Three Classic Negotiating Mistakes

Guest post by Clint Babcock:

Recently I was teaching
a class on negotiation for salespeople. I set up a buyer–seller role play
scenario and I asked two participants to work through the scenario in front of
the rest of the class.
  Both were
provided with the pertinent information they needed to secure a good deal; all they
had to do was negotiate the price.
specifically narrowed this role play down to this one issue; neither one of
them knew what they were selling.
  Such a
scenario allows participants to focus on how best to work through the money

The point of doing an
exercise like this is not the end result.
It’s observing the process that people go through, the great moves they make
and/or the mistakes they fall prey to. Analyzing the process used is what
creates learning and growth opportunities for everyone, including the observers.
  Whenever I do an exercise like this, and lead
the discussion afterward, I’ve noticed that there are three mistakes that always
seem to present themselves. As I predicted, all three showed up during this
role play.

#1: Talking too much.
This is the single most common mistake.
Salespeople, I’ve noticed, tend to defend and justify their solution,
apparently under the impression that the more they say, the better the solution
looks. They pile on the features and benefits of working with their
company.  As you might imagine, the
stream of words they unleash gets them nowhere, because the prospect already
knows all of this. If they didn’t, why would they be negotiating? A better
Don’t talk about your features and benefits. Focus on the pains
that your solution will solve by asking questions about how they see the solution
solving their problems.  Become
inquisitive and curious as to their position; keep in mind that the more
information you uncover, the deeper your understanding of the situation will be
– and the better positioned you will be to reinforce your position as the right
choice for them.

#2: Offering or agreeing to concessions immediately.
too often, salespeople fail to recognize that they are even in a negotiation,
and they volunteer a concession.  For
instance: The buyer asks for a better price, or better terms, and the salesperson’s
knee-jerk response is, “What were you looking for?”  Very often, we have not prepared for this
all-too-predictable moment. We fail to process the reality that we may well be dealing
with a strategic negotiator, someone who has prepared and planned for this
negotiation and who has created leverage they can use against us.  Giving up something without getting anything
in return is a no-no! A better approach: Instead of encouraging the
other side to ask for concession after concession, do your prep work. Recognize
that you will be in a negotiation at some point in your sales cycle. Identify
what, specifically, you will ask for in return when someone asks you to make a
concession. Hold onto concessions for as long as you can; don’t give them up
until late in the sales or negotiation process, and plan to get something in
such as a firm commitment to do business. Preparing ahead of time
is the key to ensuring you don’t simply react, but instead respond
appropriately to a request for a concession.

#3: Believing that money is the only issue.
A lot of sales and
business negotiations focus on money.  Remember:
The best negotiations have little or nothing to do with money.  The best negotiation discussion is about
finding the best fit solution. Yes, people want to pay as little for that solution
as possible. But if we make it all about money, we both lose. A better
Even if buyers try to make the discussion about money, you need
to stand your ground, and make it about solving their pains and issues with your
solution. Yes, this takes practice! But what’s the alternative?

Most companies and
sales organizations have no idea how often their teams make these mistakes
during a negotiation process. Why? Because negotiation is rarely trained or
practiced. What ends up happening after a long series of negotiating errors is
that senior. leaders are brought into the process – because they know how to
handle these situations.
  This is not an
efficient solution. With guidance and practice, salespeople can learn to avoid
these common mistakes.

Clint Babcock is the
author of NEGOTIATING FROM THE INSIDE OUT: A Playbook For Business Success. A
Sandler trainer based in Florida, Babcock has over 25 years of sales,
leadership, and negotiation experience; he has worked with senior executives at
companies in a wide range of industries to help them strategically build their
sales forces. For more information, please visit