The biggest negotiation mistakes can be easily avoided if you know what to look out for. Here I share the
7 most common negotiation mistakes made by sales people
and what you can do to avoid them.
Failing to build value earlier in the sales process
When you arrive at the negotiation stage of the sales process, you should have already built and clearly articulated the value your solution brings. When I meet sales leaders who tell me that their sales people struggle with negotiation, 9 times out of 10, the problem turns out to be that the sales people are just not creating and/or communicating the value earlier in the process and therefore, have given themselves nothing to negotiate with. In fact, a study by the RAIN Group, found that only 16% of organisations are good at building value for their customers. There are several reasons why sales people fall into this trap. Sometimes it can be because the value is so glaringly obvious to the sales person, that they assume their buyer will see this too and so don’t take the time to detail it. Secondly, the problem can arise from the sales person failing to ask questions and gain clarification earlier on, meaning they are unaware of the full picture and therefore unaware of the full extent of value that their solution can bring. The sales person may also be unsure how best to capture and demonstrate the value a solution brings, if this is the case, I would recommend using a value waterfall.
Assuming you have to discount at all
A few years ago, I was out observing one of our client’s sales people on a customer visit. Once the price had been shared with the customer, the customer’s instant response was to ask for a discount, which the sales person gave freely. After the meeting had finished, I asked the customer what they would have done if the sales person had said that they were unable to offer a discount and she replied that she would have bought the product anyway, because it was a great product and was exactly what they were looking for. Now, I’m not saying that you should never discount, but that you might not always need to, if you have built in and demonstrated the value your solution brings, the customer may well be happy to pay the full price for that and is only asking for a discount as a matter of course.
Assuming the buyer has all of the power
If you make the mistake of assuming the buyer has all of the power when it comes to negotiating, you’ll always end up giving too much away and losing precious margin. Remind yourself that you have a product/service that the customer wants and that it has a value. Sales people frequently give way too easily because they fear the customer has all of the power, this is only the case if the sales person has failed to create and communicate the value their solution brings. If you didn’t have something your buyer wants, you wouldn’t be in the position of negotiating in the first place. Imagine you’re negotiating with someone to sell your most prized possession, you would want to get what you felt was the best price for it.
A power imbalance might also occur when the sales person is intimidated by the status or position of their buyer. As above, it’s critical for the sales person to remember that they have something the buyer want and this, in turn, gives power to the sales person.
Relying on the competitive advantage
In sales, it is never possible to rest on your laurels and rely on any advantage you think you may have over your competitors. You may well work for the market leader, you may know your product/solution outstrips the competitors on every level, you may even know your price is the lowest but if you don’t demonstrate to your customer that your solution brings greater value than any other, you won’t win the deal, even if you are the best option!
Focusing on price alone
If you cannot move your customer away from the cost conversation by reiterating the value your solution brings then, rather than discounting, consider what other options you have – can you provide technical support, software, additional services for a cost less than that lost to a discount? From the customer’s perspective, by doing this, you’re also adding greater value to their solution. This leads nicely into the next common mistake….
Giving without getting anything in return
If you are going to give something away, whether it be through discounting, or by offering additional product/solution/support, ensure you are getting something in return. Giving without getting anything back only serves to devalue your solution. Think about what your customer could offer you – perhaps an extension on a contract period, a commitment to future orders, or perhaps even an agreement to build a case study around your work together. When it comes to particularly large or important deals, sales people can have a tendency to skip this stage in order to secure the close as quickly as possible. Highly skilled negotiators hold their nerve, recognise the value in their solution and seek out reciprocation.
Focusing on win, instead of win-win
Sometimes sales people are so focused on the win, they forget that the aim is actually win-win. Both parties should come away from the deal feeling like they’ve won. Negotiation is about collaboration; working together to find a solution that provides value for the sales person and the customer.
The key to negotiation is preparation. That preparation starts early in the sales process, using questions to determine all of the facts, to seek clarification and to uncover additional areas of potential value. This is also the point at which you should deal with possible objections. Many sales people leave objection handling to the negotiation stage but, if you do this, those objections will not only batter away at your margin but, coming so late in the sales process, give you no real time to respond. If you anticipate and tackle objections earlier in the sales process, it will put you in a much stronger and more confident position when you reach negotiation.
Sales people must also prepare for the negotiation itself – taking on board the learning from the common negotiation mistakes outlined above, sales people should know what their walk away point is, consider what options they can offer aside from discounting and think about what they might want from the customer in return.
If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you and your sales people accelerate their negotiation skills, take a look at our Negotiation Skills Training or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01778 382733.