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Negotiation: The New Customer Standard

5 Strategies for Sales Negotiations

By Michael Leimbach, PhD

There is no doubt that business negotiations have become much more complex in today’s environment, largely due to the availability of information that customers are able to access for every product and service in any industry. Customers have grown more sophisticated and they are often armed with all the information they think they need before even talking to a salesperson. Consequently, when they do decide to talk to a salesperson, they are expecting to have a different kind of conversation—a much more collaborative, professional, and respectful one—that does not necessarily start with a salesperson’s presentation and end with the customer bargaining over price on an agreed-upon solution.

However, even though buyers have become more sophisticated, many salespeople still have difficulties, when push comes to shove, resisting the temptation to fall into a bargaining mode and reduce their price or throw in “value adds” in order to seal the deal. When the salesperson caves on pricing, rather than respectfully and intelligently negotiating for an agreement that would benefit both parties, margins and profitability suffer.

Is There a Better Way?

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid the bargaining trap. The shift in how buying decisions are made today presents a wonderful opportunity for salespeople who are willing to step up their game and truly collaborate with their customers during the sales process. Because business relationships today are as important as ever, sophisticated salespeople can and should shape the conversation in ways that will earn the respect of their prospects and customers and lead to high-impact solutions.

Wilson Learning Worldwide, in collaboration with William Ury (cofounder of the Harvard Program on Negotiation), has created a principled negotiation process designed specifically to help salespeople have respectful and intelligent conversations with their customers. These conversations focus on increasing the size of the perceived “fixed pie” and expanding the range of opportunities for both the salesperson and the customer.

By focusing on five simple strategies, salespeople can engage their customers in a give-and-take conversation to explore the interests behind positions and expand the options. This means moving out of the mentality of “hard bargaining” based on firm positions and into a negotiating mode based on a handful of powerful principles.

Applying these principles increases the likelihood of achieving agreements that benefit both the salesperson, who is no longer leaving business on the table, and the customer, who has more options for better solutions.

When customers decide to talk to a salesperson, they are expecting to have a different kind of conversation—a much more collaborative, professional, and respectful one—that does not necessarily start with a salesperson’s presentation and end with the customer bargaining over price on an agreed-upon solution.

Michael Leimbach, PhD

Michael Leimbach, PhD, is a globally recognized expert in instructional design and leadership development. As Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., he has worked with numerous Global 1000 organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the United States. Over more than 30 years, Dr. Leimbach had developed Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities, published over 100 professional articles, coauthored four books, been Editor-in-Chief for the highly acclaimed ADHR research journal, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences. He also serves on the ISO Technical Committee (TC232) on Quality Standards for Learning Service Providers and on the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Dean’s Advisory Board.