Why Salespeople Are Not Natural Negotiators

Weekly Sales and Coaching Tips – Why Salespeople Are Not Natural Negotiators

We’re all used to large scale negotiations such as Brexit or the plant maintenance contract in the front office. Brexit puts us to shame. Dr Liam Fox, our esteemed negotiator, has promised over 40 trade deals before Brexit occurs in 2019.

Negotiation is an area every manager gets involved in – debating a three week holiday when the company ruling says two weeks — handling the issues arising from relocating your team to the other side of the country.

But many of us forget the sales team. They sell, right? Of course, they do, but much of their final endeavours are negotiation – maybe the final terms of the contract or the delivery and pricing terms of the order.

My premise is that the majority of salespeople are not trained or have the right attitude to be effective negotiators. With such a brash statement, you deserve an explanation.

  1. Salespeople are good salespeople, not good negotiators. Good negotiators have patience, look for concessions on both sides, are confident to hold out before saying yes, amongst many qualities. This is not something salespeople naturally shine in.
  2. Negotiation doesn’t need selling. Yes, of course, you’ll be promoting the benefits of your variables and concessions, but that’s not selling. OK, it’s selling from the 1990s; features and benefits were designed before the internet educated the buyer. Selling is painstakingly analysing the client’s real needs, wants, desires, challenges and problems. They are then matching these to the solution available, which will help the client achieve these goals, needs and eliminate problems and challenges. Only when the solution has been highlighted, and the client nods agreement in principle does the negotiation start. Essentially the client is interested subject to terms and conditions.
  3. Salespeople, by their nature, are too keen to give information and may give away far too much prematurely and this can give the client the upper hand when negotiating. Good negotiators hold back on some variables and possible concessions and ensure they trade these for a concession in return.
  4. Salespeople are aligned to the deal. Their targets depend on it, their commissions and bonus rely on it. They want it to complete. This causes many negatives when negotiation starts, particularly the weakness of being far too generous. They give everything away upfront and are far too generous on discounts, delivery terms because they want the deal. Negotiators are not always bedded with the deal so they can take an unattached view.
  5. Salespeople are under pressure from their managers and the company to secure the deal, and most of them ooze pride. They’ll do what they need to do to land it. Dangerous when negotiating.
  6. Effective negotiators have a WAP – walk-away power. This is often abbreviated as a BATNA – best alternative to a negotiated agreement. In other words, a way of standing up, walking away from the meeting and the deal. They may never walk away, but they can if they’re forced into a corner. It’s this intrinsic belief that makes them good at negotiating. Salespeople don’t have this – they crossed the line with the deal when they presented the solution earlier and had no walk-away power.
  7. Salespeople like to be liked, well many of them anyway. Negotiators don’t worry about this so won’t try to please the other party, the salesperson will with dangerous consequences.
  8. Negotiation is a process. Sometimes quite a complex set of tasks that lead to the outcome. They follow this process – preparation, discussion, proposals and bargaining – with timeouts, referring to others, summarising and agreeing on the next steps. Many salespeople are not process-driven preferring to free-wheel their way through a sale.
  9. An essential quality of a negotiator is to listen to the other side, not just the words, but body language and hidden meanings. Using their senses, they can assess the other side and interpret many feelings that are being displayed. Salespeople do listen but on balance prefer to talk more than listen. There are exceptions of course, but this imbalance doesn’t make a good negotiator.
  10. Good negotiators “check-in” their ego at the door. Salespeople don’t do this and negotiators can sense this and use it tot heir disadvantage.
  11. And the final reason goes to the Sales Manager. Regularly brought in at the last moment to push the deal through. They arrive bristling with confidence and a desire to show the salesperson how to do it. The result? Too many concessions at the last minute.

Now possibly I’m being dramatic with some of these reasons and, of course, it doesn’t apply to all salespeople. If you’re in selling and reading this, just reflect to those negotiations that finalised deals? Did you give away too much? Thinking back were you too attached to the deal, wanted it so much that you caved in. I look back at my selling and realise that being too attached and keen to seal it, makes a bad negotiator. The good news? Negotiation can be learnt.

Liam Fox has achieved four so far as at February 2019. Mauritius, the Faroes so we can have tuna, Switzerland and Chile so we can stock up on Almonds. Even he has reverted to the easy deals — everyone needs training in negotiation.