Henry Kissinger’s primary axiom regarding international diplomacy negotiations (to paraphrase) was that everyone goes home unhappy, but not unhappy enough to start a war. While that works well for ensuring the stability of the world order and the continued existence of humanity, in sales we strive for something better – namely, that everyone goes home happy. While this might not be possible in all negotiations, it should still be the end objective. And here’s the path to take to get there.
- Know both sides’ priorities.
This is the single most important thing to know heading into negotiations. On your side, be aware of what your terms and boundaries are. For the other party, you should have not only what their needs and restrictions are, but as much as possible, the rankings of their priorities. After all, if you know what’s most important to them, you can make that central to your discussions.
- Set the agenda prior to the meeting.
Another major part of negotiation preparation is to establish an agenda prior to the meeting. Determine what’s already locked in place and what still needs to be negotiated. It’s possible, especially if this is a major deal, that negotiations take place over several meetings. In that instance, keeping a running tally of what’s already been mutually agreed to and what’s still up in the air is critical. The last thing you want is to get to a later round meeting, only to have them suddenly readdress something that was already agreed to.
- Approach negotiations in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration.
Some businesspeople treat negotiations as a game with clear winners and losers. While that adds a spicy flavor to the encounter and can lead to some cocktail party stories, that philosophy doesn’t lend itself to the best deals, where both sides benefit.
Remember, you’ve likely gotten this far by being a Trusted Advisor and building up the relationship over time. Shifting from that convivial mode to a potentially combative one may well harm the relationship and damage all the hard work you’ve put in up to this point. Instead, continue the stance of partnership – how can both sides help and benefit each other?
- Be willing to compromise if it doesn’t involve deal breakers.
We’ve all been there – the sales negotiation where the other party won’t budge on anything, and for whom literally everything is a deal breaker. Don’t be that person yourself. Negotiating is about give and take, and if you can find areas to give without crossing one of your red lines, consider it.
For example, if you’re a large firm with a lot of resources, offering 24/7 support for your product won’t cost you much – you probably already have the structure in place – but it can mean a lot to the other side, for whom a breakdown in non-business hours can constitute an emergency. Conversely, if you’re a small firm with limited staff, 24/7 support might be too much of a resource burden to meet.
- Match the other side’s communication style.
An underrated part of negotiations is understanding how the other side communicates and being able to match it – whether it’s through mirroring their precise language (also a strategy to use in the discovery phase) to head off misunderstandings, or adapting to their style as much as you can.
You might find yourself in a negotiations situation where the prospect insists on making demands and other theatrics because they’re the type that loves treating it as a game. In that instance, read the room respond accordingly and always keep the end game of the negotiation in mind.
Negotiations are stressful, but they can also be enjoyable and mutually beneficial as long as you utilize the tactics we’ve outlined here. It creates a harmonious atmosphere of back and forth, ultimately arriving in the win-win situation that’s always the desired outcome.