7 Psychological Strategies for Mastering Sales Negotiations
Preparing for a negotiation when a lot is on the line can elicit a tremendous amount of fear and negative thinking.
This kind of thinking can mean the negotiation is lost before the salesperson has even started to prepare for it. The first war to be won is the battle inside the salesperson against defeatist thoughts. By becoming clear on desired outcomes, he or she has the greatest chance at negotiation success and making a sale.
1. Eliminate anxiety.
The brain loves options. A salesperson should always have more than one significant opportunity in the pipeline. This leads to increased confidence and less anxiety when negotiating.
Thus the salesperson doesn't feel desperate and can more confidently acquire new business by directing negotiations to the point where the potential customer ends up selling the salesperson on why they should do business together.
2. Score a small yes or two.
Negotiate for what's easy first and never assume a potential customer will say yes to everything. Sometimes, the prospect may offer to take a smaller order before going for bigger, more lucrative orders or contracts.
For the salesperson, getting a foot in the door can be the start of longer-term, more profitable partnership opportunities in the future. A smaller win cann help prove the worth of the services being sold. It gives the salesperson evidence of prior successful work to use in negotiations for bigger projects.
Related: How to Negotiate for What You Want
3. Take full advantage of listening.
Salespeople have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Peoople love to be listened to. Taking the time to listen can set the sales professional apart from competitors who push too hard.
Even sharks become calm amid calm waters. So when negotiating, a salesperson should listen twice as much as she speaks and repeat back to the customer what the client said and ask for agreement.
When a sales professional has the self-control to listen, she learns to speak the language of the customer and this enables her to use this language in a way to outsmart the competition.
4. Choose a “partner” approach.
In a negotiation, the seller needs to view a potential customer as a partner rather than an opponent. Psychologically this puts each party on the same team, bringing more confidence in the sales professional's negotiation.
It changes the whole mindset and creates a communication space based more on agreement than desperate acts of getting.
If the potential customer is not willing to come to agreement, then the sales professional can shock the customer by removing the offer. Often what happens then is the potential customer rethinks a stance and returns to negotiate with a higher level of respect for the salesperson’s offer. A lack of fear of rejection is respectable and compelling.
5. Think existentially.
When the salesperson tries to put herself in the shoes of the customer and can see the big picture, a positive psychological environment for negotiation is reached. She gains clarity about the potential customer's demands, strengths and weaknesses and it's easier to move through the negotiation.
The potential customer feels connected to the negotiations because his viewpoint has been considered, which goes a long way toward making a favorable impression and building trust.
6. Put people first, numbers second.
If a salesperson bullies her way into a deal, a customer will feel defensive, which blocks effective negotiation. Defensiveness means a lack of openness to new information. A salesperson should refrain from criticizing the needs, demands, motives or behaviors of the potential customer.
She should listen and be smart, rational and calm. Strategically the sales professional must keep the focus off the offer and create an arena of fairness in mediating discussions about the numbers in a mutually beneficial fashion -- one where she does not settle for less than what is desired.
7. Mimic the emotional environment.
Negotiation always involves manipulation. A useful strategy is to feign indifference once the negotiation has reached a sticking point. If a potential customer senses desperation or neediness in a pitch, the salesperson becomes prey to being taken advantage of.
If the sales professional can limit her sense of urgency about closing a sale and reflect indifference to the customer by seeming relaxed or asking for a delay in the negotiations, she creates psychological tension in the other party. This can result in an agreement.
Negotiation is purely a psychological strategy. Psychologically, a sales professional must be the master of his or her own mind and emotions. She needs to enter the negotiation prepared, knowing the needs of the potential customer through research, listening, spending time and paying attention.
When a sales professional goes into a negotiation well-informed, she can keep her expectations under control. The most effective working relationships, which can then evolve into long-standing partnerships, are always based in trust between partners. In this way negotiation is not about winning but rather about mediating for the best outcome for all involved.
Sherrie Campbell is a psychologist in Yorba Linda, Calif., with two decades of clinical training and experience in providing counseling and psychotherapy services. She is the author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person. Her new book, Success Equations: A Path to an Emotionally Wealthy Life, is available for pre-order.