Too often, I see salespeople attempting to mix selling activity with negotiation activity as though customers and prospects seamlessly flow between the two processes. In reality, they don’t. If you want to be successful in sales in the long term do your selling first, and when you have a prospect who is ready to negotiate a deal you should engage in the good negotiation practice knowing it is largely too late to do any significant selling. I see salespeople trying to make last-minute persuasive appeals to buyers in an attempt to show value and preserve their price during the negotiation. There are a number of reasons why that falls flat:
1. A professional sales process requires a free flow of information throughout.
Needs are identified, the prospect shares views and concerns, and the salesperson shares expertise and solutions. This is as it should be and most times results in a proposal both buyer and seller have crafted. But when it comes time to negotiate price and terms, parties have a tendency to begin holding back information—the buyer trying not to make it seem like they absolutely need your solution and the seller being careful not to reveal information that might give the buyer an advantage in the exchange. Power is the key element in negotiation and neither party wants to hand more of it over to the other during the haggling phase.
2. Time plays a role in this too.
Prospects, when they have already decided to move to the negotiation phase, don’t want a second sales pitch. They want movement on getting a deal done and a discussion of specific price and terms. Certainly a solid solution the prospect loves will make the negotiation go much better, but if the seller left something out, it’s often too late to establish additional value at this late juncture.
3. Irritating the prospect does no good.
If the salesperson has orchestrated a quality sales process where solutions are crafted that squarely meet the prospect’s needs there is no need for additional persuasion about the product, company, or the solution. It only slows down the process and irritates the prospect. You could talk yourself OUT of the deal.
Make sure you follow a quality sales process first, knowing that is the period for you to create and show value to the prospect. When it comes time to negotiate, the selling is largely over—whether you realize it or not.