Top sales producers are also top negotiators. It goes hand in hand. Most of us work in markets that are congested with competitive offerings, often not well differentiated by our target clients. Price competition is rampant in most markets. Customers have become much more sophisticated at sniffing out ‘slick’ closing ‘maneuvers’. Clients have a glut of information at their fingertips often bordering on overload. To close more business, you must become a master at negotiation to help your client make the right decision!
I cannot teach you how to be a master negotiator in 900 words or so! But I would like to stress the importance of negotiation mastery if you strive to be a top sales producer.
The most important skill in negotiation is the ability to actively listen.
Listen with the intent to fully understand the information the client is expressing to you. Listen with the intent to feel what the emotion the client is expressing. Don't listen with the intent to respond, or defend. Listen with the intent to deeply understand what the client is trying to communicate. If needs be, paraphrase to make sure that you understand. Not as a technique, but as a tool.
There are some amazing lessons in effective negotiations to be learned from Chester Karrass. I have taken his negotiation course and found it to be of incredible value. There are lots of books on objection handling, lots of advice on asking trial close questions, and lots of material on how to be an effective negotiator. Explore this, but consider starting with Karrass’s book ‘In Business As in Life, You Don't Get What You Deserve, You Get What You Negotiate’ (available through Amazon). This will help you develop a negotiation process. I would not consider this book to be the ‘Holy Grail’ of negotiation but I found it helpful, and found the training course to be beneficial. Become a student of the art of negotiation.
Top negotiators are not fazed by hearing the word no, by hearing anger in the voice of the client, by adversity in the negotiation or by setbacks in the negotiation. They have maintained control of the selling process and they understand the buying process of the client. They have learned how to ‘maintain control, but not obvious control’ of the negotiation.
Top negotiators do not have a high need for approval. Check this aspect of your personality carefully. If you have a high need for approval, a high need for your client/prospect to really like you, that will hamper you in negotiations. Once you are aware of your need for approval, with effort you can stretch past this. You’ll take calculated and intelligent risks to help your client make the right decision for them.
Top negotiators are not dismayed by objections. They are energized by them because objections show interest on the part of the client. Top negotiators ensure they understand the context and perception from which the objection flows and know very well there is a HUGE difference between perception and reality. They strive to fully understand their client’s perception, even if it seems their respective realities are different. Top negotiators understand the difference between a true objection, and a stall, and they know how to deal effectively with both.
Top negotiators do not bat 1000. They win more negotiations than they lose, and when they lose any negotiation they learn from it. If they get knocked down in a negotiation, they stand up, shake it off, and get on to the next one armed with the lesson learned.
Almost 30 years ago I took my first formal sales training course. The Lee DuBois selling system. One of the many great lessons I took away from this training was his recommendation to check where you are in your negotiation by asking questions of opinion and feeling, not questions of what the client prospect thinks. It has been imprinted in my selling system to ask the client, using these exact words "in your opinion, do you feel________________”? you can fill in the blank with literally hundreds of questions pertinent to your negotiation. The answers often advance your negotiations, sometimes in a different direction. Always check the pulse of the negotiation by asking for opinions, and feelings.
Top negotiators ask great questions. And then they listen intently to the answers. And then they think creatively on how they can bring their product and service to bear on the client's needs, opportunities, and problems revealed to get an amazing outcome not anticipated by the client. From these questions and answers, and questions based on opinion and feeling, top negotiators get a deep understanding of the buyer's motivation. When the client makes it about price, the top negotiator makes it about value. Top negotiators do not have a single solution, and a single presentation. They are not one trick ponies! And top negotiators know that so often with the client describes as what they want, is not actually what they need.
It is not enough merely to get the appointment for the discovery meeting. It is not enough to be able to effectively build rapport quickly it is not enough to ask questions to determine who the decision-makers will be, the decision-making process, the budget, the timeline, the needs and wants of the client ~~~all of these key aspects of a selling process. And it’s not enough to give a polished presentation. It's like getting the ball to the 10-yard line and leaving it there. Hard work, but no goal! The final 10 yards is helping your client to a decision that has mutual benefit, and making that decision in a timely manner. The final 1 yard is asking for the sale! It is astounding to me how often this step is entirely missed.
Have you ever heard this coming out of a prospects mouth on the day you expected to close? "This sounds great, and I think we’re ready to go, but I'll need some time to think it over." Top negotiators, top producers know how to deal with this in a calm and relaxed manner. Do you?
Next post, Wrap up ~~~~~ ‘The Holistic Sales Pro’.
This is the tenth in a series of 10 articles on the traits and habits of highly successful sales professionals. Please consider providing some feedback by leaving a comment. If you enjoyed this article and would like to read future articles, please consider following me on LinkedIn.