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How to Prevent Objections in a Negotiation

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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.

Putting the “We” in Team

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While it’s long been said that “many hands make light work,” a team is more than just a group of people working on the same task. For a team to truly succeed, the individuals need to develop a cohesive bond that allows them to work in synch with each other. Even after you’ve assembled the right people for the job, your work isn’t done. Crafting a team is an active, ongoing process. An efficient team is like a complex machine, and like any other machine, it requires maintenance.

Outline clear roles for each team member.

One of the best ways to build team unity is to make it clear what each team member’s role is. Build a specific process that your team members follow when performing regular tasks, and make each team member’s part in that process very clear. This helps to prevent a situation where one team member ends up doing all the work, which can foster resentment. The other team members may be performing other crucial job functions, but even the feeling of unfairly getting stuck with work that should be divided can lead to a toxic environment. Make sure your team members understand what their role is, as well as the roles of their coworkers, if possible.

Make sure every member of the team feels valued.

In addition to ensuring that team members are aware of their roles, they should also recognize the value they bring to the team. According to a Gallup poll, the number one reason Americans leave their jobs is because they don’t feel that they are appreciated. This certainly includes paying them a fair wage, but it goes beyond that.

When you meet with your team, you should encourage feedback. Make sure that everyone is included in the process and has the opportunity to speak. They don’t have to speak up all the time—in fact, some team members may prefer not to—but it’s important that they know they’re welcome to add to the discussion and that their feedback will be given fair consideration.

Actively listen to your team’s recommendations, as well. Even if you disagree with an idea or suggestion, don’t just dismiss it out of hand. Give it fair consideration. If a team member feels that his or her thoughts are being ignored, it can lead to a toxic environment and damage the team’s cohesion.

Train your team, and revisit that training. (Just once won’t cut it.)

Teams evolve over time. Key team members leave, new workers are hired, dynamics shift, and over time, you can end up with a completely team than you started with. Turnover is particularly common within a sales team, which is why it’s crucial to train them on a regular basis. New employees of any type need to be shown the way things are done within your organization, but veteran team members also often need a course correction. Whether it’s sales management training to unite your team around the best way to move a lead through the sales pipeline or a refresher course on workflow management, training your team helps to ensure that everyone is at the top of their game.

Monitor and discuss team dynamics.

As a manager, it’s your job to keep an eye on the business process, but it’s also one of your key responsibilities to be aware of the dynamics between your team members. Take note of what is working and what is not.

When you meet with your team members as a group, have open discussions about how you can solve problems the team is having. Don’t use the time to criticize each other or whine about circumstances—use the meetings as opportunities to solve the problem together. Encourage discussions, and recognize positive team achievements.

Meet with your team members individually, as well. Sometimes, there are things a worker doesn’t want to say in a group setting, but they will often open up in a more private environment. Take note of your workers’ concerns and address those concerns.

Hopefully, over time, your team members will learn to communicate better and grow to trust one another. Healthy communication is at the heart of any effective team, and encouraging that communication is one of your most important jobs. Invest the effort into facilitating a conversation among all members of your team and they’ll start to come through for you and, perhaps more importantly, for each other.

Balancing Teamwork and Competition in a Sales Environment

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When managing a sales team, you need to walk a very delicate line. On the one hand, you want every member of the team to have the motivation to make as many sales as possible. One of the most proven ways to motivate sales team members is by offering performance-based commissions and bonuses. On the other hand, you don’t want your sales team stabbing each other in the back to steal sales. Too much competition can lead to a toxic sales environment, which can have a severe, negative impact on your business.

To get the most out of your sales team without causing infighting, you need to promote both healthy competition and teamwork amongst your employees. There are a few ways you can create this type of atmosphere at your office.

1. Set Team Sales Goals with Bonuses

The easiest way to encourage your sales team to work together is to include a financial incentive for doing so. Set one or more sales goals for the team as a whole, and if they reach the goals, give everyone a bonus. When everybody benefits from the team’s success, team members are more likely to help each other out. It fosters an atmosphere of cooperation and communication rather than rivalry. Each team member also has additional motivation to do well, as no one wants to be the person who didn’t pull their weight and let the rest of the team down.

Just because you’re setting team goals doesn’t mean that you need to get rid of individual sales goals. You can still pay out bonuses or commissions to sales team members individually so they also stay focused on their own success

2. Schedule Regular Meetings

One problem with many organizations is that each salesperson is isolated from their peers, so it can be difficult for team members to develop a feeling of camaraderie. You can mitigate this by calling the entire sales team in for regular meetings to go over their results, goals, and any concerns that they have.

