impact how you negotiate. The current economy makes it hard for sellers to negotiate with strength. But if you approach the situation with a win-win strategy, you might be able to close deals that you’ll be happy with. Here are some steps you’ll need to take to make this happen:
Do Your Homework
Knowledge is power and before you engage the client, get some facts. Find out if they’re buying from a competitor and if so, how much? That may give you an indication of their budget levels and an idea of the revenue goal you should set for this client. You’ll have the best results if you’ve gained their trust beforehand by listening to what their needs and objectives are. Knowing what they want allows you to suggest a plan that meets their needs while getting what you need as well. Also, think about the personalities involved. Is the client tough on price? Do they get angry if they don’t get their way? Are they reasonable? Are they long term or short term thinkers? Knowing their style will help you prepare. And while you aren’t looking to do battle, you must have a well thought out battle plan going in. Because as Sun Tzu wrote in his timeless masterpiece on strategy, The Art of War: “every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”
Explain Why Certain Things are Non-negotiable
You have your battle plan but as any seller knows, you’ll need to adjust it on the fly during the negotiation. Your client will ask you to give in on certain points of your proposal, either in terms of lower price or less effort on their part. Really consider what you are proposing and determine what can altered and what can’t. Rationally explain to your client exactly why you can’t give up on your “non-negotiables.” Your client will probably respond in a reasonable way and propose a solution that benefits both. You are well on your way to your win-win deal if this happens.
Be Fair, but Firm
No matter how heated a negotiation gets, remember that it’s strictly business. Even the most personal sounding barbs are not about you, they’re about the situation and any previous experiences the client had that day to make them angry. So don’t consider how your client’s message is delivered, listen to the content. Judge it fairly to see what has merit while standing up for your position. Bluster can be a negotiating tactic designed to weaken your stance. Remain calm but don’t waver on your important points. That will actually help the negotiation progress because your client should see what points you are rationally sticking to, what points in their position will you consider adopting and how you can arrive at your win-win conclusion.
Listening to your client is just as important during the negotiation as it is in pre-negotiation conversations. Ask good questions during the negotiations to understand their positions. It will help you forge a proposal that you both are happy with. Also, don’t be in a rush to speak. If there’s a silence in the conversation, it can work to your advantage. It allows you time to consider their position. It also may make your client uncomfortable and they will jump in to fill the void, often relenting on one of their points because they think the negotiations have hit an impasse. As a seller in a slow economy, you have limited advantages in a negotiation. Silence can be one of them so use it. But the point isn’t to break your client, it is to hear what they need so you can craft a solution you both are happy with. You do this best by listening.
There is a saying in Major League Baseball that the best trades are where both teams benefit. It’s the same in business. A win-win mindset in negotiations lets you form an agreement that both parties are happy with. That positive approach may make the client want to increase their business with you in the future. And that’s the ultimate win-win.