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Tips to Take to the Bargaining Table: Negotiating Your Next Deal

Negotiations are the mountain rescue missions of business proposals—they’re tricky to pull off and, if done wrong, can lead to an avalanche of disappointment. If one side feels taken advantage of at the negotiating table, you could bury up to its eyeballs any chance of a long-term professional relationship.

When you’re constructing a deal, strive to create win-win solutions, as opposed to win-lose outcomes. Your aim should be providing value for the customer while simultaneously ensuring that they understand the value you’re bringing to their business. When it comes to good, healthy sales practices, here’s something to keep in mind: negotiation isn’t about winning; it’s about creating the best possible deal for everyone at the negotiating table. Put another way, sales negotiations aren’t hostage negotiations. They should proceed on friendly terms and be good for both sides.

Identifying Needs

Understanding is key to deal-making. Once you know what your client wants, you can build value around your proposition and services. If your emphasis is on your client’s interests, you’re doing your job right, and both sides will walk away with the satisfaction of having gotten a good bargain.

Let’s Make a Deal!

To keep it even Steven for you too, think of key value-adds you can offer the client that will not put you at a disadvantage. In other words, what can you offer that won’t cost you much? The more you can put on the table, the more leverage you’ll have when striking a deal. Just be sure to communicate clearly so that your customer understands the value they’re getting.

It’s All in the Eyes

When meeting with your client face-to-face, use your ability to read that person by noting his or her body language. Poker face works great on the phone—more like poker voice—but in person it’s harder to do. One “tell” to look for is this: If the customer does not make eye contact while insisting on something, it’s pretty likely that he or she is making an unreasonable request—and they know it. With diplomacy and tact, you can respectfully disagree with their difficult demand, which will probably disappear from the table in a hurry.

Never-Never Land

  • Never put the ink on a deal until the negotiations wrap up and you’re certain both sides are in agreement. You do not want to find yourself in the position of regretting putting things in writing prematurely—hardly a good deal for you.
  • Never scoot your chair up to the bargaining table before both sides are in clear agreement on what it is you’re going to be negotiating. First focus on the sale, and then enter the negotiation portion.

Ideally, negotiation won’t even come into play: When all things are aligned, your data, along with your record of success, will do the talking for you.