Top 10 Negotiation Tactics Used By Buyers (and How to Respond)

This stage of the deal-making process can have huge implications on your ability to close and keep satisfaction high.

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By Mike Schultz

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Imagine that you worked on a sale for about nine months. The average size of your opportunities is roughly $600,000. This one is $2,400,000. About four times the size. You've run facilitated sessions, done interviews and organized a global team for the rollout. You've pulled out all the stops and received word that you've been awarded the contract. Sort of.

At the final stage, the buyer asks you to "come in to work out the key terms and conditions" in person with the CFO, purchasing leader and the one business buyer you've worked with for the last nine months. You show up to the meeting scheduled for 8:15 a.m. and sit there for 75 minutes. Waiting.

When someone finally arrives, it's someone you don't know. They're none-too-friendly. When you get to the meeting room, there are eight other people present (you were told there'd be three), and all have coffee and bagels. You aren't offered anything.

It's now 9:50 a.m. The meeting was scheduled to finish at 11 a.m. The purchasing manager says, "All right, let's get started. Folks, just to let you all know, we have a hard stop at 11, so we should probably just begin. We've all reviewed the proposal and, while it all looks in order for what we want to do, we're going to need a better price."

I'd like to say it's the only time I've heard something like this, but this level of full-on, hardball negotiation happens often. In almost every negotiation, sellers face positional negotiation tactics from buyers. In fact, in our Top Performance in Sales Negotiation study of hundreds of negotiations, we learned that sellers face, on average, three tactics from buyers in every negotiation.

Related: 5 Steps to Master the Art of Negotiation

Here are the top 10 tactics — ranked from most to least effective — buyers use with sellers all the time.

  1. Use seller eagerness to get the deal done to wring out final concessions.
  2. "We need a better price."
  3. "Meet us in the middle." (Even though the middle might not be fair.)
  4. Share a low budget up front to set the stage for bargaining to start at a low price.
  5. Require sellers to negotiate in very tight timeframes.
  6. "A competitor will accept this if you don't."
  7. Unbundle the solution but want to keep the same price
  8. Limit seller access to decision makers.
  9. React emotionally to the price they give us.
  10. Wear sellers down with requests and delays.

How you respond to these tactics has huge implications on your ability to win deals and keep margins and client satisfaction high. Too many sellers simply give in to buyer concessions. You don't have to be one of them. You can use our Six Essential Rules of Sales Negotiation as a core framework to achieve results with all types of sales negotiations.

Related: 8 Negotiating Tactics Every Successful Entrepreneur Has Mastered

  1. Always be willing to walk. It's okay to want a particular sale, but never okay to need the sale.
  2. Build value. Any objection can be met with problem-solving and value-building. You can always come up with ideas buyers will appreciate without lowering the price.
  3. Lead the negotiation. If you don't lead it, the buyer will, and they'll leave you playing catch up.
  4. Effect emotions. Negotiations are emotional affairs. Manage both your emotions and your buyers for the best negotiation outcomes
  5. Trade. Don't cave. Buyers often test sellers cave tolerance. Just look at the top factors on the above list. The most effective tactics have to do with pressuring price. Sellers who focus on and plan for trades develop and win better agreements.
  6. Plan to win. Preparation is one of the greatest determinants of negotiation success. According to our research, 89 percent of buyers prepare for their negotiations. Do you?

(Bonus: Can you spot the five tactics from the top 10 list that the buyer used in the opening example?)

As you think about your own negotiations and the tactics you face, keep these six rules in mind. Then, no matter what the buyer throws at you, you'll be prepared to prevail.

Mike Schultz

President of RAIN Group

Mike Schultz is a bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations, Insight Selling, Virtual Selling: How to Build Relationships, Differentiate, and Win Sales Remotely, and Not Today: The 9 Habits of Extreme Productivity. He is Director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and President of RAIN Group, a Top Sales Training Company that delivers award-winning results through in-person and virtual sales training, coaching, and reinforcement. He and RAIN Group have helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 75 countries transform their sales results and unleash their sales potential.

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