We are at the end of one year and soon, the start of another. A great time to reflect on what we have accomplished, and more important, what we can do to make the next year even better, especially when it comes to revenue and profitability. And if any part of your job involves sales or business negotiations, what better time to reflect upon how a few changes can make a big difference in your business success in the coming year. It’s an area where a small (but strategic) investment can pay big dividends.

Here are seven negotiation resolutions that will serve you and your organization well in the coming year:

  1. Resolve to never make unprincipled concessions. This is perhaps the most important thing we teach our clients. When a seller makes a concession that appears only to get a faster deal, the customer wonders if there’s more to be had. This diminishes the perceived value of your offering, and reduces your credibility. We encourage a strategy that uses only principled concessions (rather than arbitrary ones) made for credible business reasons that are clear to the other side.
  2. Resolve to uncover the key challenges of your prospect early in the process. Don’t be a solution hunting for a problem. If the customer doesn’t know they have a problem, there will be no urgency to solve it.
  3. Resolve to clearly and succinctly articulate the value of your offering in a manner that resonates with the buyer’s needs. This means less emphasis on the canned sales pitch you were taught and more about focus on what you learned about the prospect during pre-call research and subsequent engagements.
  4. Resolve to always quantify the business benefit that your solution provides, using actual customer data. When possible, jointly develop the model for business value with your prospect in a way that directly addresses their key challenges. Gain agreement on the benefits before proceeding with next steps.
  5. Resolve to make it easier for your customers to buy. This starts with knowledge about your customer’s buying process (not your selling process). You then help them navigate this process in a smooth and pleasurable manner. Three great questions to get you started:
    1. What is the process you will need to go through to make a decision?
    2. How long does it normally take?
    3. What criteria will be used to make the decision?
  6. Resolve to stop rushing to speed up the sales process: Whether because of quota/target pressures or because of management expectations, we attempt to speed up the process and ”force” closure. This tendency feels forced to the prospect who soon realizes that you care more about the commission than meeting his or her needs. You lose (hard-to-recover) credibility, deals are lost and sales cycles are lengthened.
  7. Resolve to keep your cool, even in the middle of tense negotiations. As I discussed in a recent article, there are many times professionals lose otherwise quality deals because the seller, the buyer or both, can’t keep their calm when the discussion becomes tense. Realize that any worthy negotiator on the other side—although we like to refer to them as “business partners” or “customers”—will attempt to recognize and understand your strengths and weaknesses early in a negotiation. From that point on, they will try to take advantage of your weaknesses and get around your strengths.

Don’t be like the person who said that the only New Year’s resolution they ever kept was to quit making resolutions! Set, and keep, these seven negotiation resolutions, and you will find yourself with shorter sales cycles, less competitive pressure and higher margins. Most important, your year will be full of more revenue and profits.