We’ve all had to negotiate at one point or the other—be it with your significant other over whether you’re having Chinese or Thai for date night or with your boss for a better salary package. Either way, it’s never easy.
Perspiration on your forehead, a thudding heart, and a hundred thoughts whirling around in your head—that pretty much sums up sales negotiations for most people. But not for Sanket Shah, Slintel’s Enterprise Account Executive, who chooses to remain calm no matter the scenario.
Having spent close to nine years in the sales space, Sanket has had his own fair share of experiences when it comes to sales negotiations. So I sat down with him and got him to share his thoughts on how you can better deal with difficult prospects in a negotiation.
Taking the Steering Wheel During Sales Negotiations
There’s a very good reason why 36% of sales reps report closing as the most difficult step in the sales process. After all, negotiation is the one point in the sales process that determines the fruit of your efforts over several days of nurturing your prospect.
Whatever the scenario, a successful sales negotiation involves a mix of the same elements—preparation, sufficient knowledge of the value of your product, empathy, managing emotions, and a willingness to listen patiently.
Arriving at a mutually agreeable deal can often be an arduous task. But with a bit of strategic compromise from both parties, and the price and contract terms in mind, you can defeat the obstacles and go for the close.
All this, of course, requires you to take on an active role in negotiations. And that requires quite a bit of preparation on your part. It helps to have a sales negotiation checklist to aid you in your preparation process.
Here are some questions you could include in this checklist:
- What is the value of my product to my prospect?
- What does my prospect want out of this negotiation?
- What do I want out of this negotiation?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses in this negotiation?
- What is my BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement)?
- What is my prospect’s BATNA?
- What is my walk-away point?
“If I’ve shared a proposal a while ago and I’m heading into a negotiation call with them soon, I’d want to have a quick glance at my proposal once more, before the call. I’d want to know what the numbers we’re looking at are because if my prospect comes up with a counter-proposal, I need to be well-versed with my initial proposal in order to negotiate.”
– Sanket Shah, Enterprise Account Executive at Slintel
Keeping Your Options Open For Sales Negotiations
No matter how much you may prep for it, sales negotiations don’t always go as planned. That’s why it’s a must to keep your options open before you go in. You need a few alternatives for when you are unable to reach an agreement.
And that brings us to BATNA.
BATNA: Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement
First coined by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 bestseller “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In“, BATNA, short for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (who doesn’t love jargons, right?) refers to the most agreeable course of action taken as the last resort, when the parties involved fail to reach an agreement during the negotiation.
Simply put, it’s the worst possible offer a negotiator may be willing to accept when all else fails. Before you go into your negotiation call, it’s always a great idea to have a BATNA (or multiple BATNAs) in place.
To find your BATNA, list out your alternatives, evaluate them based on their value, and select the one that offers the highest value for you as well as the lowest value you’re willing to accept (your walk-away point).
ZOPA: Zone of Possible Agreement
Your ZOPA, or Zone of Possible Agreement, is the overlap between the lowest amount you are willing to accept as a seller and the highest amount your prospect is willing to pay as a buyer.
Simply put, it’s the intersecting zone between the seller and the buyer’s worst-case scenarios.
A deal that lands inside the ZOPA zone is the most ideal scenario where both parties involved are satisfied with the outcome of the negotiation. The closer the parties are to the middle of the ZOPA zone, the more ideal the negotiation.
“What I aim for is a win-win. I could go into a negotiation with the intention to break the other person to have a deal that is conducive for me or I could proceed with the intention to have a deal that is conducive for all of us. The latter is much better and easier to achieve for both the parties involved.”
– Sanket Shah
Body Language and Communication in Sales Negotiations
Your body language and demeanor play an important role in the success of your negotiations. Buyers can be incredibly intuitive and they can tell if you’re not confident in the value of your product.
That’s why your body language needs to reflect your confidence. In addition, listening patiently and practicing empathy can play a remarkable role in polishing your presentation to help you negotiate better.