Meetings are also an excellent opportunity for sales team training, which many organizations overlook. Continuous training is great for sales employees and your company, as it’s shown to result in 50 percent higher net sales per employee. Despite the enormous benefits, the average company only invests $2,000 per year in sales training, despite spending about $10,000 to $15,000 on hiring each employee.

By training the sales team together, the team members have an opportunity to become more comfortable working with each other.This builds a more cooperative atmosphere, one where the entire team is working together.

3. Put Your Team in the Right Positions to Succeed

Every member of your sales team is going to have their own strengths and weaknesses. You’ll get better results and create a more positive atmosphere when you find ways to leverage each member’s strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

For example, you may have one employee who is excellent at initiating cold calls, while another is much better at breaking down the products or services that your company offers. Having these employees work in tandem, with the former gathering leads over the phone and the latter closing the deal by describing product features, could lead to far more sales than if they worked separately. At the same time, you could have these employees learn from each other so they are able to shore up their weak points.

It takes time to learn the best way to utilize your sales team. Consider their backgrounds, personalities, and education, and evaluate their performance metrics to get an idea of what each team member does best and where they struggle. As the manager, it’s your job to get the most out of every employee.

The first steps towards getting your sales team working together while still working hard is setting up team goals and holding meetings regularly. Then, take a deeper look at the skill sets of your sales team to help them reach their potential and succeed.

Retail Sales Training: What it Takes to Succeed in Retail Sales

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Working as a salesperson in retail has evolved into a very unusual profession. When people walk into a store, it’s a fair assumption that they would like to buy something. Otherwise, they wouldn’t really have any reason to enter the store. Ironically enough, though, many people will do everything in their power to avoid engaging a salesperson. They will avoid eye contact, “casually” wander into a different part of the store, or sometimes, just turn around and walk right back out the door.

It turns out that people typically do want to buy something when they enter a store—but they don’t want to be sold to. For centuries people have been bombarded with images and stories of the crooked salesman. And, even the salespeople that don’t have shady intentions, are portrayed as being a “hassle.” How often do you go into a clothing store looking for something in particular and tell the salesperson you are “just looking” in response to his/her offer to help you?

So how does a good salesperson succeed? How can you sell something to someone who doesn’t want to be sold to? What can sales workers do to go beyond the negative stereotypes and help their customers to walk out the door satisfied with their purchase?

While some parts of finding success in retail sales come naturally, there are other skills that can be taught and honed through retail sales training. Our team at Shapiro Negotiations can help you and your team to develop these skills and so that not only will you be able to make the sale—your customer will be happy with their purchase.

So what are some of the skills your team will want to develop to be really successful in sales?

Sincere Customer Service

One of the most important skills any retail salesperson can develop is customer service. After years of distrust, most customers are wary of salespeople. In some instances, they see the salesperson as their adversary, someone who is trying to sell them something that they don’t want to buy.

Part of a salesperson’s job is to convince the customer that they are not, in fact, an adversary who is trying to convince them to buy something they never wanted. Instead, the salesperson is an ally and a facilitator. The salesperson is there to help them buy something they do want. Considering the fact that they have already taken the first step of walking through the door, this is a fair assumption.

When working with customers, be sincere. The minute a customer suspects that a salesperson is trying to manipulate them, they will snap a wall into place. Once this happens, any potential sale essentially becomes a lost cause.

Communication

When we are trying to convince someone of a point, the natural tendency is to talk more. After all, the more a salesperson talks, the more of a positive impression they can give of their product. If the salesperson talks enough, the customer is sure to by, right?

Hardly. A successful salesperson listens more than talks. In order to better determine what the customer wants, it is important for them to ask sincere, probing questions. As it becomes clear what the customer is looking for, the salesperson can then help to guide them to an appropriate choice. Dale Carnegie put it best with a short couplet in his 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

SNI’s retail sales training is based upon our founder Ron Shapiro’s book, The Power of Nice.  The goal is to find a situation where everyone wins. After all, if a customer walks out the door satisfied with the purchase he has made, he’s much less likely to regret the purchase and return it. Meanwhile, he is more likely to return and even recommend the store to others.

Product Knowledge

In order to convince someone that a particular product will meet their needs, a salesperson should have a solid working knowledge of that product. The salesperson serves as an expert on the product and should be able to answer any questions the customer asks. If a salesperson demonstrates that they are unfamiliar with the product they are pushing, it can seriously damage their credibility in the customer’s eyes. After all, if a salesperson doesn’t know anything about the product they are selling, then how can they honestly know that it will do the job the customer needs?

