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Business to Business Sales Negotiation Tactics

written by: Ian Johnson•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 5/19/2011

When companies look to improve their sales negotiation tactics, it often involves sticking to simple approaches and doing away with those strong-armed and demonstrative negotiation approaches. Make sure your next negotiation is a free exchange of ideas and proposals.

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    The Most Impactful Sales Negotiation Tactics

    What does it take to succeed in a business to business sales negotiation? Does someone have to be demonstrative and impart their will? Should they treat the other party as an adversary, and adopt aggressive sales negotiation tactics predicated on being louder and more demanding than the other party? Surprisingly, neither of these approaches work. When it comes to using negotiation tactics in sales, sometimes the simplest approaches are the most effective.

    Before discussing some of these simple and effective sales negotiation tactics, it’s best to explain why those aforementioned other sales approaches just don’t work in business to business sales. In order to do that, ask yourself how you would feel if you were forced to negotiate with someone who adopted some of these strong-armed tactics. How would you react? Most likely, you’d simply shut down and not move forward with offering any concessions. You would only offer what you had to, in order to end the process altogether. In return, the other party would believe they won or achieved some success, while you would know otherwise. This is why these aggressive negotiation sales tactics rarely produce significant results. Instead of the negotiation being an exchange of ideas and concessions, the process stops and neither side gains any ground. However, these tactics are largely adopted because of the perception that one party’s unwillingness to participate, means the other party has succeeded. So, is there a better way? There most certainly is!

    Morgue File: Andalusia 

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    1. The Power of Saying Nothing

    Most assume that successful negotiation involves someone with the “gift of gab”, someone who has the innate ability to convince others to agree to something they might not otherwise agree to. While this ability is still useful, one of the most successful sales negotiation tactics is to say nothing at all. That’s correct, saying nothing works and is an extremely effective business to business sales negotiation tactic. Why is it effective? Simply put, pauses and silence in negotiation make people feel uncomfortable, and when they don’t feel at ease, they often immediately offer up suggestions and concessions. If used correctly, these periods of silence leave the other party with nothing but assumptions about what the other is thinking. Because they don’t know what you’re thinking, they’ll assume to know and will ultimately offer something to get the discussion going again.

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    2. Reviewing the Offer Aloud

    One of the more effective negotiation tactics is to periodically read the offer out loud. This approach, coupled with those sudden pauses and silence, allows the other party to review the offer with you and contemplate whether it’s enough to seal the deal. This is a tactic best employed in person, where the other party can read your facial expressions to gauge whether your interest is high or low. Be sure to show apprehension when reading the offer out loud. It demonstrates that something isn’t quite right without having to directly state the issue. This leaves the other party to once again assume what’s wrong. Assumptions are a powerful tool in negotiation because they leave everything up to the imagination of the other party. You just might find they’ll offer something you never anticipated they would.

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    3. Concession for Concession - Business to Business Sales Negotiation Skills

    If there was ever one constant rule in negotiation, this would definitely be it. When granting a concession to business partners, get a concession in return. It’s not terribly important that one side gets more concessions than the other. What does matter is that those important concessions you seek are attained within the negotiation. Take the time to write down a list of what you must achieve vs. what you’d like to achieve within the negotiation. Prioritize your concessions and ensure you offer the least important ones first in order to get the other party to start offering their own. Once the other party agrees to a concession, make sure to write it down and again, read it aloud to ensure agreement from the other party.

    Morgue File: andalusia 

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    4. Maintain Calm

    One of the reasons why threats rarely work as a negotiation tactic is because the party issuing the threat rarely follows through with action. Threats are often associated with someone losing their focus. When threats are overused, the other party becomes indifferent to their meaning and will ultimately ignore whatever importance they represent. In addition, losing one’s cool immediately shows just how important the concession is. Unfortunately, the other side will use that to their advantage. Remain calm throughout the negotiation process, and if the other side is unwilling to offer a concession that you deem essential, then simply state that it is unacceptable. However, losing your focus will often force you to use veiled threats and once you start, it’s extremely difficult to stop. Before the negotiation takes place, be sure to match the previously mentioned list with actions you’re willing to take and follow through on, should the other side not capitulate. If they don’t, and you state your intentions, make sure to follow through with them.

    When it comes to using sales negotiation tactics, sometimes the simplest approaches are the most effective. The most successful negotiators remain focused, rarely lose control and never use threats they don’t intend to follow through on. In addition, they subtly take control of the business to business sales process by identifying those concessions most important to them, versus those that are deemed less important.

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    Image Credit: Chess close up/

    Image Credit: Chess board/

    Source: author’s own experience.