Often, successful sales negotiations rest on preparation. How do you go from hard work to successful outcomes? What’s the actual process? It’s preparation.
Preparation means always gathering information to gain an understanding of the motivations and objectives of the other side as well as our own. Without this understanding, we’re merely guessing at the terms (the requirements) that might satisfy the other side. How can you solve the other side’s problems if you don’t know what they are?
Good preparation also gives you confidence. If you go into a conference, speech or business meeting fully prepared, you exude confidence. The people in that room perceive that confidence and react the same way – they have confidence in you, your product and your expertise.
Without adequate preparation you’ll lack the knowledge you need to show that confidence. And without confidence, it’s difficult to be believable, to have credibility.
More importantly, knowledge allows you to prepare convincing arguments – to address issues the other side might raise during the negotiation process. This leads not just to credibility, but also to persuasion.
Consider these two negotiation examples:
Negotiation Scenario 1
Don Levine gets a call from his manager, Wilma Wilson. Wilma needs Don to step into a deal with a customer he has not dealt with in years.
Why the sudden call? The current sales rep has been reassigned to Alaska. Don is a pro, one of the top sales executives in the company, but he needs three weeks to prepare for this specific assignment. After all, it’s a very important negotiation and it’s been some time since he’s dealt with this account.
Unfortunately, Wilma gives Don two days to get it together, because she’s already set up the call with the customer.
Don springs into action. First, he calls the former sales rep, but the rep has already left for Alaska to manage a new account. Undeterred, Don quickly calls other colleagues who have dealt with the company. However, he still can’t piece together everything he needs. His knowledge isn’t complete. He knows he’s not prepared, but he’s done the best he can do in two days.
At the meeting, Don feels a lack of confidence. He answers questions with hesitation, hemming and hawing. It comes through that he’s not as prepared as he could – or should – be. For most people, a lack of confidence comes through to the other side.
If Don doesn’t seem confident, how is the customer going to feel confident? What do you think the customer concludes? “Let’s show Don the door. Cross him off the list now and forever.”
Negotiation Scenario 2
Sandy Desmond and Pat Smith get a call from a client. They set up a presentation and they’re fully prepared – they’ve got the facts. They’ve got the figures, they’ve got the charts, graphs, presentation slides and samples. They’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s.
Because they’ve prepared thoroughly, they exude confidence at the meeting. They’ve studied the history of the account, they know the value of their solution to the client’s business, and are prepared for a wide range of questions. Furthermore, they’ve invested considerable time beforehand in examining the motivations of the team across the table. This, in turn, wins the client’s confidence – and the sale.
Nobody wants to be the player in that first scenario, but it’s far more common: Many negotiations are over before they even begin because a negotiator couldn’t, or didn’t, prepare. This means turning over every rock, examining the client and their needs thoroughly, and giving yourself a chance to build the leverage and confidence that only preparation delivers.
Read more: Negotiation Examples: Knowing How the Other Team Approves a Deal