Sales negotiations can make or break business results, so it is imperative that the negotiation skills of your sales team are up to scratch. This requires sales leaders to take the right steps to provide salespeople with the knowledge and behaviors that have been shown to positively influence win rates.
In this article, we take a closer look at some tips and strategies that can be used to inform negotiation skills training, as well as talent management training, with a view towards improving the quality of sales conversations.
1. Prioritise Listening
When negotiating, the temptation is often to try and talk the customer or client into agreement, but in truth, listening can be a more important skill to work on through your employee training programs. When salespeople listen, they can understand where the customer is coming from and adapt their pitch based on this. In addition, taking the time to really listen to what the other person has to say can provide salespeople with the chance to identify further sales opportunities, including up-selling or cross-selling opportunities, or the opportunity to gain a referral to another prospective customer.
Equally importantly, because many salespeople are not especially good at listening, those that are, stand out for all the right reasons, resulting in an improved customer experience, which can lead to long-term loyalty.
"Take full advantage of listening. Salespeople have two ears and one mouth for a reason," says Sherrie Campbell, a psychologist and author, writing for Entrepreneur.com. "Taking the time to listen can set the sales professional apart from competitors who push too hard."
2. Avoid Too Many Discounts
Offering customers a discount can be an effective way to guarantee a sale, but it should not be relied upon too heavily. After all, businesses work hard to create a pricing strategy and discounting can throw this off course, ultimately impacting upon financial results. For this reason, it is important to sell value away from discounts.
In fact, the CSO Insights 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Report cites selling value to avoid unnecessary discounting as one of the 12 practices that have the biggest impact on sales performance. At present, only 24 percent of all organizations believe they are effective at this, compared to 75 percent of world-class organizations, highlighting the effect that this can have on the overall success of a business.
Negotiation skills training should teach reps to tailor solutions based on the buyer's specific needs. This ties in with point one of this article, because understanding those needs requires listening skills. Discounts can be useful, but only when the rep is gaining comparative value from the deal that is agreed.
"Giving away too many (or too big) discounts will invariably hurt your company’s bottom line," says Joe Caprio, in an article written for InsightSquared. "Things you could ask for in return after agreeing to the deal include a referral to another likely customer, signing earlier to make the end of the quarter, or agreeing to be used in a case study."
3. Aim to Achieve Win/Win Outcomes
Finally, it is important that sales reps do not fall into the trap of seeing negotiations as a competition, which can lead to them treating clients or customers more like adversaries than partners. To ensure this is the case, your employee training programs should place a strong emphasis on the importance of seeking win/win outcomes. What this means, in simple terms, is that negotiators need to try and establish common ground and find a deal that is mutually beneficial for both the selling business and the buyer. With this as the objective, negotiating becomes less about trying to win a competition and more about finding the best outcome for everyone involved.
Another major advantage of this approach is that it ensures the buyer also views the negotiation process in a more positive way, which will make them more open to compromise. When a salesperson is not interested in win/win outcomes, customers become less receptive and more likely to walk away from the deal entirely.
"Work with your counterpart. Not against them," says Justin Bariso, author of EQ Applied: The Real-World Guide to Emotional Intelligence, writing for Inc.com. "Good negotiators realize that striving for win/win outcomes produces the best results. In negotiations, the more the other person likes you, the more flexible he or she will be."
The Final Word
The negotiation skills of your sales reps can have a dramatic impact on the overall success of your business. For this reason, your talent management training and employee development efforts should be geared towards improving these skills and sufficiently arming salespeople for the challenges they will face during sales conversations.
In particular, it is important that sales negotiators are taught how to listen, that they understand the importance of selling value away from simple discounting, and that they go into negotiations looking for mutually beneficial outcomes. When this occurs, buyers are much more likely to do business and remain loyal for the long term.
Monika Götzmann is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global business sales training and customer experience company, helping organizations develop effective customer services skills programs. Culturally savvy, she has years of international experience in B2B marketing on behalf of dynamic, world-class enterprises. She likes to share her experience to help organizations.