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Negotiation Checklist to Ensure a Successful Outcome

Want to go into negotiations with the best selling skills possible? Want to increase your sales motivation and your profits? Make sure you’re following this checklist on every negotiation.

  1. Never negotiate with anyone who is not qualified to negotiate. If in doubt, ask how they’ve handled a similar type of negotiating in the past. Listen for names, dates, etc. that will provide clues as to their level of responsibility. When you negotiate with someone who is not qualified to negotiate, you’re at a huge disadvantage. At no time should you put anything on the table they could then pass along to someone else. If you do find yourself negotiating with someone who is not qualified, you should shift your approach to only looking to obtain information.
  2. Never put things into writing unless you’re prepared to live with them. Once an item is put into writing, it becomes an anchor either for you or the customer. This is especially critical when negotiating with a professional buyer who will use anything put into writing as leverage. Keep in mind a few simple rules. Are you prepared to have whatever you put into writing shared with the competition? Are you prepared to have a competitor use your information to secure a better deal? If you do put anything in writing, it must include specific expiration dates and include information that could be interpreted in several different ways to give you the ability to control how the information is used.
  3. Always have room to give something the other person will deem as a perceived benefit. This is why it is so important to sell first and negotiate second. By selling first, you have the opportunity to ask questions and validate the key benefits for which the customer is looking. During the negotiation phase, a customer will attempt to mask the benefits they desire, making it harder to determine exactly what the customer wants. This continues to emphasize the importance of the selling process and to never allow yourself to enter into a negotiation phase until you have sold first and have not been successful at least twice. By going through the selling process first, it will give you the opportunity to uncover the real benefits the customer wants.
  4. Know when to walk away and be confident in doing so. To execute this requires the “walk away point” being shared in advance with others in your company to ensure accountability is in place if and when this tactic has to be used. If you enter into a negotiation without knowing what your walk away point is, you will be destined to give away more than you should in a final negotiation. Sharing with your superior what the walk away point is will give you the confidence you need to do so. If your superior is not in agreement with you as to what the point is, there is little chance you will actually walk away. Instead, you will allow yourself to get “nickel and dimed” into a price lower than you can afford to offer.
  5. Know at least 5 things the other person wants that you can offer. Again, this is why it is so important to sell first and negotiate second. By doing so, it will be possible to know in advance of the negotiation phase what can be offered. Negotiations are lost when one party does not have the ability to leverage things the other party wants. When you don’t know in advance what the other person is looking for, the process becomes nothing more than extortion.
  6. Know at least 5 things you can say that will discount what the other person is offering (price not included). Never negotiate on price. Negotiate using other items, such as technical performance, operational efficiencies, etc. that will provide the leverage needed to avoid a price-oriented discussion. The most successful negotiations are those where you have a balance of information both in terms of what the customer is looking for and in how you can discount things they might try to offer you. Having your responses developed in advance will allow you to be far more confident when you’re negotiating and need to respond quickly. Do not go into a negotiation without first having developed the answers you’re going to provide to questions you may be asked. Likewise, be sure to know what questions you’re going to ask.
  7. Always treat the other person with respect and dignity. Negotiate over things and services, not personal matters. Never allow the negotiation to become personal in nature. This even applies to those situations where a close personal relationship may exist. A quick rule to keep in mind: If the relationship is so good, then why is anything being negotiated anyway? If a negotiation does become personal in nature, do not hesitate to step away and arrange a follow-up time to resume negotiating. By adhering to this you can minimize the potential the negotiation winds up being emotional. Should either you or the other party become emotional at anytime during the negotiation phase, then it is absolutely essential you stop negotiating immediately.
  8. Never enter a negotiating process until both sides are clear on what is being negotiated. At the start of a negotiation session, it is appropriate to state exactly what is up for discussion. By doing this up front, it’s possible to avoid a waste of time and, more importantly, inadvertently negotiate things that don’t need to be discussed. How can you negotiate anything if you don’t know what is being negotiated? Keep in mind a negotiation that is only dealing with price is not a negotiation — it’s a “blank-check” discussion where the only thing that can happen is you lose money. This is another reason why it is so important for us to spend as much time selling the customer before entering into the negotiation phase. By spending as much time as possible attempting to close the sale via the selling process will allow you to identify specifically what the other party is looking for. Never attempt to enter into any negotiation process without first being able to identify with the other party exactly what is being negotiated. Keep in mind the more things you have to negotiate about, the less the process will focus on price.
  9. Use the sell/buy approach first. Only move to a negotiating phase if you are unsuccessful closing the sale first. Minimally, no negotiating should begin until the customer has rejected the close at least twice and the customer has provided you with at least one buying signal. Too many salespeople lose the negotiating event because they failed to sell first. Professional buyers will always attempt to get to the negotiation phase as soon as possible especially if they feel they’re dealing with a weak salesperson.
  10. Never offer up options until after you’re deadlocked on price and the customer has provided you with additional information. This includes providing you with a buying signal and credible benefits as to what the customer desires. As soon as something is offered up to the customer, it becomes very hard to take back and, therefore, you have to be very cautious about putting anything on the table until you know if it is something the customer wants and they’re willing to provide you with other information.
  11. Always put the negotiated outcome in writing immediately. Do not leave issues open for further discussion. The person who puts the outcomes in writing first wins by being able to position things in the manner they want them to be. Putting things into writing first also provides the opportunity to make one final modification with minimal risk. The person who puts the information into writing first is the person who will always have the upper hand. This is particularly true if the negotiation process is going to extend over several meetings. When putting the information into writing, it is acceptable to put the information into writing as you see it. This then becomes your opening position when the negotiation process resumes
  12. Upon reaching an agreement, thank the other party, but do not celebrate! Celebrating the outcome of a negotiation sends the signal to the other party that they have been taken advantage of. Sending this signal will jeopardize the long-term potential of the relationship. View every negotiation as if it is merely another step in the long-term process, which it typically is. Celebrating the completion of a negotiation will always leave the other party feeling you “won.” It will automatically put you at a disadvantage when the next sales or negotiation event begins.

About the author

Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter, is a consultative selling expert committed to helping individuals and companies identify better prospects, close more sales, and profitably build more long-term customer relationships. He is also author of “High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price.”