Category Archives: Sales

How you can learn to love negotiations

When I started at TransLoc in 2008, I was the only business person on a team full of engineers.  It remained that way for four more years as we continued to devote resources to the technical side of the house.   And while I did my best to learn from others in similar positions, with few new ideas coming in, I felt a little like a fish in a pond without a freshwater source.   

When we hired Daniel–and his 15 years of experience in sales–I received a constant stream of fresh ideas into my pond.   The ideas I benefited the most from centered around negotiations. Here are three specific lessons about negotiations that he taught me.

Be positive

Negotiations can often be tense, especially when trying to get a deal done or soothe a frustrated customer.  In all situations, the reason you’re negotiating is that you and the other party want different things, perceive that you want different things, or don’t understand what the other party wants.  This can make both sides ratchet up their defenses.

And that was stressful for me.  Daniel helped me overcome this stress by often stating at the beginning of the call, in the most positive tone possible, “I’m really looking forward to this conversation so that we can find an agreement that makes sense for both of us.”  

This simple line–which both parties want even if they don’t know it yet or are not as explicit about it–diffuses tension on both sides and sets the tone that you want to get a deal done.  

Be vulnerable

This may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes it’s helpful to simply share your position.  We had a conversation with a customer who was late paying their invoices. We didn’t want to turn off their service even though our contract allows us to do.  We had never done it before and didn’t think we ever would because it is a nuclear option.

And yet it seems weird to just tell our client that we weren’t going to shut off their service.  But we did. We didn’t want to play games and take a position far to the extreme and then retreat to our fallback position.  Being vulnerable reduces the games that are often played during negotiations so we can focus on what we could do to remedy the situation.  

Don’t keep score

I used to think that negotiations had to be equal.  If I concede something of a certain value, you had to concede something of similar value.   But, that’s almost impossible to do in practice. So, now I just try and get something in return so that the power dynamic is not off-kilter with one side giving in on every point.  With the customer who was late on their bills, just getting them to pay something and acknowledge that they were late was a win.  A win didn’t have to represent them sending in the whole amount. A win was both sides giving a little–even if they weren’t equal amounts–and feeling positive about the experience.  

These lessons have changed my perspective on negotiations so much that I now look forward to them. What about you?  

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On authenticity

I’ve conducted 26 interviews over the past two weeks and helped three of my sales colleagues on major presentations to prospects.  And one theme that emerged was an overall lack of authenticity.

Our authentic selves are so much more powerful than the packaged ones that we force ourselves to wear prior to that big job interview or sales presentation.  But why don’t more people use this powerful tool?  Fear.

When we are more focused on getting the job or six-figure deal, we will often compromise on what’s important to us, shield the audience from who we really are, or give the audience what we think they want to hear.  This is dangerous.  It’s also an entirely reasonable feeling to have. We’re afraid that if we reveal our authentic selves, they won’t like us or we’ll lose the deal.  But what is often lost in these headgames we all play with ourselves is that we wouldn’t even want that job or sale if they didn’t respect us for who we are.  

I love this quote (PDF) from Helen Keller that I originally found via Sam Parker at Just Sell:  

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”

The candidates that stuck out to me and the presentations that resonated with me overcame that fear.  They were authentic.  They were real.  They were, at times, bold.  

One candidate commented on his beautiful wife in his cover letter.  I’m sure that the career services office at his alma mater would be horrified.  And truthfully, I might have been horrified too if it hadn’t been pertinent to him telling his story about why he ended up in Raleigh and why he was interested in working for us and also consistent with his actions and stories during the interview.  

And as a colleague of mine practiced a sales presentation last week, he conveyed the key concepts, but it didn’t resonate with the audience.  Why?  It wasn’t in his own voice.  He hadn’t made it his own yet.  He tweaked it by weaving a personal anecdote about how the blisters his cheap hiking boots gave him will ensure he buys quality boots going forward.      

Both the candidate and my colleague realized the following benefits of authenticity:

  • It forces you to clarify your thoughts.  It’s easy to just parrot back ideas that we read from other places or get from our colleagues.  It’s a lot harder to go through the mental jujitsu necessary to clarify why it matters to you.  But without that clarification, you haven’t shown us who you really are.

  • Your argument will resonate more.  When the presenter or interviewee drops the veneer of “what you’re supposed to say,” the audience automatically starts paying attention.  There’s probably complex psychological and biological reasons for this, but the result is your audience leans in and really opens up their ears.  

  • You stand out.  This is different from how your argument resonates.  How your argument resonates is infinitely more important than standing out.  But there is some value to theatre.  And whether it’s a job interview or a sales presentation, it helps to be remembered.  Think of it as a backstop.  Even if your audience doesn’t remember your whole argument, they may remember enough to re-engage with you or your materials.  

And while interviews are inherently personal affairs where one is expected to talk about oneself, I’m sure some sales manager may be saying “selling is not about me or my sales rep, it’s about the product.”  Being authentic doesn’t mean you have to talk about yourself, but only that you’ve thought enough about the product to frame it as more than just corporate marketing speak or a bland set of product features.  

How can you inject some authenticity into your day today?

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