The art of negotiation has always played a crucial role in achieving success in B2B sales. In today’s business landscape, the pressure to continuously enhance profitability has made effective negotiation skills more essential than ever. Customers, driven by the pursuit of better pricing, constantly seek ways to improve their profits, putting suppliers under universal pressure to meet their demands.
Furthermore, the digital age has empowered customers with unprecedented access to information, equipping them with the knowledge and tools to become shrewd negotiators.
However, there are additional challenges that complicate the negotiation process. Many sales professionals believe buyers prioritize better pricing above all else, often overlooking the importance of discussing the quality of products or services until after the negotiation is complete – and only if customer expectations are not met.
To improve the outcomes of your team’s negotiations, it is crucial to consider two key areas: the foundational negotiation skills of your sales team and, as a leader, your involvement in the process. As negotiations become more challenging, sales professionals often turn to their leaders, hoping their involvement will lead to superior outcomes.
As a sales leader, it is vital to engage strategically, providing support that not only benefits the immediate deal and the ongoing customer relationship but also fosters the long-term development of your sales professionals. By understanding the importance of your role in negotiations, you can elevate your team’s effectiveness and drive sustainable success.
Consider these 6 strategies for cultivating successful negotiations through leadership excellence:
- Take a strategic approach.
Effective negotiation practices stem from a strategic philosophy and plan encompassing pricing structure, growth objectives, profitability objectives, and competitive considerations. It is crucial to align a salesperson’s pay or commission structure with the company’s goals in terms of growth, profitability, and competitive balance. Failure to do so can result in a flawed negotiation strategy. As a leader, it is essential to ensure that sales policy and compensation are in line with the strategic goals of the organization.
- Begin with the right mindset.
Negotiation is not about winning or losing; it is about finding solutions that meet the highest priority needs of all parties involved. Before embarking on negotiation skill development, be sure you have instilled throughout your sales team an appreciation for the impact of effective negotiations, as well as an understanding of your organization’s philosophy and objectives relative to negotiations.
- Set the stage.
Negotiation is a fundamental skill set for every sales professional and one which is at work throughout the entire sales process. As a sales leader, you are most helpful in assisting your sales professionals in managing and developing relationships so that they will be most favorably positioned when negotiable situations arise and it is time to “get down to business.” Remember, negotiations are not always price related.
- Strike a balance between empowering and supporting your team.
A key to cultivating effective negotiation skills is to empower your sales team…with reasonable authority to make offers and accept terms but also to reach out when unanticipated issues come up. As a matter of good practice, you should have periodic conversations with your sales team about their position with each customer, particularly if the team member is a relatively inexperienced negotiator.
On the other hand, we must avoid creating the impression, with sales team members or their customers, that sales professionals have to check everything with their sales leader. This dynamic frustrates customers in the same way we are frustrated when working with someone not empowered to make decisions.
- Help your sales team identify thresholds.
A related strategy is to be sure your sales professionals always know their “walk away”– that threshold point at which they will leave the negotiation. They should be aware of this threshold for every account and every negotiation but focus their energy on their goals/objectives.
As a sales leader, you should also work with sales professionals to understand the BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) for themselves, their customer counterpart, and their competitor(s).
- Create a negotiations plan together.
Before any negotiation, you should work with your sales professionals to identify and prioritize their needs and objectives, including the benefits they envision for customers. This thought process will better prepare sales team members to align their goals with customers’ goals and provide context when negotiations begin, and the customer articulates demands.
Leaders must forge the way for effective negotiations across the sales team by:
- Providing insight as to pricing and other strategic considerations that impact negotiations
- Modeling excellence in negotiation practices
- Coaching sales team members as needed to prepare for and, later, facilitate their negotiation success in the moment
The other key consideration in fostering successful sales negotiation is the skill level of your sales team. It is impossible to pursue effective negotiation skills without having in place strong foundational selling skills. In the Carew Pathway to Negotiations™ sales training program, participants learn how to confidently communicate value, eliminate profit-draining concessions, improve margins, and increase deal size. They examine the structure of successful negotiations, discover powerful negotiation strategies and tactics, and build the competence and confidence to handle challenging situations with effective diplomacy.
You can view and download the program overview HERE.