As a proposal strategist and writer, my job is to get my clients shortlisted with the opportunity to negotiate for an important project or contract. During many hours spent burning the midnight oil together, clients become friends, and I usually end up caring about the outcome almost as much as they do.
By keeping tabs on the progress of some very long post-pitch negotiations and seeing the tactics employed by some exceptional salespeople, I have picked up some great tips for improving negotiation skills that will help you navigate this important, but nerve-wracking, part of the sales process.
1. Remember you’re the expert
Buyers often have to buy products or services they don’t really understand. Think of negotiation as education.
2. Negotiation is a two-way street
Negotiation is a process of give and take. When you give a concession to the buyer, always ask for something in return.
3. Hold firm to your principles
Don’t forget you have something the buyer wants; they need you as much as you need them. When something is important to you, stick to your guns. Buyers will respect you for it.
4. Know when to walk away
If the deal is unacceptable, cut your losses early. I’ve heard horror stories from fellow soloists and my own clients who have taken loss-making contracts hoping to make up the margin along the way. This rarely happens and the lingering ill-feeling is bad for everyone.
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5. Don’t be intimidated
You do not need to automatically accept the contract terms a buyer offers you. Remember, it’s their job to get the best possible outcome for their company. That’s your job too. Be particularly wary of unfairly punitive contract clauses, such as late fees or liquidated damages.
6. Keep your ear to the ground
Always stay alert for clues that may tell you where you are placed on the shortlist. It’s a good sign if the buyer promptly returns your calls, keeps promised meeting times and gets back to you when they say they will.
7. Stay consistent
If you had professional assistance with writing your pitch, consider ongoing help to draft negotiation correspondence too.
8. Don’t celebrate until the contract is signed
The negotiation process has many twists and turns and what looks good today might not look so good tomorrow.
9. Respect the process
In a formal tender, buyers and sellers are bound by probity rules to ensure a fair outcome for both parties. If a buyer or their employees unwittingly let confidential information slip, it could jeopardise everyone’s chances. If tendering is part of your business development strategy, keep it clean.
By following these tips for improving your negotiation skills, you will have a better chance of winning that important deal!
Do you have any other negotiation tips to add to this list?