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Tim Riesterer

Corporate Visions

Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer

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Embracing the Tension in Negotiations

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One of the most common misconceptions about negotiating is that it happens only at the end of the sales cycle. In reality, negotiating takes place throughout the buying process, not just when the deal moves to purchasing and they begin demanding a lower price.

From your first engagement with a buyer to your last, all your sales dialogues are defined by a significant gap between what you want and what your customer wants. This gap creates natural tension. And why wouldn’t it? If you and your customer wanted the exact same thing at the exact same price, sales conversations would be fast, easy and friction-free.

But that’s just never how negotiations work. This is why salespeople need to be prepared to embrace this natural tension that occurs between buyers and sellers to capture and protect the value of your deals. Expert negotiators know there are specific skills and techniques that enable sellers to thrive as the tension rises and to even use that tension to their advantage.

To become a world-class negotiator, sellers need to master some counterintuitive skills and concepts to make sure they’re protecting their margins and closing profitable deals. Here are just some of them:

Consider the “Conversation Before the Conversation” – Like the most successful athletes or performance artists, great negotiators come to the arena mentally prepared to succeed. One way they do this is by conducting a productive inner dialogue with themselves before ever stepping into the room with a customer. This pre-conversation dialogue can go one of two ways: Salespeople will run through every possible excuse to cave to a prospect’s push for lower price points and steeper discounts; or they will respond to a customer’s possible objections from a place of power and confidence, knowing that justifying a higher price to a prospect doesn’t have to come at the cost of alienating them.

Visualising the latter scenario, where it’s your message—not your customer’s objections—that dictates the direction of the conversation, allows you to overcome the common fear that you’ll succeed only if you give buyers everything they’re asking for. 

Don’t Give Value Away; Exchange It – The focus on traditional negotiating skills, so often predicated on “late-game saves,” is no longer viable given the complexity of modern business-to-business selling. What matters now is the ability to take advantage of critical moments that arise throughout the sales cycle – moments that can change the trajectory of your deals and raise a prospect’s perception of your power.

This is where the idea of pivotal agreements comes in. These are essentially milestones that take place throughout the sales cycle which you can use to gain leverage and maximise the value of your deals. Pivotal agreements, unlike contract negotiations, often occur in the early stages of a deal, and might include techniques such as identifying key decision makers and incorporating them into the life cycle of your deal; getting access to important qualifying data to help you uncover the full breadth of an opportunity; deferring price discussions until you’ve built up sufficient internal sponsorship; or earning commitment to a pilot project that can lead to organisation-wide deployment of your solution.

Set High Price Targets – You’ll give yourself the best chance at winning profitable deals if you anchor a high price target early in your conversations, when you have the most control over the customer’s perception of your value. Anchoring a high target allows you to influence buyer perceptions of what is reasonable, while helping you lay a foundation for the resistance you’re bound to face later when trying to execute pivotal agreements or negotiate a higher price point. Try to set your anchor before your buyer gets a chance to. Doing so helps you expand the range of reason, and take a preemptive strike against your customer’s attempts to establish their own pricing anchors.

Thriving in what I call the “Maximisation” conversation comes down to keeping tension at an optimal level to protect your margins and expand deal size. Managing tension is a balancing act: Too much tension means you could be putting your selling relationship at risk; too little means you’re likely conceding too much value. If you can strike the right balance, you’ll be able to close the types of robust deals that help you reach or exceed your revenue targets.

Author Profile Picture
Tim Riesterer

Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer

Read more from Tim Riesterer
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