Your negotiation skills will determine how well you can make a sale and build clientele. Salespeople who have mastered negotiation come across as confident and professional, giving them the advantage they need when meeting potential clients. We asked experts to share with us how to become better negotiators for faster sales and reaching sales quota.
Here are 25 key negotiation skills from the pros:
1. Active Listening
Matt Schmidt, CEO, Burial Insurance Pro
One of the most important negotiation skills an individual must possess is listening. This includes listening to a person’s tone, or if in person, reading body language. Being able to “listen” to the other party will help you understand what they need, and will assist you in coming to some sort of middle ground. The less you talk, the more valuable information you’ll be able to collect from the other party.
2. Awareness of Non-Verbal Communication
Alison Henderson, CEO, Moving Image Consulting
Small signs which come through the voice for phone sales, or body language cues for in-person meetings, are vital for sales negotiation success. To practice observing nonverbal communication, visit public gathering places like coffee shops, public transport terminals, and happy hours, and observe the body language you see for who is in a hurry, who has the power in a relationship, who is flirting, etc. Take note of what behavior brings you what conclusion.
3. Solid Understanding of Your Value
Jimmy Rodriguez, COO, 3dcart
Most sales professionals immediately go for the counteroffer every time someone rejects their initial offer. Instead, what you should do is begin explaining the value of your given offer by highlighting every way that your potential client will benefit by accepting the offer—before you provide one to them. If it’s an ongoing negotiation, you have to do this every time a new offer is put on the table. In order to do that successfully, you must prepare for every potential pitfall in the negotiations and have value built into each lever that you’re willing to pull to make the deal happen.
Ollie Smith, Chief Executive Officer, ExpertSure
As a sales professional, your primary job is to demonstrate confidence in your brand and be able to instill a similar level of confidence in the potential customers you are selling to. For this reason, being assertive during the sales process is imperative. Customer initially are usually willing to listen, but are slow to buy early on in the sales process. To encourage the customer to buy into your brand, be assertive but never aggressive.
Maggie Aland, Marketing & Review Editor, Fit Small Business
Salespeople are constantly negotiating with prospects every step of the sales process. However, as customers demand change, so do the expectations of potential clients. Sales professionals need to quickly learn those expectations in order to grab every sales opportunity that comes their way. The Sales Pro offers powerful, self-paced training courses to teach you the most advanced negotiation skills and strategies to closing more deals. Their simple format makes learning quick and easy while gaining proven sales and customer techniques. Click here to check out their sales essentials program that starts at $49.95
6. Planning Skills
Drew Stevens, CEO – Business Turnaround/Revenue Specialist, Stevens Performance Group
Perhaps the most understood principle of negotiation is a requirement to plan. Most often, negotiations fail due to improper procedures, paperwork, or misread issues. Planning is the first (and vital) step in every negotiation. Each party should strategize to define the motives of each side, goals that might be addressed, time frames, and players. Good planning and comprehension help to avoid miscues and maintain proper, efficient conversation.
7. Rapport Building
Sid Soil, Founder & CEO, Docudavit Solutions
Taking a few minutes to establish a personal connection can help you understand who you’re working with and improve collaboration efforts when it comes time to making an agreement. If you’re conducting business over email, pick up the phone and call. Engage them in conversation or even make a joke. Getting people to like you is one of the keys to successful sales and can go a long way in negotiation.
8. Investigative Skills
Per Ohstrom, Independent Sales & Marketing Consultant, Per Ohstrom
When you are negotiating a deal with a customer, they have already researched your company and what you offer. It is important for you to figure out exactly what about your offering they like. Ask probing questions—is it the core product functionality, your convenient sales channel, financing offered, or a warranty? Then emphasize this in your sales presentation and competitor comparisons.
9. Product Knowledge
Will Leslie, Team Leader, Nelson Frank
As a sales professional, you must be the expert at all times. Knowing the product or service inside and out means that any questions or concerns your customers approach you with can be turned into opportunities to build trust and showcase how your offering will add value to their lives.
There’s no real excuse for being caught out when it comes to product knowledge, simply because it’s something you can prepare for well ahead of time. You’ll find that customers tend to ask essentially the same questions surrounding price, value, and contracts, so do make time to sit down, make notes, and study for that.
