"So much of life is a negotiation - so even if you're not in business, you have opportunities to practice all around you” Kevin O’Leary
At some point in your client relationships you’re going to be at the negotiating table
Despite being in sales for more than 10 years I used to hate this. But I’ve grown to enjoy it.
Many account managers struggle with knowing what to do when a client asks about price.
I’d be ignorant if I simply said, “you just need to just sell more value”. Today’s buying environment is different for everyone in sales. For many you’re dealing with procurement for every change made to an existing agreement or new product or service introduced.
In our existing client negotiations there are three main defaults that tend to come up most often
- You attempt to negotiate and work out some sort of package
- Say no confidently and hope for the best
In principle, none of these are necessarily bad. It’s your choice in how you manage that relationship. I’d like you to consider that perhaps there is a more helpful way to approach negotiation with your clients. Whether we’re discussing price, terms and conditions, commitments for action, It’s all a negotiation. It’s the person who is most prepared and has outcomes focused for them and their client that win bigger always.
As account managers and sales professionals we need to understand the pressures in our client’s environment in order to make better decisions. We should understand why negotiation happens and where we can set better expectations for what we deliver.
One of my favourite books on negotiation is ‘Getting More’ by Stuart Diamond. I’d like to share 9 ideas that have helped me in every negotiation situation I find myself in.
It’s about them – Find out what’s important to them in this negotiation. You’ll be surprised sometimes it’s not about price at all but terms and conditions.
Address emotions first – Every negotiation, no matter the relationship, will have some measure of emotion. We can’t help but bring emotion to the table. We’re human after all! You need to discover which emotions are at the table. Is it pressure because your contact has deadlines? Are there changes in process? Understand this and you can control the outcome.
Be incremental – Simply take your time. Have a process and agree steps that make sense to reaching your goals. This will mean really evaluating what your offering and trading
Always communicate and create a vision – The glue to ensuring things stick in a negotiation is communication. Ensuring you and your client have a clear vision of the end result. Even if you fundamentally disagree on parts, If you maintain high level of communication you can eventually build deeper rapport and it lead to more open and easier conversation.
Trade unequally valuable items from any source – Know what you offer and get creative. With just a little work in advance you can build up a bank of tradeables that could be of real value to your client. This doesn’t have to take anything from your bottom line.
Be transparent and constructive – A lot of negotiators will tell you not to show anything and keep all your cards close. Unless you’re playing poker this can be a very alienating strategy. The point of being transparent is to set clear expectations with your client that you’re here to make progress and reach an outcome.
Find and use their standards –Don’t be afraid to make sure your terms and conditions between you and your client are clear. Remember to be respectful. Ask if there were specific things in your agreement that may prevent or help you from finding a workable solution where you keep value on the table and still help them achieve their goals.
Goals are paramount – Know what you want. Your goals don’t only have to be monetary. In every communication you have with your client you have the opportunity to build on your relationship.
Every situation is different (even if it’s the same person) – This can be a fatal mistake made by many sales people when negotiating with their clients. Because we know them we assume it’s the same situation and we can apply the same strategies and approach again. The reality is how we all show up each day will vary. And in negotiations you, and your client will have different goals and expectations. Treat every negotiation situation as a brand new experience, applying all the above principles.
These might seem like a lot, but when practiced often you’ll begin to see you get more and better results from your negotiation. You can thank Stuart Diamond for that.
I’m aware that many may have different thoughts on this. But I welcome any comments. What resonates with you? What would you add or not add?