Negotiation is a hot topic. A Google search for the term unearths a stunning 131 million results. Thousands of books have been written on the topic, with countless more online articles, guides, and blog posts available for your perusal.
That’s because negotiating is scary. The stakes are always high when you’re trying to get something you want, and business negotiation is especially pitched because it involves professional repercussions.
But negotiating doesn’t have to be stressful or hard. The best negotiators stick to a tried-and-true set of best practices that ensure they achieve an ideal outcome more often than they don’t. Incorporate these eight habits into your selling routine and you can close more deals, too.
1) They don’t view negotiation as a battle.
Negotiation is often treated as a zero-sum game. We talk about winning or losing, of beating our opponents. But negotiation isn’t a sports game with a win-lose outcome — the best negotiators know that there’s a way to achieve what both parties want. The salespeople who excel at negotiation approach each discussion as a way to achieve a mutually beneficial end goal — for the rep, it’s a closed deal; for the prospect, it’s the change or value the product will bring.
This shift in mindset is hugely important. Approaching each negotiation as a battle gets you in a combative mentality that’ll put you at odds with your prospect, which will trickle down into every interaction you have. Keep things as positive as possible to keep the conversations productive.
2) They can tell the difference between an objection and a request for information.
Not being able to do this can be disastrous. If you’re ignoring true blockers and forging on like they’re no big deal, or your reaction to a request for information is to get defensive, things can go south very quickly. You’ll lose your credibility and risk angering prospects unnecessarily.
The best negotiators understand when prospects object to something because they haven’t fully bought in (a request for information) or because it really could halt the sales process (a blocker), then respond accordingly.
3) They have already anticipated their prospects’ objections.
Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” instructed generals to know their enemies. And while prospects aren’t enemies (see #1!), you are still at a severe disadvantage if you don’t know the ins and outs of their business situations.
Before you enter a negotiation, take a look at your proposed offer and ask yourself: What will my prospect go for? Where will they push back? Where are the areas of potential confusion or concern?
By anticipating these objections, you’re better equipping yourself to address your prospects’ concerns, and you’ll appear more impressive as well by somehow knowing what your prospect cares about before they tell you.
4) They make sure there’s no purchasing surprises.
The worst thing you can do in a negotiation (short of something horrendously rude) is to arrive unprepared. Part of this is preparing for objections, but keeping a negotiation devoid of any process-related surprises is key as well to make sure you’re starting on the same page.
Does your prospect plan to have their legal team present to redline a contract (and what’s your company policy on allowing them to do so)? Do they need you to submit a formal proposal for review?
The best negotiators know the ins and outs of their prospects’ purchasing mechanics so that when they get to the table to negotiate, it’s actually the right time to do so.
5) They already know their prospects’ end goals.
This is just part of good selling, but it bears repeating. The best way to ensure a good outcome for both you and your prospect is … surprise … to know what they want. It’s the only way you can gauge whether what you’re presenting is relevant and shape your message to speak to what your prospect really cares about.
It also gives you leverage. I don’t mean leverage in the sense that you force your prospect’s hand in any way. But knowing what they need and what they want allows you to reprioritize what you emphasize during negotiation and anticipate what your prospect will walk away from or stick to.
6) They don’t use underhanded closing tricks.
There’s a lot of terrible closing advice out there. But the idea that prospects need to be hard closed or tricked into buying is outdated at best and dangerous at worst. Always be upfront and honest throughout negotiations and closing processes, and don’t resort to sneaky tactics to close a deal — if it’s truly a good fit, you shouldn’t have to.
7) They know how to read between the lines.
Whether you’re negotiating in person or over the phone, you need to understand what’s not being said as well as what’s being said. Whether it’s a suspicious change in voice tone or a shift in their prospect’s body language, the best negotiators are always looking for changes in behavior that could indicate the conversation is going well or poorly.
8) They know when to walk away.
There don’t have to be losers in every negotiation, but you certainly can lose. If you regularly accept terms that are bad for your business — a deep discount or payment terms that allow a prospect to end a deal at any time — you’re building an unstable book of business that may never pay dividends for your company. Skilled negotiators understand where their bottom line lies, and if the terms cross it, they know it’s better to walk away than keep fighting for scraps.
What negotiation habits work for you? Let us know in the comments below.