Marc Prosser, Co-founder, Fit Small Business
Keeping a close eye on your prospect’s journey through the sales process gives you important information to stay in control of the negotiation proceedings. However, this becomes a challenge when your day is filled with other important tasks that also require your attention. This is why you’ll need a reliable tool to manage all your leads in different buying stages and follow through on each one. Pipedrive is a CRM tool that offers a wide array of features to help businesses manage their sales activities. Its pricing is designed with the needs of small businesses in mind to match their growth with Pipedrive’s affordable plans. Try a free Pipedrive trial.
11. Buyer Empathy
Jeymy Merino, Founder & CEO, Yegoh
Wars are won before going to the field, and the same happens with negotiations. I focus on the needs, reasons, fears, problems, and situation of the person with whom I am going to negotiate. From this I apply a methodology that consists of describing which points your interests and mine go hand in hand. According to this, I start to elaborate about 40 possible options that you could take to close the agreement. Then I only trace the limits and to what extent I will negotiate. It is a technique that works whenever you really study the other person’s internal motivations.
Kyle Bles, Account Executive, OptimumHQ
Always try to be as transparent as possible, even if it means being honest about the limitations. This will lead to less wasted time on opportunities that are looking for a solution that you might not be able to provide. There is no worse feeling than thinking you’ve got one in the bag and it turns out to not be the right fit at the last second—especially if you already spent that commission check you were so sure of. Spend your time wisely; this will lead to more closed deals, an accurate pipeline, and more happy customers.
13. Rebuttal Mastery
Jameson “Doc” Sharp, Entrepreneur & CEO, BlackBeardsMedia
You will need to master the subtle art of handling people’s objections. An objection usually ends a negotiation, leaving the salesperson at a loss regarding how to continue closing the sale if they haven’t previously trained and role-played on how to handle objection. You will never win in sales negotiations.
14. Conflict Management
Sofia Santiago, Communication Expert, Sofia Santiago
A salesperson who knows conflict management techniques, and when to use each of them, will know when to yield (“That’s fine, we’ll deliver at no cost to you.”), when to compete (“Let me give you a few ways we can serve your particular needs better than your current provider.”), when to compromise (“Let’s split the difference.”), and when to problem-solve (“Why don’t we brainstorm a few ways in which we could adapt our product to your company standards?”). He or she will also know how to do it effectively, without having to choose between closing a sale and keeping a happy customer.
Gavin Graham, Editor, Fit Small Business
A negotiation is a long process, and being available for constant communication with your prospect ensures that you stay on top of every issue. Maintain a dedicated and professional phone number where prospects and your team can contact you anytime, even on the go. Grasshopper is a virtual phone system that can be used on existing landlines or mobile phones. The ease of setup and affordable pricing makes it a perfect tool for new home-based businesses. Click here to try Grasshopper with a 30-day money back guarantee.
16. Emotional Control
Nancy Cramer, CEO, Correct Course Consulting, LLC
Controlling emotions involves using authentic emotions that are appropriate to the situation. When a salesperson is feeling worry, fear, or anger, the blood leaves their neocortex and goes to the arms and legs (fight-or-flight response). This reaction means that creative thought is disabled.
To stay in a resourceful emotional state, a salesperson needs to rehearse the meeting. Arrive early. Put aside thoughts of anything happening outside of this negotiation. Think ahead to the outcome you want to achieve and the possible responses you may get in a sales meeting. Once in the meeting, the sales professional can then focus on the outcome they want to achieve. This keeps their mind and body relaxed and responsive without getting stressed.
17. Awareness of Others’ Needs
Brian Johnson, Founder & Lead Sales Consultant, MJ Strategic Group
The first key to negotiation is getting the other party to the negotiation table. This comes from being able to make a connection to a need within the organization. Getting them to the negotiation table only comes when you have identified a fundamental need of the other party. At that point, the sale is yours to lose. Working to understand the other party’s needs and addressing them in your offer will move that party to a quicker resolution, versus holding out over perceived wants.
