What's Under The Surface When You Negotiate A Sales Deal?

Many people think sales negotiations are about strategies and tactics. They are, but only on the surface. It’s what’s under the surface that determines whether negotiations work. It’s an buyer’s emotions and values that determine which tactics work and which don’t, when to select certain tactics, and what style to adopt and which to avoid.

A good metaphor for a sales negotiator is a Doctor. As a negotiator you have many tools at your disposal, much as a Physician has many possible solutions for treating a health problem: pills (thousands of different kinds) potions, ointments, shots, physical therapy, surgery, diet, lifestyle changes … there are many options. The more a Doctor knows about you – how you react and respond to different treatments, the better job they can do.

You as a negotiator are no different. You have access to different styles, techniques, tactics, strategies and options in a negotiation. Knowing which to use depends on your knowledge of the other person and their situation. What drives them under the surface? What are their values? Do they have “Hot Buttons” and other things they are “allergic” to?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that someone doesn’t have values, or that you can’t figure out what they are. Everyone has values, and you can detect them because everyone has behaviors. Observe behaviors, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s under the table with most people. I think it was William James who said, “I’ve stopped listening to what men say. I just watch what they do.” He was pretty smart.So …. Here we go. Below is a list of drivers– not all, but certainly enough to get the ball rolling.

Looking Good --Everyone wants to look good – to someone. The question is – to whom? Some want to look good to their manager, some to co-workers, some to a board, or to shareholders. When I’m consulting/preparing for a negotiation with a client, I question I always ask is, “Who is this person most anxious to impress?” The answer tells you a lot.

Being Fair -- In a world that may seem hard and cynical, many are still motivated by simply being fair to the other person. My experience is that this is not as uncommon as many might think. In a twist of irony, not many buyers are driven by a need for fairness, and a great number of salespeople are. This set up a predictable outcome of shrewd buyer taking advantage of salesperson with a need for fairness

Power/Control -- The link between negotiation and power has been chronicled since early times, and probably doesn’t need to be explored again here, except to say that many people are driven by having things their own way, whether it’s a number on a contract or where a desk sits in an office. This has not much to do with the money or the placement of the desk. It has to do with power, with control and with who calls the shots.

Being Right -- No mystery here. Many people simply can’t admit they are capable of making a mistake – or ever would. A surprising number of these people end up in procurement.

Being Appreciated -- Being appreciated, being valued is of enormous importance to many in business. In a surprising study delving into factors resulting in job satisfaction, money came out 7th, while being appreciated and working with people you like were on the top of the list.

Being Important -- You can observe this from a grade school principal, to the head of a department, to the mayor of your community, to your procurement customers. Many people get their strokes from being important. If they get that from a business situation, the deal has a good chance of going well. If they don’t, they’ll find a way to disrupt the deal.

Fame -- Easily observed in the celebrity field, top businesspeople are no less susceptible to fame than anyone else, especially at the top levels. Look at Richard Branson and Donald Trump.

Impatience -- A common and often effective negotiation technique is simply to drag your feet, and wear the other person down. Their impatience can lead to them giving away more than they would like, just to “be done with it.”

Being Liked -- Everyone wants to be liked, but some carry it to an extreme. It’s my observation that salespeople are often the worst, and it can cause them to leave money on the table in account after account.

Being Safe -- Not making a mistake … these are individuals who have a fear of “getting taken”. Security is very important, and for a reason.

Let’s be honest. In many companies, getting ahead is not achieved by head-turning accomplishments, but by simply staying out of trouble – this is epidemic in the procurement/buyer world. In such an environment, being safe becomes part of the culture.

That’s not all the drivers, but it’s enough to get the idea. You can see that drivers make an incredible difference in selection of tactics and strategy. If you are negotiating with someone driven by power, for example, you would negotiate very differently than negotiating with someone driven be being fair.

If you’re negotiating with a buyer driver by impatience, you should negotiate very differently than if negotiating with someone driven by being important.

In most negotiations several of the above may come into play. Your being an effective negotiator depends on your ability to 1) correctly ascertain the drivers of the party, and 2) select tactics and strategies that work on that mentality.

Now we’re to the hard part: making those same observations about yourself. All of the drivers outlined above apply not only to the other party, but to you as well. What’s under the table for you? Experience has taught that while drivers are merely difficult to accurately determine in others, they can be almost impossible to observe in ourselves.

The truth is, if you can discover and eliminate (or at least disarm) your own drivers, you can become almost invulnerable in negotiation. Here’s why:

Every driver is a need, and every need is a lever for people to work you.

If you have a need to be liked, or to look good, a savvy buyer can use that need to work you.

If you have a need to be safe and not make mistakes, a savvy negotiator can use that need to manipulate you.

If you have a need to be fair, a savvy negotiator will work you. Here’s what good negotiators understand: the under the surface drivers work the tactics on top of the table.

Burn this into your brain: Whenever you use a negotiation to satisfy emotional needs, you give the other party an advantage, because in negotiation, neediness makes you vulnerable.

Most of the people who emerge on the short end of the stick in Negotiation are the cause of their own undoing. When they talk about it, they often point out how they were treated poorly, but when you examine the situation here’s what you’ll find: When they gave others an advantage, others simply took it.

Here’s the Cliffs Notes on that:

Don’t use business to feel good about yourself.

Use business to do business.

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