The Negotiator Magazine

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A robust view of negotiation is that it in fact it is something we are doing not only throughout the sales cycle, but beyond it as well. We are negotiating from the moment we speak with a prospect, to the moment we close a deal, and far beyond the close as well. This view of negotiating requires us to think about negotiation as any activity in which we are trying to persuade and influence the decisions of others. Certainly, there are more effective and less effective ways of influencing people and reaching joint decisions with them. One way to look at negotiation therefore is that it is a problem solving activity - a way to explore and understand each other's interests in order to come up with creative solutions to ensure that all parties are truly satisfied from the outset of a deal, and continuing into the relationship that we create.

The simple fact is that much of our traditional professional development work in sales not only gets the sales-negotiation link reversed, it also sees much of what we do as transactional - limited to a one-time or short-term interaction. As we all understand, our sales activities go far beyond contract price and terms, regardless of how complex a task it is to get closure on those (very important) things. When we begin to see that our sales skills must be aligned with a repeat-business and long-term strategy, we will find ourselves NEGOTIATING for a better business relationship, for improved communication with our clients, for those much-needed appointments, for broad access to others in the client organization. And for that strategic element in any business activity: information and intelligence. While we negotiate major contracts several times a year, we are negotiating every day as part of the sales process.

From an account management perspective, negotiation throughout the sales cycle is even more of a lynchpin to success. There is simply much more at stake. The deal cycles are long and the issues to be resolved are numerous. We have a limited number of accounts and they are the largest accounts - our company's most important assets. We find that, like any other activity that requires skill in order to succeed, you are not necessarily born with the right stuff. But you can master it if you obtain and hone the right skills. But how does it fit into what you do on a day-to-day basis? For many learning needs, there is often no single way to learn that is useful for all. In order to build your own repertoire of skills that are aligned with your professional and personal relationships, a strategically organized negotiation framework is a key tool for success. The authors design and deploy strategic negotiation frameworks based on research from numerous fields over many decades.

Since account managers cannot afford to damage business relationships, we cannot afford to use inadequate tools for gathering market data, measuring results. Similarly, we cannot afford to use inadequate negotiation concepts. In order to optimize the value of our business relationships, we need to be working on creating true alliances and partnerships with our customers.

Setting aside the traditional perception of negotiation, it becomes clear that we are not simply negotiating contract price and terms. Nearly everything is negotiated. Persuasion and influence are being used all the time. Sales and negotiation are in this sense, a seamless process. There can be no disconnect between them, if our goals are to maximize the value of our client relationships.

Changing our perspectives on negotiation is no simple task however. When we realize that we are negotiating up front and throughout the life of our relationship with the customer, it can seem like a very weighty obligation. For that very reason, our negotiations are also a source of great value. Beyond price, there are issues of scope, risk, staffing, resources, scheduling and deadlines as well as substantive and people problems that have to be managed 24/7. Rather than seeing negotiation as a transactional, activity, we see it as transformational. This simply means that the way we sell can have a powerful impact on both the top and bottom lines.

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