A good salesperson must be able to identify and capture the value that their product will deliver to the customer. To do so, they need to know the product backwards and forwards. The customer will naturally have objections, and a salesperson will need to overcome those objections. SNI’s trainers can instruct sales teams just how to do so through a five step process and help them to develop answers to some of the most common objections in our clients’ fields.

Industry Knowledge

A salesperson’s knowledge should go beyond just the individual products they are trying to sell. Knowledge of the industry is important as well.

By knowing about recent innovations in the industry, a salesperson can make recommendations to a customer, sometimes even beyond those that they have available to sell (see Sincere Customer Service above). SNI’s trainers can teach your team to discern what exactly a potential customer is looking for and then apply industry knowledge to direct them to products they may not even know about.

All of these skills can be significant assets when negotiating with a customer or helping to direct them to the right product. Also, keep in mind that many customers will come in seeking to use their own set of tactics to negotiate a lower price. As part of our training, SNI can teach your sales team how to recognize and respond to these tactics. For more information, contact us, and we will help you to determine how best to train your sales team so they can achieve the best results possible.

Lessons From the Avengers: How to Assemble a Super-Powered Sales Team

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If we’ve learned anything from the rampant success the Avengers movies continue to see, it’s that if you pull together the right group of individuals, anything is possible. But it’s not just a matter of putting a bunch of talented people into the same room and telling them to do something amazing. It requires the right people with the right abilities and the right training, plus a dash of that secret sauce that turns a group of strangers into a team.

As you learn how to build a sales team, you’ll face some of the same challenges. Sure, you’re not trying to stop an alien force from destroying New York or fighting a megalomaniac robot with the charisma of David Spader, but you still want a group of people who know how to work together and produce results. You’ll need to assemble team members who have the right mix of influence training and natural-born talent to convince customers that they’re making the right decision when they choose to do business with your company. So let’s take a page out of Nick Fury’s handbook and have a look at some of the lessons the Avengers can teach about putting a team together.

Spoilers from the movies may follow.

Lay out and prioritize your requirements

Before you even start recruiting, you need to determine what exactly your sales team is missing and how you can fill those gaps. In order to find the right people to fill out your team, you have to know just what you’re looking for, whether that’s someone who can quickly understand customers and make a connection, someone who knows the product backwards and forwards and can recite intricate specs from memory, or a viking god with a billowing cape and the power to control lightning.

Personality

You want your team to be able to work well in a wide variety of circumstances. If one team member is trying to hog the spotlight and take sales away from another, it leads to bad blood. A team needs to be able to function as a team, and they need to be willing to place the team’s goals first.

At the same time, not just any temperament is cut out for sales. You need teammates who are willing to put themselves out there and chase down leads. They have to want to go out there and actively sell your product. You can usually determine whether an interviewee has the right personality when you meet them, but a DISC profile assessment can also be a helpful tool as you choose members for your team.

Experience

Experience is one of the most effective teachers you can find, but it’s not always the first requirement in sales. In fact, it’s generally a good idea to have a wide range of experience on your team. Team members who have been working in the field a long time have often learned which techniques tend to work and which don’t. Meanwhile, team members who lack experience also haven’t had time to develop any bad habits and can bring fresh new perspectives with them.

Skills

Different workers have different skill sets, whether inborn or trained, and you want to fill out your team with a variety so your workers can handle different situations. Recognize which skills are just a part of who a person is and which can be taught. Sales and influence training can boost an employee’s effectiveness more than you might assume, but the person has to be willing to learn.

Build an effective hiring process

Once you’ve figured out the type of people you need to fill out your team, you need to lay out a plan for how to attract and recruit those people. In the case of Mr. Stark and Captain Rogers, SHIELD sent in a grizzled veteran with an eye patch and a wicked scar to talk to them about the “Avengers Initiative.” Meanwhile, Dr. Banner’s rage issues required a lighter touch in the form of a visit from a femme fatale who could manipulate even the most hardened criminals—and could handle herself in a tight spot, if necessary.

Fortunately, the team you’re putting together probably doesn’t include an enormous, green rage monster, but you still need a plan of attack that will bring in the right people.

Searching for candidates

Without a vast network of satellites orbiting the earth, you’ll need to resort to more mundane search tactics. There are several different ways to go about your hunt for new sales candidates.

Putting out ads and posting on job search sites provide a quick way to circulate the word that you are looking to hire, and it reaches a wide range, while referrals and recruiting events can help to bring in specialized applicants who will actively get things done.

Advertising

Placing ads in newspapers and on job boards is one of the fastest ways to reach a broad audience, but it also contains the least amount of pre-screening. If you have the time and resources to invest in weeding out the less-qualified candidates, though, chances are you’ll have a wide variety of options to choose from in order to best suit your team. Posting on LinkedIn has the added benefit of looking through a candidate’s online profile for qualifications that may get missed in the basic application.

