Key insights and experiences that will help you to lead successful negotiations and achieve great results in sales, no matter the situation.
Over the years, my career has grown from making personal approaches to a number of the Fortune 500, to managing multinational teams providing best-in-class security to the world’s leading companies. This path has been laid through interactions and negotiations with many different people.
It is no secret that strong negotiation skills play a key role in sales. Such skills have become even more important in recent months, as a challenging global environment forces businesses to re-assess their spend. We have also witnessed a rapid shift to online operating models, and reduced opportunities to meet with customers and partners in person.
Let me share some key insights and experiences from my career that will help you to lead successful negotiations and achieve great results in sales, no matter the situation.
1. Listen to your client Successful negotiations rely on clear goal-setting, and this begins with the client. After all, it is the client, not you, who knows their situation best. When I enter into any discussion, I do so without wanting to promote a particular product, or myself, but to address my client and their needs. In the words of former European statesman Harri Holkeri: “If you come to a negotiation table saying you have the final truth, that you know nothing but the truth and that is final, you will get nothing.” Be attentive and listen: what does the client want? What product do they currently use? Does it address their pain-points? What product do they actually need? Ultimately, I want to offer my clients the best products and services I can to help them reach their goals.
2. Believe in what you sell It is important to have complete confidence in the solution you are proposing– it must be effective and a match to your clients’ requirements. Believe in the products you sell, be honest about their strengths and suitability, and be ready to offer up case studies or proof-points. For example, I take every opportunity I can to highlight Kaspersky’s position as the “Most Tested, Most Awarded” security vendor in the TOP 3 metric- for the seventh year running! In doing so, I reassure my client they will have the best protection available against known, unknown, and advanced threats. At the same time, keep your focus on the client, and be available to them when required, as the level of service you offer is equally important. It should help your clients solve their problems, not become one of them.
3. Establish clear and structured communication What I sell to my clients is a combination of their requirements, a complete knowledge and understanding of our solutions portfolio, and an expertise and confidence built over many years in the industry. But how I sell to them is what my reputation is built on- I feel a responsibility not only for the products and services I sell, but for my customers’ wellbeing at every stage of the process. Focus on clear and structured communication: you should always seek to address every question, every concern, every discomfort or problem your clients raise, and don’t forget to keep them updated of your progress at all times. If I cannot address a query on the spot, I make sure I promise to return to them shortly with a solution.
4. Consider reaching out to your client’s senior leadership team What if your client is unsure of their requirements, or their management has budgeted for (in my industry, for example) only the most basic anti-virus solution– leaving them vulnerable to targeted attacks by modern-day cyber-criminals? In such cases, your value as an external expert is plain to see. Several times throughout my career, and with my clients’ blessing, I have suggested a meeting with their senior leadership teams to help them better understand the security landscape, and what is required to protect their systems. By articulating at the appropriate decision-making level, the result has been a boost in security budgets, happy clients, and successful sales.
5. Play the long game Don’t rush. Long-term relationships can be far more important than short-term success or a quick victory. Your clients should be confident in their ability to stick with their chosen solution for the long run. In my experience, this process can take time, but I never argue with a client or try to lead them on. Rather, I recommend taking steps to identify their pains, much like a doctor would. If these can be successfully diagnosed and cured in the first instance, then my reward (a successful sale) will inevitably follow.
6. All things come to those who wait (or: “if at first, you don’t succeed!”) When you first approach a prospective client, they may not be in a position to complete a deal for many different reasons. For example, the cost of your proposed solution may be a sticking point. However, this is often not the end of the road. Where no immediate solution to a problem can be found, try to analyze all the smallest components of the problem, and work with what you have. And then- just wait. On several occasions, after some time has passed, prospective clients have returned to me to say they are facing an issue with their current vendor, and if I could help them. Because of the confidence and openness I displayed during our earlier discussions, they have returned to buy my solution.
7. Be yourself Lastly, your personality is a big part of the image you present to others. You can be bright and eccentric, or big, strong and loud, or perhaps clever and nimble- and the way you approach others will adapt to match. Play to your strengths, be yourself, and success will surely follow.
Turning pain into pleasure, instability to reliable support, chaos to structure, and insecurity to safety – that is my job, my philosophy, and the secret to any successful negotiation.