Negotiation Tips for Salespeople

Table of Contents

by Andrew Milbourn, CEO of Kiss The Fish

People often confuse SELLING with NEGOTIATION and it’s very important that salespeople understand the priority should always be to ‘sell’ rather than ‘trade’ or negotiate to get a deal. I define the two as follows:

Selling is one party moving (the buyer) and features a process of creating DESIRE for whatever is being sold/presented.

Negotiation is both parties moving (the buyer and the seller) due to an imbalance of power typically caused by an inability of the seller to differentiate their product.

Sellers quite often find themselves in a position where the buyer makes it clear they will only agree to a deal if the price is lower and so the process of negotiation begins.

Here are some sure-fire tips for sellers who find themselves all too often in this position.

  • Always prepare for a meeting by mapping out a Top, Middle, and Bottom outcome. A good salesperson won’t worry about starting with a price that the buyer may not like or even get cross about. Having a good list of options is important or the seller is going to be left with only one to trade –their price. You’ll need to think through all the possible variables and how important they might be. Once you’ve done this for your own business you should think about what this might look like from the other side.
  • Never ASSUME. You will have worked out what is going to be important in your prep but you should always test every assumption with a question. This will give you power and help you frame what happens next.
  • Plan for an argument. The inexperienced may reject this notion and falsely believe that they have ‘orderly discussions’ but that misses the point of negotiation. It is about an imbalance of power and it is vital that you understand that in order to have any power at all, you are going to have to test that imbalance of power. When people argue they show that they care about something (or want something badly) and it is this that gives a seller power. Arguments shouldn’t be emotional and if they are then you will have weakened your position.
  • Be hard on the principal but soft on the person. This will ensure you keep hold of some power in an argument. In business discussions, people argue because they feel strongly about something and that is important to understand.
  • You move arguments by proposing something. If you just try and score points without thinking, then you’ve probably lost. A clever salesperson recognizes when an argument has become entrenched or positional and knows that it is easily shifted from that point by a proposal. It is why thorough preparation is so important (see the first tip above).
  • Hold back from your first proposal until you are aware of what the buyer really wants and how badly they want it. When you come to propose, start with a shock and move slowly down toward where you need to be. Never worry about overpricing something. It is far better than under-pricing and if it leads to an argument or even threats from the other side, don’t worry, you can always come down but you can’t go back up (in price quoting).
  • Trade using low-value items from your prep list first. If you only have big-ticket options (price or volume) then you’ll quickly lose the negotiation. Remember that negotiation means you have to give something so plan for low-value items first – you never know but something that doesn’t cost you much might be highly valued by the other side.
  • Value your concessions in the other parties’ terms (not your own). For example, you may be able to give next-day delivery without it being a high cost to your business. On the other side, this might be a lifesaver and something that everyone else is charging for. So you can put a monetary value on it that the other side will appreciate and even if you trade it away for nothing, they will feel like you have given them something hugely valuable (because you have on their terms).
  • Move slowly – not in big leaps. Even though you may feel you are close to a deal and you know what price/package the buyer is after, you must resist the urge to move in big jumps. It makes you weak and will communicate you are an easy touch.
  • Remember to be prepared to act surprised or annoyed if necessary to see how the other party reacts. Information is power and emotional reactions create an impact that may lead to someone revealing more than they intended.
  • Don’t throw out ‘freebies’. Only give something conditionally on the basis that you are going to get something. Use the word “IF” throughout the trade. “so IF you want a lower price, I am going to have to ask for double the volume”. Give to Get – don’t just give and expect the deal to be done.
  • When you feel that a deal is possible, try using small concessions to get it over the line. If you’ve listened in the arguments as they’ve happened, you will have picked up what is important and what little things may secure a ‘feel good’ for both parties.
  • Don’t allow the buyer to negotiate on single points. Make sure all their demands are on the table before you start moving or putting a package together. Otherwise, you will fall foul of the “Oh and I want another thing” when you’ve just traded down to your lowest price.
  • Understand the cost of failure. It hurts both parties when deals don’t happen.
  • Always try and make the other side feel good when the deal is done. Don’t point score or rub their nose in it just because you have the highest price or the best product. People will remember you and when the tables are turned, they will punish you for it.
  • Question their “NO”. When someone stone-walls you by saying “NO” when you ask for something, follow up their ‘no’ with ‘What can you do then?” or “What will you give me?”. You’ll be surprised how often this moves people.
  • Finally, have fun with Negotiation! See it as a game and don’t take it personally.

If you or any of your team would benefit from Negotiation Training, get in touch, and let’s have a chat. My email is and my personal mobile number is 07880 558000. I would be delighted to hear from you.

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