Whether you are pitching a sale or negotiating a deal with one of your suppliers, the other party will almost inevitably have an objection that can stop the discussion in its tracks. In transactional sales, potential customers become fixated on a specific issue, whether that is a missing feature or a price point that is higher than they would like. Often, these objections have no real bearing on the customer, but the customer is either looking for an excuse to put the conversation off until later or possibly even avoid the conversation entirely.
Potential negotiation partners get hung up for several reasons, from a genuine lack of interest in what the other party has to offer to other alternatives that may seem like a better fit. While Shapiro Negotiations can teach you and your team a variety of ways to effectively overcome these objections, sometimes it’s more effective to stop them before they become an issue.
Ask a lot of questions early on.
During a negotiation, knowing as much as possible about the other party’s interests and motivation can be a great advantage. If a negotiation feels adversarial or competitive from the start, the other person or group will often shut down communication in an attempt to “win.” Rather than a competition, a negotiation should feel like a collaborative effort, where both parties are working together to create the most beneficial outcome for everyone involved. For that to work, though, you need to know exactly what it is the people on the other side of the table want.
From the beginning, ask questions about goals, what is being done to achieve them, and then figure out where you fit in achieving those goals. Questions like “What is most important about [a particular aspect of the negotiation],” lead the other party to start talking about what they’re looking for and opening up more to possible solutions. Clarifying follow-up questions, like “Why is that important?” help you to narrow down exactly what they are looking for and tell you how to show you can help them to accomplish those goals.
Negotiate with people.
Once you know what the other side is looking for, it’s easy to over-focus on pushing that aspect. But remember that, in the end, you’re not only dealing with an organization, you’re negotiating specifically with the person or people sitting across from you. Try to figure out how this negotiation will benefit the individual or group you’re working with and cite specific examples.
Demonstrate genuine expertise in the field.
If you are offering a specialized service or product and a potential customer feels that you’re just a salesperson with no real knowledge of your product, you’re going to get very little benefit of doubt when you attempt to persuade them of anything.. For example, if selling in the medical device industry, even someone who has extensive sales experience will have little success if they’re not able to match that sales experience with medical knowledge.
It’s not enough to try and fake it, either. The people you are working with know their fields, and they will be able to spot a phony the instant you open your mouth. Study the subject so that you know it backwards and forwards. Then, rather than seeming ignorant and ruining your credibility with the customer, you will build that credibility by showing that you are an expert.
Make sure the person you are working with has the authority to make decisions.
One of the most popular objections customers like to throw out is that they’ll have to ask their supervisor, since they’re not the one who makes the decisions about your product. We call this “higher authority” and it can be real, a tactic, or both. Right from the outset, make sure that the person with whom you’re negotiating is the person who can actually make the decision. Even if you’re able to come to an agreement with the other party, if they’re not able to back that agreement up with the proper authority, you’re going to need to start the whole process from the beginning once you get to the person who is actually authorized to make decisions. That doesn’t mean that you should be rude or ignore a gatekeeper, however. This person can turn into either an ally or an adversary as you negotiate with the next person in line, so always be sure to treat everyone you encounter along the way with respect. We recommend, early on, asking questions like “What is your decision-making process?” in order to gain that valuable information without offending anyone.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If handled properly, you can overcome most objections put before you, but often, it’s even more effective to never encounter those objections at all. By asking the right questions, knowing your audience, and putting in the proper research, you can avoid potential pitfalls before they even occur and find a clear path to a successful negotiation.