10 Tips for Successful Negotiating by Phone

Try these tips in your next negoitation.

Most of us negotiate something every day. Whether it’s getting our kids to willingly clean their rooms, or hammering out an elephant-sized contract with more details than a politician has “special-interest” donors, our ability to haggle affects our results. Here are some useful negotiating tips.

1. Define Your Negotiables Other than Price. Inexperienced, unconfident, or plain old lazy reps take the easy route and drop price at the first sign of the other person seeking to get a better deal. Instead, first determine what you could offer, if needed, that has high perceived value to them, but little cost to you. For example, moving up the delivery date if they need it quickly, extending the warranty period . . . some distributors and suppliers like to throw in some products the customer isn’t buying. This has high perceived value, and gets the customer to test the new product, which might pay off with future purchases.

2. Analyze Your Strengths, Their Needs. Before calling, list what you know they require and emotionally want, what you have, and what you want. You might know that this buyer always tries to pound you on price, but you also know you’re working from a position of strength because you’re the only one who has the quality of product he needs.

3. Set Your Objectives. Just like every call, define, “What do I want them to do as a result of this call, and what do I want to do?”

4. Aim High, Set Minimums. As part of your objectives, swing for the fence! Think big. Set the most favorable objective possible (one that is within reason). The richest sales reps I know can’t believe anyone would think otherwise. Likewise, set minimums that you’re willing to accept. You’ll know how much you have to play with.

5. Prepare for Their Possible Tactics. It’s easier if you know the person. For example, knowing that Joe always starts with an outrageous request helps you prepare your counter-tactic. Otherwise, you need to dry-run through possible demands and tactics along with your responses so you’re not blindsided into giving away something you didn’t intend to.

6. Gather Information. As with all sales calls, the more you know the better.

7. Don’t Give More Information (or Anything Else) than Necessary. I’ve seen sales reps offer price concessions that weren’t asked for (“The price starts here, but I might be able to do a little better.”), and give up information that the customer used to ask for more concessions (“You mentioned another customer had additional training manuals thrown in free. I want those too.”)

8. Don’t Split the Difference. It’s human nature, but it costs you money. Let’s look at the math. Your asking price is $50. They offer you $30. You counter with $40 and they figure splitting the difference is fair. Your tactic: come back with a pained tone of voice, “I might be able to do $46 or $47.” It’s more likely you’ll end up better than $40.

9. Trade Your Concessions. Get something in return. If you get them the better volume price, ask for a commitment for a blanket purchase order. One-sided giving rarely makes for a healthy relationship.

10. “If I, Will You?” A tactic to accomplish the previous point. Before agreeing to what they want, get commitment on what they’ll give in return. “If I’m able to move your request to the front of the line, will you increase the order by 500?”

I believe I read this in an ad in an airline magazine for a negotiation seminar: “You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you can negotiate.”

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