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Common Questions and Answers
Most sales will sooner or later enter a negotiation period. Some savvy prospects will negotiate throughout your presentation, bringing up minor issues and squeezing a commitment out of you. Others will wait until you give them a price before they start turning the vise. Whatever the case, having solid negotiation skills can make a big difference in your sales.
Knowing how to negotiate can also help you out in other circumstances. For example, the next time you go to your sales manager asking for a raise — or even just for your annual review — your negotiation skills can make a big difference in how much you get. And when you find yourself on the purchasing side of a transaction, those same skills can save you plenty on the price.
The first step in any negotiation is knowing what you want to get out of the transaction. This may sound pretty basic, but in the midst of a heated discussion it can be easy to lose track of your original intentions. If you have time beforehand, write down what you want to get from the negotiation in order of priority and bring these notes along. However, don’t consider these goals to be unchangeable. It may be necessary to yield on a few issues in order to get your most important ones done. If you do have points where you truly cannot accept another outcome, then by all means stand firm — but be prepared to give a little on some of your other points.
Always start with the easiest issues. Each time you and the other party come to an agreement on something, it will make him more willing to agree with you on other matters. So if you can reach a consensus on several minor issues then it will be easier to get him to agree when you move onto the more difficult points.
It will also be much easier to reach an agreement if you fully understand the other person’s own goals. When he brings up one of his own bargaining points, try to draw him out and get a little background information. Ask questions like, “So why do you bring that up?” or “What’s the purpose?” Open-ended questions will help you to get a longer response than closed-ended ones. The better you understand the other person’s needs, the more effectively you’ll be able to negotiate. You’ll have a better idea of when to be flexible and when it’s OK to stand firm on your issues.
When you negotiate with someone, you must always check your emotions at the door. Trying to negotiate while you’re awash with anger, fear or frustration is a recipe for disaster — either you’ll lose your grasp of you wanted to get and make concessions you later regret, or you’ll get stubborn at the wrong moment and the whole negotiation will fall apart. If you feel your emotions starting to take control, ask for a quick break and spend a few minutes doing something relaxing, whether it’s munching on a snack, reading a soothing book, calling a friend, or just pausing for some peace and quiet. Then you can come back to the bargaining table with a clear head.
Sometimes the other person will be the one negotiating with his emotions. This is often the case when negotiations fall apart at the last moment. Often the best way to rescue such a negotiation is to make a small concession that allows the other party to accept your deal with his ego intact. For example, if you’re stuck on price issues, you might offer a 90-day payment plan instead of the usual 30-day conditions, or suggest that if they pay the full price you’ll throw in something extra like a free month of on-site maintenance.
About the author
My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.
As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.