Written by Sean McPheat |
When you get to a point in the conversation with a customer where you have to negotiate on price or some other issue, remember one thing: the vast majority of negotiations occur because you haven’t identified the value of doing business with you earlier in the conversation.
I have found that if you uncover the needs, wants, desires ad motivations of customers early on, the whole aspect of having to negotiate starts to change. Because you are aware of how the customer will value your offering before you present ideas, you know exactly where you may need to give more than take. Negotiations most often occur when the customer has not had all their needs dealt with, or the value of your offering has not been built up enough before presenting solutions.
Having said that, it may well be that you get into a negotiating scenario that requires you to give and take. How do you know exactly what will be important or valuable to the customer?
Well, it may be that the two most powerful words in any negotiation are “What if?”. Using this question works because it allows the other person to consider possible solutions without committing to them. This way you can avoid making an offer before they have signalled a willingness to accept it.
To put this technique into action, suggest a possible solution by saying, “What if our solution involved distributing to other warehouses? Is that something that might work for you?” Then listen closely to the response, and change the suggestion if necessary, remembering to phrase it as a hypothetical (”What if?”) and not a formal offer.
Don’t commit to a solution before confirming that it works for the other person. Ask, “What if?” to test ideas before making formal offers.
A good way to prepare for this stage might be to ask yourself what combinations of options would make an attractive solution to both you and the other person. Should you present options independently or package them as one solution? Also, ask yourself whether you, personally, are willing to accept the solutions you’re suggesting.
It’s important to position this technique in the customer’s mind before you try it out.
Saying something like, “We’re probably not ready to commit to an actual solution yet, but I have some ideas that we could discuss to see if we can get closer here. Would you like to hear them?” would allow the customer the chance to see if there were options that would be satisfactory to them.
The objective of this technique is to get the customer to see how different approaches might or could work for them, and offers opportunities for them to test out hypotheses before making decisions.
Originally published: 19 November, 2014