In our previous blog that talks about using mirror neurons to trigger empathy, we explained how imitating certain aspects of your prospect’s body language—the intonation and tone of their speech, or their general go-to phrases and actions—can trigger empathetic reactions in them that create a subconscious sense of understanding and trust between you and your prospect.
“I always say—sales is easy, people are difficult. If somebody reacts negatively and you just retaliate, that won’t change anything—they’ll remain negative. But if you take a moment to listen and empathize with them, you can gradually take them from negative to neutral, and then from neutral to positive.”
– Sanket Shah
The Subtle Art of Dealing With Difficult Sales Negotiations
More often than not, your prospect may come up with objections to purchasing your product for various reasons. You’ll find everything you need to know in this regard in our blog on objection handling.
No points for guessing that the most common objections that arise during sales negotiations are price negotiations (obviously).
So let’s explore a few of those difficult scenarios and what you can do to deal with them.
#1 Your Prospect Requests a Lower Quote
As mentioned afore, it’s always best to keep your BATNA ready at hand. However, BATNA is only a last resort and there are still a few solutions you can try before resorting to it.
One of the most common rebuttals to a price objection is to place emphasis on the features and benefits of your product and demonstrate the expected ROI from the purchase. This helps your prospect gauge your product’s value and acknowledge their need for it.
Another viable solution is to offer alternative solutions that fit within the lower quote requested.
Note that this isn’t necessarily the same as BATNA because the alternative solution mentioned in this context refers to a more affordable plan or a smaller package as opposed to the full-service plan, whereas BATNA refers to offering the full-service plan at a cheaper rate.
This way, there is an opportunity for upsells and cross-sells further down the road.
“Whenever I’m requested to offer a lower quote, I trade options with them. I offer them starter-plans more fitting for their budget. And since we have a fabulous customer service team here at Slintel, I know for a fact that I’ll sooner or later get an opportunity to upsell to them.”
– Sanket Shah
#2 Your Prospect Points Out a Better Price From a Competitor
This objection is as common to AEs as water is to fish. Your prospect could point out a cheaper quote from a competitor and use it against you in the hopes of a lower quote.
However, this can strategically be rebutted by deconstructing and comparing the value and gains from your product versus that of your competitor.
Competitive objections too, like price objections, can be rebutted with the help of value-based selling principles, in which, the reps take on a consultative role to provide value to the customer and help them determine their purchase decision based on the product’s value.
“When pointed out a better price from a competitor, I prefer to go ahead and isolate the value components—to ask them if it’s just the pricing or if there’s any other component involved as well. It all comes down to understanding their priorities apart from the price.”
– Sanket Shah
#3 Your Prospect Threatens to Walk Out of The Negotiation
Sometimes, things may escalate and your prospect might threaten to walk out of the negotiation. They may be adamant in their request for a better price.
The initial protocol when a prospect threatens to walk out or choose a competitor would be to inquire. Try to understand what caused them to seek their BATNA or to walk out.
In addition to value-based selling, other options that can be explored to fix such a situation include:
- Extending the contract term
- Including other services to existing terms
- Leaving out a warranty or service arrangement
- Restructuring payment terms
It’s imperative to note that if all your solutions including your BATNA fail, you should always be willing to walk out as well. This mindset levels out the playing field and removes the leverage the buyer has over you.
Just like a buyer has alternative sellers, so do you have alternative buyers. In fact, being willing to walk out is the #1 strategy separating most top-performing sales negotiators from the rest.
How Slintel Can Help Make Sales Negotiations Easier
Prospects come in all shapes and sizes, but how do you come up with proper rebuttals to all their concerns during a negotiation? That’s where Slintel can help you out.
As a customer of Slintel, you gain access to exclusive competitive insights of more than 17 million companies and 250 million decision-makers across the world. In short, we’ll armor you with invaluable assets for you to ace your future negotiations.
With an eagle-eye view of your target market, Slintel helps you demonstrate the value of your product better, which in turn, aids you in your negotiations to come.