When does negotiation start in an opportunity? The most common response is “in procurement.” Is that true? How about “negotiation starts whenever something of value is requested”? How about “negotiation starts at the beginning”?
There are hundreds of books on the topic of negotiation, with varying perspectives and approaches. Many of them are quite good but tend to focus on tips and techniques, often leaving out an important aspect. In our ValueSelling workshops, we talk about negotiation, but we focus less on the gimmicks and instead reframe the topic toward “Power.” Negotiation, by definition, requires leverage. For the purposes of this discussion, we will use leverage and power in an opportunity interchangeably.
Traditionally, we think of Power in an opportunity as the people on the buyer’s side of the table who are decision makers (Economic Buyer, Coach, Champion, Influencer, Stakeholder, etc.). That’s a perfectly valid definition of Power. Yet, as a Seller, do you have power in an opportunity as well? If yes, what kind of power do you have? Resources. You may have (depending on the industry) information, technical resources, specifications, customer references, case studies, demonstrations, POC/POV’s, and so on. Do these have value? You bet they do. Did you ever calculate what it costs your company to do a demo? Add it up…flights, hotels, meals, resource time, and don’t forget opportunity costs. What does that equal? $5,000, $10,000? Why in the world are sellers so often just giving away this value for nothing? In leading ValueSelling workshops and managing sales teams over the years, giving away “value” or resources is one of the top challenges with which sales people struggle.
If we actually do have “Power” (or leverage) in an engagement, and that power has some value associated with it, why wouldn’t we trade something of value (what we want or need to advance a sale) for something of value in return (what they want or need to advance toward a purchase)? For example, “If I can schedule that demo for Tuesday as you asked, would you be able to confirm that your Director will be there?” What do you think the benefit of this could be? Is there anything wrong with this approach? Does it risk rapport?
When sellers get comfortable with this idea, it will often accelerate sales cycles and reduce the dreaded “no decision.” More importantly, if the prospect or client isn’t willing to trade value for value, maybe there really isn’t an opportunity and it’s time to move on. Either way, as stewards of our company’s resources, we need to be mindful of that value and invest our resources appropriately.