The thought for this post originated from my recent interview by Paul Watts of Sales Reinvented. Paul asked great questions about how sales reps can improve their negotiations with prospects and customers. This was a very timely topic given the recent changes, in the way sales reps communicate with their prospects and customers. You can listen to the entire podcast here.

Why do so many salespeople and managers struggle with negotiation issues? The primary reason is that negotiation is often viewed as an adversarial process by parties on each side trying to get the upper hand. Most sales professionals want to be liked by their customers. They want to please them. However, to some, negotiations feel like they’re putting that relationship on shaky ground.

To address this issue, sales professionals should view a negotiation as a process to achieve a result versus giving it a negative or adversarial connotation. This shift in mindset alone can change the process for the better and help you become more successful.

I also see many salespeople who don’t know when to walk away. Understandably, they are so focused on being liked or on their quota achievement that they get frustrated when the deal stalls. They often make unreasonable and unprincipled offers and concessions, which detracts from their credibility and diminishes the perception of value their solutions provide. These individuals have to learn that pausing, asking questions or even walking away when necessary actually facilitates respect.

To overcome trepidation to engage in this give and take process, I teach our clients to focus their sales negotiations around what we have termed the leverage cycle. This cycle is about creating value-based leverage that is aimed at delivering a favorable outcome to customers while achieving positive results for yourself. Value-based leverage creates confidence in the seller that they can deliver positive business impact for the buyer. If you don’t have this confidence, why are you engaged with that customer?

Attributes of a Successful Sales Negotiator

Every rep and sales manager has a set of natural traits they need to understand. To gain confidence, you must first recognize those traits, play to your strengths and minimize or improve upon your weaknesses. There are some things that can be learned, and focusing on the following five traits can definitely propel your success:

  1. Genuine Curiosity: Genuine curiosity is absolutely critical. Great sales people are inquisitive. What is my customer’s business all about? What do they value and why? Who are their customers and what value does my customer deliver for them? What do they need out of this relationship? The answers will help you tie your solution to the outcome the client seeks. That creates the value-based leverage mentioned above and results in confidence.
  2. Confidence without arrogance: A prospect wants to feel that you are confident in your team and solution. When that confidence is fact-based, your customer will also gain confidence, especially if you maintain a humble approach. Your customer will be much more receptive if you say “would you like to see….” versus, “let me show you…”
  3. Competence: You need to know your solution, have a reputation that indicates capability to implement it and understand how it applies to your customer’s environment. This goes back to facts in having done it before. In fact, without competence, your confidence automatically turns into arrogance.
  4. Integrity: Salespeople are often perceived as overpromising and underdelivering. This results in a poor reputation for integrity. If the customer questions your integrity, they will stop listening, which is why this attribute is so important.
  5. Compassion: You need a level of compassion for the people you’re negotiating with, which can often be demonstrated by genuine curiosity. The old saying “put yourself in their shoes,” applies here. By the way, a great sales person also enables the customer to put themselves in his/her shoes. That bi-lateral ability can be a foundation for lasting relationships.

This set of qualitative characteristics can be more important than domain knowledge. If your sales professionals embrace and apply these attributes they will be one step closer to success and consistently meet or exceed their targets.

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