Successful Negotiation Skills in Sales Teams Today

One successful negotiation skill to be practiced and used today is that of ‘elaboration’.  When a client or prospect is in negotiation with you, any hurdle or challenge should be explored by ‘elaboration’.  Ask more questions of the client and get deeper into their issue or problem.  Get them to talk.

Ask or drill down on 3 or 4 levels of questions on any negotiation problem.  Seek to know more about the client before you want them to consider your points of negotiation or the transaction.  It’s a strategy that is well worth practice and refinement.

From this approach there is a special result that is quite common known as the ‘Freudian Slip’.  By asking questions you are encouraging the client to talk about their perspective; soon you will see them open up on the potential for agreement and the ultimate outcome that they seek in final satisfaction.  You then know what you can negotiate on and the way to do it.  You have something to work with.

So what can you do in this process of ‘elaboration’?  Try some of these:

  1. Get more facts about the client as they see the potential transaction, sale, or deal.  Facts can be explored further.  Ask the client to tell you more.
  2. Ask the client for opinions about the situation of the deal and how it could match their situation.
  3. Get the client to talk about their targets and help them compare those targets to the market conditions and the supply of goods or services from their perspective.
  4. Questions can be directed towards ‘minor closes’.  In that way you take the client closer to the main negotiation result.  Any major negotiation is a series of small agreements in a logical order.  Structure your pitch or presentation accordingly.
  5. Some clients get lost in the complexity of a transaction, sale, or negotiation; perhaps the market conditions are new to them.  Make things simple.  Identify if there is any lack of understanding on the clients part that could have an impact on your ultimate outcome.  You will soon know if they really do not understand the reality of your produce and service supply.

Simple skills like this can help you with the negotiation techniques and strategies that directly suit the product or service that you are offering.  I go back to the main point here.  Get the facts from the client and then drill down deeper.

Look Forward and Backward in Sales Opportunity

When it comes to understanding your sales activity and opportunity you can learn a lot from looking back in sales history and forward in market potential.  That then gives you the fuller picture of activity in your industry.

Let’s face facts; things do change.  Your clients will have pressures, the economy will be fluctuating and the margins on your sales activity will vary.  If prices can’t change, your margins are likely to.  Constant tracking is required to stay ahead of the wave of sales and client opportunity.

Here are some tips to help you gather all the facts from the market:

  1. Define any problems that your clients could be suffering.  Common problems are opportunities in disguise.
  2. Look into problem specific data to see what the impact may be on sales currently.  A problem in any industry or market is likely to be the result of a number of things.
  3. Survey your clients to see and understand their industry and hurdles that they are struggling with.
  4. Identify what your competitors may be doing currently with their market share and their top clients.
  5. Find out what fellow salespeople may be experiencing with their clients and sales or orders.
  6. Understand any economic pressures that may be applying from the global and regional economy.
  7. Review the government pressures and legislation that may have relevance to your clients and their margins or operating standards.
  8. Are there any changes to consumer sentiment and if so how will that impact your industry and clients?

Top salespeople generally track and measure many factors from their area and industry.  The history of sales and assumptions for the future can be very valuable as you seek to set your new marketing plans and territory targets.

Questioning Tips for Top Salespeople

There are different types of questions that you can use in a sales or customer service situation.  In fact there are many question alternatives and they are used in circumstances that suit.  As a sales negotiator it pays to practice your dialogue to draw on these very special skills.

So what question types are there?  Try these for starters:

  1. Open – this question type will be encouraging a detailed answer and not a basic reply.
  2. Closed – this question type will be used where you want to get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.  This can be quite useful in closing on a critical point of a negotiation.
  3. Reflective – what you are doing here is asking the other person to tell you more based on a thinking process
  4. Leading – as the name suggests the concept here is to direct the conversation in a particular way
  5. Testing – the strategy here is to get feedback from the other person
  6. Probing – you use this when you want more information in greater detail
  7. Redirecting – this question type is designed to put the other person on a different point of discussion

So you can use all of these in many different ways.  A top salesperson will be well practiced in all of these processes.  If you want to improve your dialogue for better sales conversions think about how you can apply all of these concepts with your product or service.

When the customer responds to your questions, listen with all of your senses operating at peak performance.  Watch what they do, hear what they say, and listen to their words.  A true negotiator blends all of the senses as part of negotiating on a deal or an agreement with clients and prospects.

Reciprocity in Sales Today

In sales it is wise to remember the factors of ‘reciprocity’.  The act of giving freely and willingly has great impact on attracting repeat business and return customers.  Clients know when you go out of the way to help them with their situation.

Certainly ‘reciprocity’ will help build your profile, trust, and respect with the customer.  Be prepared to do some things for ‘nothing’ understanding that the person you are helping will really value your interest and help.

Consider these questions:

  1. How long is it since you ‘called in’ to talk to that customer who purchased from you last year or some time ago?  Go back through your database to find the people that you can help and support further.
  2. What could you do for your customers today that would be of value to them?  Go and see your clients and customers.  Get in front of them at every opportunity when ‘in the field’.
  3. When the last sale went through, what did you do to extend the value of the product or service?  Could you have done more?
  4. What can you do with your clients today to show them that you really value their business and contact?

It is a fact that people like to do business with those that they trust and respect.  It takes time to achieve that profile; certainly reciprocity will help greatly as part of that process.

Find the people that you can help and go out of your way to do so.  Over time that will bring you more clients and lots of repeat business.  Establish the relationships with the right people that you know are of value to your business and your income.

Evaluate Customer Authority

At the early stages of connecting with a customer, make sure that you are dealing with or talking with a decision maker. So many prospects like to think that they are the decision maker when it comes to ‘buying’, but in reality there is a head office or board of directors somewhere that will make the final move on any recommendations.

So how do you get around this? Through ‘selective questions’ you will get the facts; that is the right answer in most meeting and prospecting situations. You can usually ‘read between the lines’ when it comes to the responses that you get.

In saying this, be aware that some prospects are ‘doorways’ to the top people or decision makers. You may only have that ‘doorway’ to use in reaching into a business for a sale or order.

So what can you do here? Set some rules like the following:

  1. Research the business or the customer on the internet and in any other way possible before you start to approach them.
  2. Find someone in ‘management’ that can give you relevant facts about the business and the people.
  3. Get to meetings as much as possible as the personal approach allows you to read and interpret the body language as well as the words spoken.
  4. Find out what they are doing today and if any of your competitors are active with the prospect. If so, respect the relationship and find out how it works.
  5. Understand the ‘lead times’ to requirements and if any ‘pain points’ exist when it comes to the business or the prospect using your products or services. Can you save them any money? Can you make their business more productive?
  6. Practice your dialogue for prospecting and in attending meetings. The practice process will help you lift your conversions.
  7. Understand that all prospects and customers have pressures and challenges. Speak to enough prospects in the market and you will find that you can ‘open more doors’ on future sales.

Sales and customer service today will always have challenges, but the reality is that the challenges have always been there. Focus on the value that you bring to the market and the sales that you make will escalate.