Customers are changing the way they buy. In response, sales teams are beginning to rethink the way they sell.

Unfortunately, the salesperson’s new approach does not always extend to their negotiation skills. This is a problem because even the most modern selling skills are of little value if they are undone in the final stages by outdated negotiation practices.

Organizations are realizing that their salespeople’s negotiation skills are no longer adequate given the new realities of selling. Sales reps need ways to negotiate from a distance in an increasingly remote world. They also need ways to deal with intensified demands and ensure an equitable exchange of value as buyers gain more power.

Negotiating in this setting requires three key skills. Let’s examine the importance of these skills and how training can help.

Negotiating With Effectiveness via Email

Negotiating in person is optimal. However, organizations are learning that their salespeople must be prepared to negotiate via email as the customer’s buying process continues to move to a virtual format.

This presents some significant challenges because email exchanges give customers several advantages. For example, negotiating via email allows the customer to slow down the process, mask their emotions, and use the intervals between emails to research and leverage competing offers.

To train sales teams on how to be effective negotiators, consider these three strategies:

  1. Encourage salespeople to draft responses with consideration for tone, brevity and clarity. It is easy for customers to misread a salesperson’s intent when normal cues like inflection, intonation and cadence are not present.
  2. Train your sales reps to use the time between emails to track customer changes. This allows them to explore the differing perceptions among stakeholders and therefore more effectively advocate for their solution’s relevance in the market.
  3. Encourage salespeople to end each email with a next step to maintain momentum. The next step does not always need to be a request from the salesperson to the customer. A next step can be the rep ending their email by stating that they will follow up with a specific piece of information.

Controlling the Negotiation by Converting Demands to Needs

The customer’s demands represent their underlying needs. Therefore, attempting to meet the customer’s demand not only reduces the value of the sale, but it also leaves the underlying need unaddressed.

The solution is training sales teams to convert the demand to a need. Doing so means asking the kinds of questions that will reveal the true nature of the demand. For example, the customer might demand a lower price. Upon further investigation, the sales rep might discover that the underlying need is not necessarily a lower price but more flexibility in the payment schedule.

By asking the customer to clarify and elaborate on their demand the salesperson can address the need in a way that the customer has not considered. This flexibility is what maintains the scope of the sale. It’s important to remember that each demand is layered, therefore, sales reps must focus on one at a time.

Finally, sales reps must remember that before they ask these questions, they must neutrally acknowledge the customer’s demands. This shows that they are actively listening without being defensive. Remaining silent upon hearing the demand is also an effective way to express disagreement in a respectful manner.

Using a Trading Strategy To Avoid Concessions

Trading is one of the negotiator’s most powerful tools. It is powerful because it guards the negotiator against one of the most common traps in a negotiation: making a concession. A concession occurs when someone relinquishes something and receives nothing in return.

A trade is different from a concession. A trade is an exchange, and it is not unilateral — it is cooperative. Making this approach work requires three steps:

  1. Salespeople must know what to trade. Knowing what to trade means knowing the value of what is being traded. Prior to a negotiation, sales reps need to fully understand the intrinsic and extrinsic value of every aspect of the deal. Without this information, it is not possible to gauge if what is received in return is of equal or greater value.
  2. Salespeople must know when to trade. Trades should be spaced in increments to make their value more perceptible. Additionally, breaking up the trades allows the sales professionals to deliver them in order of decreasing value. This approach signals to the customer that the trades are finite.
  3. Salespeople must know how to communicate the trade. They must use specific and concise language that exudes confidence and clarity. The customer needs to understand what the sales rep is offering and what is expected in return. Without this kind of clarity, the negotiation becomes elongated which can frustrate the customer.

How Training Develops These Skills

Negotiation training for sales professionals helps build these skills in several ways. Negotiation training:

  • Communicates the leadership’s drive to improve the team’s negotiation skills. As a result, sales teams are more likely to commit to improving because they see that doing so is a priority for the sales leaders.
  • Equips salespeople with the specific questions they must ask customers to advance the sale to a profitable end. These questions include:
    • “Where does this request fall in your list of priorities?”
    • “Have your needs changed since our last conversation?”
    • “What are your specific concerns regarding the solution capabilities?”
  • Shows salespeople how to build rapport early and often which builds the trust necessary for an equitable exchange of value.
  • Prepares sales teams to properly and fully account for all stakeholders involved in buying. This ensures that all needs are understood and addressed.
  • Offers a clear structure for the negotiation process which helps salespeople understand how close or far they are from a completed sale and which objectives remain.

Developing a modern approach to negotiating is crucial to winning the sale for three reasons:

  1. Effective negotiation skills mean that the salesperson is more likely to realize the full value of all the work that led up to the negotiation.
  2. These negotiation skills protect the value of the relationship by guiding the deal to a mutually beneficial conclusion. As a result, the customer is more likely to come away from the purchase satisfied and willing to work with the sales rep again.
  3. Having a strategy for the negotiation helps ease the discomfort that can undermine the salesperson’s confidence during a high-stakes conversations.

Strong selling skills get you to the finish line. Effective negotiation skills get you across it.