The word “negotiation” may awaken thoughts of movies with high-stakes hostage standoffs. In fact, the very idea of negotiating anything makes many of us feel uneasy. To be sure, negotiation can be unpleasant, especially when it’s with an angry or dissatisfied customer.
After more than two decades of working with both buyers and sellers in various industries, I’ve heard just about every customer rejection and challenge tale out there. In an effort to help improve your negotiating skills, let’s begin by looking at some common buyer rejections.
Here’s just a sampling of the earfuls I’ve gotten throughout the years:
- “I like your product, but your price is way out of line. We’re used to paying half that much!”
- “(Such and such) company is going to throw in the service contract for nothing. If you can’t match that, you’re not even in the running.”
- “Frankly, I think we’ve worked out a pretty good deal here, but now you’ve got to meet my boss. If you thought I was tough…”
- “Tell you what, if you can drop the price by 50%, I’ll give you the business, not your competitor.”
- “At that price you just quoted me, you’re just wasting my time!”
In truth, I could take up your entire morning just reading quotes I’ve heard myself, or ones I’ve heard secondhand.
Some buyers simply resort to hardball buying tactics even when the salesperson has done a proficient, if not close-to-perfect, job. This can even happen when you know your product or service perfectly meets the buyer’s needs, and they know it too! They use this approach as an overall buying method because they feel it ensures them the best possible deal. Ironically, in most instances, that isn’t the case at all.
Look, the plain and simple fact is that you’ve probably invested a lot of time prospecting and earning a customer’s goodwill and trust. At some point during the whole messy process, you’re bound to hit a wall, and negotiation will be your only way over it.
An honorable negotiation follows a strategy designed to move both parties away from polarized positions into the realm of what I’ll call mutual self-interest. It’s all about how both parties can get their own needs met while keeping the relationship with the other party in tact and thriving.
If you take the time to learn the art of negotiation ― and make no mistake, it is an art ― you will know how to proceed so that neither party feels slighted when all is said and done. Neither of you will feel as if you have been taken advantage of or manipulated. After all, no one likes to feel any of those things, do they? And everyone loves to feel like they got a great deal, right? Right!
The most important element of effective negotiation is preparation, preparation, preparation and then some more preparation. I recommend one exercise in particular that has worked wonders for me over the years.
Dedicate the time needed to write down every rejection statement, tough sales-buyer question and hurdle you’ve ever faced when you’ve tried to sell something. Then draft a letter that includes an objective statement of the facts, explaining how each wrong assertion or assumption is incorrect. Be sure this letter states your desired end goal – to close the sale.
This exercise will help you build a significant amount of pre-scripted internal dialogue that will help you be better prepared for any conflict you face in the future.
Success in any business opportunity and franchise sector, or any other for that matter, depends on your top-notch, long-term customer relations skills. You and your salespeople need to avoid win-lose situations and focus on how you can make every exchange a win-win from the outset. Being forced into a customer-driven, win-lose deal can bring down the overall profitability of your business very quickly, and backing out of a bad deal can end up costing you future deals. Neither one of these options is preferable.
So how do you protect your own interests, close the sale and preserve a valuable relationship when your customer is all but throwing you to the lions?
My advice is to start by following these keys:
- Never say yes to a deal that is good for you as a commissioned salesperson, while bad for the company you represent. This move could actually end up costing you more in the long-run than you stand to gain on the front end.
- Slow down and listen intently to what your client is saying; try to put yourself in their shoes.
- Sit down! If you are working with someone in person, find a place where you can sit down face-to-face. This will facilitate breaking the initial tension and establish common ground. Try leading with a harmless, non-threatening ice breaker (such as how the Cubs are doing this season). This can go a long way toward calming everyone’s nerves before dealing with the negotiation at hand.
- Be Brief! In the words of Bobby Covic, author of Everything’s Negotiable!, “There’s a saying among negotiators that whoever talks the most during a negotiation loses.” Don’t be that person! Take time to listen, and draw on the power of “less is more.”
Finally, remember that sellers (in this case, you and/or your sales team) must be allowed to say “No” when making the sale if the deal is not financially or otherwise prudent. All too many salespeople, especially those with less experience, will say yes to a customer’s demands when the answer should be “No”. It’s a move that can cost their employer big bucks in the long run.
Learn the art of negotiation sooner rather than later. You won’t regret it!
Carpe Diem My Friends!