Last week I attended a webinar called “Negotiating To Win: Strategies And Tactics For Sales Professionals”, presented by ValueSelling Associates. Even though the intended audience was sales professionals, negotiating is negotiating, regardless of which side of the table you are sitting on. As a reminder, if you like the “Flip Side” perspective, check out our sales blog and resource directory for our favorite sources of sales information.
Sales reps often start negotiating before they’ve been awarded the business. From their perspective, it is important that understand the buyer’s alternatives and the amount of business plus its measured value. Selling does not equal negotiating (and neither does buying). When you line up a sales process with a sourcing or procurement process, not all of the intended exchanges of information line up well. For example, buyers are often looking for specifics such as pricing, delivery timing and terms before sales feels they have enough information to put together a competitive proposal.
Know your authority limitations
When you find yourself in a negotiation that exceeds your authority, of course you need to bring in a higher authority, but use it as an opportunity to be empowered in the negotiation. For example, having a second person in the negotiating room allows for role-playing (good cop bad cop is the easiest example of this). Work the scenario out in advance, and remember to rehearse with your “partner” before putting your plan into action.
Getting in and getting out
The speaker’s advice to sales professionals was to understand the “need” behind the “ask”. As procurement professionals, this is a key opportunity to make sure we take advantage of every benefit the supplier may be able to offer, even beyond what we may have envisioned. You can’t really start a negotiation until you are settled as to what you want in terms of specs, terms, and deliverables. That being said, you also can’t walk away from every negotiation table with a contract in hand. It is important to know your walk away point in advance. That point should be decided based on organizational goals, not individual feelings about the direction of the negotiation. It should be a calculated move, not a heated reaction.
Tradeoff (or “if - then”): it is just as important to know what you can give as what you can get. Having a list of “gives” available for discussion will allow you to figure out what your cards are worth in the negotiation. Identifying them doesn’t mean that you have to give them up – at least not if you don’t like what is being offered in return.
Embellishment ( or offering “upgrades”): Look for low cost (to you) high value (to them) offerings that you can trade for something in the negotiation.
Compromise (or “splitting the difference”): Keep in mind that you are often walking a file line between communication and confrontation in a negotiation. But if you want the relationship to be a lasting one, chose the tone that will allow you to collaborate once the negotiation is complete. Always consider the cost that may be associated with your style – whether it is a price cost or terms, you do have something to lose.