The Don'ts of Negotiation

Negotiating is a big part of sales. Every prospect you meet wants the best deal possible, and some of them are very good at negotiating favorable terms for themselves. Before you head into your next negotiation, familiarize yourself with negotiation don'ts, and you'll have a much easier time of it.

Don't Negotiate with Non-Decision Makers

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In a complex sale you'll end up talking to several different people, but not all of them are going to be in on the final decision to buy. So if someone starts negotiating terms and details with you, discreetly confirm that this person is an actual decision maker. For example, if you are demonstrating your product to an end user and he starts asking you for specific features, make a note of his requests but don't try to negotiate on it. When you sit down with the final decision maker, you will likely find that his needs and wants are quite different.

Don't Start Negotiating Too Soon

The negotiation phase should happen as late as possible in the sales cycle. The more time and effort you put into showing the product's value, the stronger your negotiation position will be. If your prospect starts negotiating right from the beginning, you won't have had a chance to uncover his needs or talk about benefits. So instead of joining in with an early negotiator, tell him that you need to know more about his needs before you can start discussing specific options.

Don't Negotiate If You Don't Have To

Before you launch into a negotiation, try for a simple close first. You'll find that many prospects are perfectly happy to buy your product as is, without any concessions on your part. So don't make any special offers unless the prospect specifically declines to buy. The ideal situation for negotiation is where the prospect has indicated that he is interested, but has turned down the sale for some reason.

Don't Negotiate Unless You Know What the Prospect Wants

As you move through the sales process, keep an eye out for clues relating to the prospect's wants and needs. Try to accumulate at least five things that he wants and that you can give him. This will give you plenty of ammunition for the negotiation because these are areas that you can concede to the prospect while standing firm on other areas that are important to you.

Don't Be Unprofessional

Some prospects, especially hardened negotiators, will use rudeness and hostility to try to bludgeon you into giving them what they want. Don't descend to their level. If you feel like you're becoming emotionally rattled or are losing control of the situation, call a halt and come back to your negotiation later. It's especially important to leave your emotions at the door when you're dealing with someone you know well, such as a long-time customer.

Don't Write Down Anything You Can't Live With

Once you write something down, it will be much harder for you to change your mind about it. So if you're uncertain about a particular detail don't write it down; ask the prospect if you can get back to him on that item. Keep in mind as well that you have no control over what the prospect will do with the document. He could share it with anyone, including your competitors. When you do write down terms, include an expiration date, so you're not locked into them forever and so that the prospect will be motivated to close quickly.

Don't Be Afraid to Walk Away

Some sales just aren't going to happen. The prospect wants more than you can give and isn't willing to concede on unreasonable requests. Even if you manage to close such a sale, you'll probably take a loss on it, AND you've had a painfully high-maintenance customer to deal with in the future. Before you sit down to a negotiation, decide how much you're willing to give up and at what point you'll simply walk away from the deal. If you're not sure what that point should be, ask your sales manager for advice. Ideally, everyone on your sales team should have the same walk-away point.