5 Crucial Negotiation Skills Every B2B Sales Rep Needs!

  • By Andy Fox

When it comes to ‘negotiation’, as most sales reps today can tell you, it involves playing a game with a delicate balance of ‘give’ and ‘take’.  A process where both parties (buyer and seller) hold discussions to come to a ‘mutually acceptable’ solution, a ‘win-win’ situation

A successful negotiation is ideally an outcome where you make concessions that is negligible, or means little to you, whereas the same means a lot to the other party at the receiving end. It should help foster ‘goodwill’ among the parties regardless of differences in interests, and leave both parties satisfied and eager to do business with each other again! 

Most people don’t like to sell, due to fear of rejection. If your offer has been turned down by one of your prospects in a sales meeting, then you know what I am talking about… 

It’s the fear of that ‘dreaded feeling’ when the client says ‘no’ and you're left dumbfounded without any tricks up your sleeve -That’s when your emotions start welling up, and it gets the better of you, crippling your ‘intelligence’ or the ‘thinking’ mind.  

However, there’s an easy solution to this conundrum. You increase your threshold to ‘confront’ or battle such rejections by learning to negotiate better. The higher your negotiating skills, the better you have control over your emotions, the better is the chance for you to convert those ‘Nos’ to ‘Yeses’. 

Negotiation is not an innate talent that your parents pass on through your genes; but a skill that you can learn and master through continuous practice. Nevertheless, it's still critical that you have a growth mindset that believes ‘negotiation’ can be learned and is not just a heritable trait

Now, without further ado, let us explore 5 such skills that every B2B sales rep needs to learn to be a master negotiator: 

1.  Are You ‘Listening’ Enough?

A common habit of even those who claim to be a ‘good listener’ is to only listen until there’s a pause in the conversation to quickly jump in. 

Truly listening means to hang onto every word your client is saying and only ask relevant questions to decipher their perspective and stance on the issue. If you don't actively participate in the listening proces, boredom quickly sets in – you may be nodding at your prospects’ talk but realistically very far from capturing or processing the information being given, as you’re busy fighting off the laziness. Some are even guilty of zoning out during conversations… and that’s when they make assumptions based on selective , which only backfires when making crucial decisions, as the vital information was missed long before in the conversation. 

A great way to ‘listen’ is to make it a habit to take notes while the prospect is speaking, which also helps you to repeat and clarify what they said, later on when you need to make your point.

Above all, apart from thoroughly understanding your prospects’ perspective on the issue at hand, ‘listening’ conveys to the person that you respect them, which in turn builds ‘trust’ and confidence between both the parties. 

2.  First Up - Have An ‘Agreement’ In Principle

The question here is – Are you already moving into the ‘concession’, ‘discount’, or ‘pricing’ conversation, without establishing an ‘agreement’ in principle? 

In other words, clients can get quite hasty and start digging for discounts and question about the pricing model - basically be curious about where they can squeeze the budget and poke holes, besides being focused on the overall project cost and how that is within a justifiable ROI.

Early money talks will only derail the conversation and could be a huge hindrance to an amicable solution. The first conversation should be about whether your ‘product’, ‘service’ or say your software will solve their problem or not and whether it’s financially worth solving. 

If the answers to these questions are positive, if they give a ‘nod’ on your demonstrated proof of ROI, if other technical concerns on onboarding issues are sorted, if you perceive that there’s real interest to buy – then only you can open up the ‘concession conversation’ and start negotiating.           

3.  Always Strike For An Equal ‘Trade-Off’

On the negotiating table it's crucial that in the name of discounting you’re not giving away more than you receive in value, as that will invariably hurt your bottom line. 

Always make sure you get something of real value in return. It could be a referral to another likely customer, signing early to meet the end of the quarter, or it could be receiving some lucrative data or information from the prospects. 

These trade-offs can sometimes also come at the beginning of the conversation, and if it holds huge value to you, it’s possible to talk about discounts even earlier in the conversation. The client could be letting you on their buying process, giving a real timeline, or sharing which competitors of yours they’re looking at, for the purchase. All in all, you need to grab something in return for the concessions, so both are on equal-footing and mutually beneficial relationship. 

4.  Negotiate with the Decision Maker

One common mistake made by sales reps is to negotiate with people who are not the decision makers. If you're not sure about who’s sitting across the table, you can always politely ask who the final ‘signing authority’ is. 

This helps you to be wary of not laying all your cards on the table. If you negotiate with others with ‘full steam’ or say using up your ‘last resort’ – then when you begin negotiating with the real decision maker, there's a high chance that he/she will start the conversation based on the discounted price quoted or agreed earlier – which can act as a leverage to insist on a lesser quot,e pushing you further into a tough spot. 

5.  Slow Down…Know when to Walk Away!

Often times, sales reps in a hurry to clinch a deal, are caught in the moment and make the mistake to strike a deal, which is later not found to be in line with the company’s principle and has jeopardised the bottom line. 

So whenever the question of ‘discounts’ or ‘concessions’ pop up – take a deep breath and a step back to furnish your answer, that leads to a win-win state. 

If the prospects’ demand is too high, if they’re asking for massive price reduction or radical amendments to the contract, which is not profitable to the company then you need to pull out and walk away, by all means. 

It's also possible that walking away from this deal could land you an even better and profitable deal, so it’s crucial to think twice and draw the line, and not succumb to the pressure. 

The infographic below from HEADWAY Capital illustrates how you can master the art of negotiation:


Over To You…

Negotiation is like a ‘high-stakes’ dance, where both parties need each other. If one person takes an unexpected step, stumbles or even walks away, the other partner cannot continue. Therefore to master this art, you need to always look out for a solution that is a ‘trade-off’ of equal proportion in value, such that it ushers in a new and mutually beneficial relationship for both the parties. 

P.S. Food for thought: Selling is the First Act – If you can ‘Sell’, there is absolutely no need to enter into the Second Act of ‘negotiation’!

Call Andy Fox (me) on (03) 5249 5570 or email andy@element7digital.com.au

Our Website is element7digital.com.au 

Andy Fox - Author

I have a firm belief there is only one great challenge in life… And that is… To be the best version of you possible. I have lived my whole life to this tune. I love that I am not perfect and I love that every day I get up and make at least one change in my life that makes it better, one change that takes me closer to my life’s goals.

More about me, visit: andyfox.com.au