18. Conversational Leadership
Ryan Forrest, Sales Executive & Consultant, The Shark of Sales
You need to have control throughout the whole sales process, not just in the negotiation. If you’re in control, you can dictate the outcome. Now, I don’t mean that you’ll get everything you want and bully them into doing what you say, but you need to lead the introduction and state why they should see things your way, taking time to explain all the positives you offer and justify the cost. Begin with the end in mind and tell them what you expect the outcome to be; from there, you can work backwards together to figure out how to get there. If you don’t grab control of the conversation in the beginning, it can easily go off topic.
19. Strategic Silence
Reesa Woolf, PhD, Founder & CEO, ConfidentSpeaking
Be brave enough to be silent and reap the rewards. Be silent after they seem to have finished a thought, as a more revealing thought can follow. Be silent after they have made an absurd demand. Hold eye contact and maintain a neutral, not smirking, face.
20. Ability to Compromise
Lucio Buffalmano, Founder & Psychologist, The Power Moves
Studies confirm that giving concessions speeds up negotiation and provides better outcomes for both parties. People who are hell-bent on taking as much as possible and giving as little as possible often end up in adversarial negotiations where both parties become entrenched. In addition, with less experienced negotiators, the aim becomes hurting the other party instead of reaching a compromise. Not good. The art of giving concessions is one of the best skills for successful negotiators.
Matthew Reischer Esq., Owner, Flushing NY Real Estate Inc.
Know the strengths and weaknesses of your own argument. In order to have a better chance at swaying a person with rhetoric, you will need a presentation that showcases the premise of your argument. This means you must anticipate all the counterarguments that undermine your sales premise and be able to provide meaningful rebuttals. In order to learn to persuade people successfully, a person should learn how to overcome objections by knowing the strengths and weaknesses of their own arguments and the person whom they seek to persuade.
22. Ability to Walk Away
Rich Langtry, Area Vice President of Sales, Access Information Management
The most powerful person in any negotiation is the individual who is willing to walk away. It seems obvious, but far too many sales representatives don’t have the stomach to walk away from a bad deal. In order to be a top negotiator, the most effective sales representatives consistently maintain leverage. They effectively define value, deliver solutions, and mitigate risk. Through the course of the negotiation, they maintain a position of authority and deliver the proposal with confidence. If a prospect is unwilling to achieve their imperatives and must-haves, they move on to another deal.
23. Evaluation Skills
AJ Bruno, Founder & CEO, QuotaPath
Everything is a negotiation. When you’re on a cold call setting a demo, you need to negotiate the time of the call. When you’re running a sales presentation and a key contact tries to pull you in a random direction, you need to negotiate them back to your point. This is a tough thing to realize and it takes practice. Begin by reviewing your most recent conversation. Could you have gotten a slightly better outcome by asking for what you truly wanted? If so, there was an opportunity for negotiation. Try to pause throughout your day and think, “Could I get a better outcome if I asked for it?”
David Duford, Owner, Buy Life Insurance For Burial
My advice to salespeople looking to improve their negotiation skills is to always save any conversation of price until the end of the presentation. Discussing price early on in the sales call tends to cloud the mind of your prospects. They tend to fixate more on the cost of your product or service instead of what value it could bring.
I recommend that salespeople focus on building value first. Discover what problems your prospect suffers from, and what keeps them up at night. Get buy-in that solving said problem would benefit his business. Then, only after demonstrating that your product can solve the prospect’s problem, present the price.
25. Lead Assessment
Martin Webb, Founder, Tudodesk
The best negotiation skill is not in the negotiation but in the steps that are taken before you get to the close stage. Bringing the right fit to the negotiation and close stages makes the process not only easier, but more profitable. Meanwhile, closing deals with clients who are a bad fit for your business cost your business dearly due to poorly negotiated contracts that often cost money from your bottom line and time from your product deliverable.
Knowing your way around the negotiation table will go a long way in helping you close more deals, and at the same time, create a pleasant sales experience that will earn your new client’s loyalty. Use our list of top negotiation skills from the pros and grow your business through sales and loyal clients.
Did we miss out on your go-to negotiation skills? Share them with us in the comments.