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Negotiating to what?


A client recently asked me for ideas on negotiating to win. My thoughts turned to this clients natural style and the strengths & also challenges that this would bring her in a negotiating situation. The client is a ‘high I’ in DISC terms and if you’ve been on our  ’communication in style’ programme you will know that high I’s tend to influence through charm, charisma and persuasion. But I’s don’t tend to do detail and I thought “how do I talk to her about one of the keys to negotiation?


I like to tell stories and share real examples so I was going to tell her about another client of mine and her recent success in contract negotiation. That client is a D/C in DISC terms and her high drive is coupled with a high need to get things right. So she is really big on preparation, putting a lot of time in to it to make sure she has all the facts, knows all the data and really understands the levers to pull (and when I say all I do mean all). She had to go in to a negotiation with a client who had been a little difficult the year before (a combination of sexism, power games and some rudeness thrown in; I am sure you’ve met the type). This year she dealt with all that by knowing exactly what she wanted from the negotiation and what she wasn’t prepared to negotiate on. She fully analysed the contract, the clients needs and past requirements and had all the facts and data at her fingertips. Needless to say, she got everything she wanted and there was no room for any games because of all her prep.


But before I launched in to this tale, I realised that my client had used words that you don’t seem to hear so often any more; “Negotiate to win”. Over the last decade or so we have got used to the concept of “win-win” so much that I wonder if it affects how sales people think before they go in to a sale. Do we bother too much about ensuring that the customer wins that we sometimes dilute our win?


Let me say now that I am a firm believer that if you want a long term relationship with a customer you cant have a win-lose or win at all costs mindset. The term relationship implies mutuality and you cant have that if anyone loses. So if your market is relationship based then win-win is a necessity. But does this mean you have to go in to sale to give the customer a win? How do you know what a win is for your client before you go in to the negotiation? If this is your first meet or you’ve not exchanged much information beforehand or spent a lot of non negotiating time with client to get to know what drives them, then you wont know until you get there. If you are in a wholesale commodity market and volume is king then you are unlikely to have all that information to hand (unless the previous sales-person kept notes!)


So if you cant know what the client wants as a win, then there is only one side of the equation that you will know and that’s yours.


So do you spend time being sure of what a win means for you and your business? After all not all sales are good sales! Are you a margin driven or volume driven business? Where are your breakpoints and advantages in your supply chain? Do you reward your sales people the right way to match the levers in the business? Do you give them enough slack to conduct a negotiation the way your customers will be looking for?


So we come back round to where I started. To good old fashioned prep. Do you know what you want from the sale? What would constitute a win for you? What do you have to negotiate with? Know your facts! and then the bits that I think really give the sales-person their advantage. Do you know yourself? Your style; your good and bad behaviours and your motivation? so that you can manage yourself in the sale.


Maybe I should give my ‘High I’ client a call and tell her that story after all!


p.s I look forward to comments from my sales focused clients. What would you add to these thoughts? Lets grow this topic!

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