How to start a negotiation with noble purpose?
Have you ever heard the famous orange story? There was only one orange left in the kitchen. Two prominent chefs were making different components of a very important Presidential dinner, and they were fighting over the orange. “I need that orange!” shouted one chef. “No, I need that orange!” shouted back the other. Time was running out and they both needed the orange to finish their recipes for the President’s dinner. So, they decided on a compromise. They grabbed one of the big kitchen knives that was lying around and split the orange in half.
Each chef went to his corner to finish preparing his meal. One chef squeezed the juice from the orange, and poured it into the special sauce he was making. The juice of half an orange wasn’t quite enough, but it would have to do. The other chef grated the peel and stirred the scrapings into the batter for his famous cake. Now, he didn’t have as much as he would have liked, but given the situation, what else could he have done? One got half the juice, the other got half the peel. Well, you can clearly see, in reality, they both could have had everything they wanted.
The better solution is obvious: they could have peeled the orange, one took the peel, one took the juice, but they didn’t do it that way. They both lost because they were focused on their own win. They weren’t thinking about or asking about the other person’s interest, and so they both got only half. Now, the same thing happens in sales negotiations, and sales negotiations are different than negotiating your salary, or negotiating with your roommate or romantic partner, because you see, in those situations, both parties want the relationship to work.
But in a sales-buyer relationship, the salesperson really wants it to work, but the buyer might not care about preserving a good relationship. They might not care about rapport or liking each other or trusting each other. The buyer’s probably not motivated to ask about your interest. As the seller, you have to understand the difference between buying criteria and true business objectives. Your job is to understand your buyer’s true business objectives, and to explain your own in a very authentic way.
You need to help your buyer see why a good relationship and trusting each other matters, and that it benefits the buyer. See when it comes down to pricing at the end, it’s usually because the salesperson shied away from asking insightful questions early in the process. So, let’s imagine a scenario. Imagine you’re in an early conversation with a buyer. You know that they’re very likely gonna be kind of tough on you at the end with price, and so one of the things that you want to do is ask questions early on to help you build a case for value.
Let me give you some examples. You can ask questions like: what impact will this have on your business? What role does this play in the larger picture? How does this fit into the overall priorities for your job? What effect will this have on your peers, your company, your subordinates or your boss? You see, what you’re trying to do with these questions early on is establish the financial and non-financial impact of the purchase. How is this going to improve their business? Ask them.
Can you quantify that? How is it gonna touch other people in the company? What’s the negative impact if the quality’s not there? You’re trying to get your buyer to articulate the value of your solution. This is that uncertain place, that spot in the middle of the triangle where you and your buyer co-create the value, and you need to establish that really early on, because if you wait until the end, it’s too late. So you want to be exploring the impact of high quality. Another question you might want to ask is this one: if we work together, how important is it for you that we put our best people on your account? Now, notice these questions, you can ask them exactly, but what these questions are trying to do is to get the buyer to think through the impact of all the non-price-oriented things.
What’s the true impact of the solution that you’re trying to create? And I want to be really clear on this, these questions are not designed to be manipulative. You’re asking with the true intent to understand why would this be valuable to the buyer, because the more clarity you have about your buyer’s goals early in the process, the better you’ll be able to demonstrate value, and this will reduce the likelihood of it descending into a price war. And if it does end up in that pricing negotiation, you’ll have other places to go, you’ll have other things to talk about.
So if your client asks you for a lower price at the end, you can very authentically say, “You know, I’ve priced this in such a way “that there will be no shortage of resources “devoted to your account.” Or, “This price enables us “to deliver the results we’ve talked about. “This partnership is something we’re so excited about.” And so it’s very authentic. Now I’m gonna tell you the one question that scares most salespeople, but it’s the best question to ask early on, and it’s this, “How can we ensure “that you get everything you need out of this deal?” And you see, salespeople don’t want to ask this question because they’re afraid their buyer will tell them something that they can’t do or can’t deliver on, or that the client will just say, “Well, just give me a great price.” But here’s the secret, if you ask the client this question they already know the answer.
They’ve already got that in their head, so it’s much better for you as the salesperson to get that on the table early. If your client says, “Well, give me a great price,” then you can say, “Of course you’ll get a fair price. “Let’s talk about the other goals that you have “so I can be sure I’m recommending the right thing for you.” Helping your client reach their goal is your ultimate purpose. It’s the purpose of any negotiation, because if you leave them with the feeling that their goals were met, you will ensure that the negotiation last.
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