You’ve sailed through the initial sales process, worked diligently to pin down your client’s needs, and settled on what you both think will be the most suitable product and service options. Now, the time has come to talk price—and suddenly you find yourself stuck at a seemingly intractable impasse.
If this frustrating cycle sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Business negotiation experts say that tough talks over touchy subjects like price, project timelines, and other contractual details are the one part of the sales process that is nearly universally dreaded. From Boston to Austin to Bangalore and back, buyers and sellers alike seem to detest the testy back-and-forths that stalled negotiations can often entail.
The good news is that you can brush up your negotiation skills with just a little bit of practice and preparation. Experts in the field say that by familiarizing yourself with a few of the most common negotiation pitfalls, you’ll be much more likely to avoid these blunders and end up with an outcome that pleases both parties. Here are a few helpful hints to remind you how NOT to negotiate.
Drop the strong-arm approach. Negotiation pros used to advocate an aggressive, alpha-dog method, but the consensus these days is that there’s really no need to come on quite so strong. It’s true that one party will likely have the upper hand in the negotiations process, but try to adopt a more egalitarian approach—and save the unseemly displays of brute force for your next arm-wrestling tournament!
Wait until the time is right. Try to delay the process until you’re absolutely sure that both parties are ready to move into the negotiations phase. If you begin talking price too soon, you’ll lose out on some valuable time to “read” your client and understand exactly where they’re coming from. Furthermore, if you’re pressured into negotiating before you’re fully ready, you’ll enter into the process at a marked disadvantage. If possible, schedule negotiations in advance so both parties will have adequate time to prepare for the process.
Begin, proceed, and end with ‘win-win’ in mind. Negotiations experts say that there’s often too much emphasis on one side “winning” when tough decisions are being hashed out. In truth, that’s exactly the wrong approach to take, especially when the other party you’re negotiating with is a client whom you hope to serve for years to come. Your ideal goal is to identify and advocate solutions that are mutually amenable and beneficial to both parties, rather than simply trying to “win” at all costs.
There is such a thing as too much compromise. Even though ‘win-win’ should be the ideal you carry with you to the negotiating table, it’s best to avoid giving too much away. If you concede every point to your client and come out with a lopsided deal that hurts you more than it helps you, your business relationship is not likely to get started on the right note. Don’t undervalue your services—if your client proposes a price that’s just too low, politely but firmly let them know that although you value their business, you still have a duty to keep an eye on your own bottom line.
Don’t carry a grudge. Even if your negotiations didn’t go as smoothly as you would have liked, try to leave any lingering animosity, resentment, or regret behind on the negotiating table. Take mental notes about any points in the process that you might be able to improve upon the next time around, and move forward with only the best intentions to create a mutually beneficial business relationship with your new client.
How about you? What’s the worst negotiating mistake you’ve ever made? Do you have any tales of negotiating terror or triumph to share? Tell us your story in the comments.