Referrals

These referrals can come from current employees, people with whom you do business, family members, or friends. As long as the recommendation comes from someone whose opinions you trust, referrals are basically a way to have your candidates pre-screened to some degree before you even interview them.

If you want to encourage your current workforce to submit referrals, be sure to create some incentives so they’ll be more likely to do so.

Recruiting events

Job fairs and other recruiting events provide a lot of candidates for a relatively low investment. People who attend recruiting events are typically hungry for work, but other companies seeking to build their own sales teams will be actively competing for the same candidates. Show what sets your company apart from others and why the best candidates would want to join your team.

The interview

Just about anyone who has searched for a job before can tell you that it’s the employee’s first chance to make a good impression, but don’t forget that the same goes for you. If you want the best people to work for you, then show them why they want to work for you. Try to predict the types of questions they will ask beforehand and have answers prepared.

Remember that job applicants are basically trying to sell you something during their interview—themselves. Keep an eye out for just how they do that and take note of things like the way they present themselves, their body language, their grooming, and just how comfortable they seem to be with you. If they seem overly aggressive and pushy with you during the interview, they likely will be the same with your customers. If they feel more natural and genuine in their interest, they will likely be better equipped to put customers at ease.

Continue to hone your team, even after you hire

Sometimes, even after going through the process of searching for and hiring a candidate, you may realize that someone is just not the right fit for your team culturally. If you notice that a team member is having trouble working with your other team members, you may need to step in and make some changes. Extra training might be in order. If things don’t improve, you may need to let a team member go and replace them.

Emphasize ongoing training

While a state-of-the-art training facility in upstate New York—fully equipped with the best tech money can buy—may not be in your budget, you still need to make sure that your team members have their instincts honed and are ready to take on any situation. By regularly putting your team through sales and negotiation training, they can learn and refine the skills they need when they talk to customers and pull in that hard sale.

Proper sales training isn’t just a “do it once and then you’re good” sort of thing, and it’s definitely not just something you do when you need to fix a problem. Proper negotiation is a process rather than an event, and negotiation training is no different. Once you spot a problem, the time for training has probably already passed! Training is an opportunity for your team members to develop new skills and sharpen the ones they already have. After you have a big professional sales training event, continue to hold regular, smaller trainings among your team to keep the things your team has learned fresh in their minds. Encourage your team to teach and learn from each other, and as your team grows and evolves, hold additional formal training events, like those Shapiro Negotiations offers, to build your team’s skill base and fortify other skills they’ve learned.

Don’t skimp on the manager

For the most part, Nick Fury wasn’t on the front lines, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t know how to handle himself in an explosives-riddled car chase against a dozen heavily-armed HYDRA agents. Your team’s manager should be familiar with each of his team member’s capabilities and know in which situations to deploy each. The manager needs to understand the job better than anyone, and be able to get involved as needed.

Even when they’ve got a team of incredible salespeople, a mediocre sales manager will eventually lead to a mediocre team. A good manager knows just when to step in and encourage, where to coach salespeople and teach them new skills, and when the time is right to come back from presumed death and give an inspiring speech before the team leaves their safehouse and fights an army of killer robots on a flying island.

Encourage cooperation

Team members need to be able to work together. Some sales managers operate their teams under the facade that having their salespeople constantly competing hones their “killer instinct,” but that wastes a lot of potential and can eventually lead the team to implode. Some healthy competition is fine in sales, but team members should still put the group’s needs ahead of their individual wants. Otherwise,  it starts with a disagreement over a sale, and eventually, your two best team members are leading opposing factions, throwing explosive trucks at each other while the new guy grows to the size of a small office building and tears the wings off an airplane.

… Well.

Okay, so it probably won’t reach that point, but pitting your team members against each other all the time can still lead to bad feelings and worse results. Emphasize the fact that your sales team is just that—a team. Customers can tell when there are bad feelings between workers, as well, and it gives off an unpleasant feeling when teammates are trying to undermine each other. They’re all on the same side, and by working together, your team can achieve some pretty incredible results.

Once you learn how to build a sales team and then pull together the right group of people, anything is possible. Whether you’re trying to save the world or save your business, you want the best team you can put together fighting by your side. So bring in the right people. Give them strong leadership to point them in the right direction. Make sure they’re equipped with the best resources and the best training you can give them. Keep them focused and working together on the same goals.

Then maybe, after a hard, successful day in the trenches together, go out and grab some shawarma as a team.

How to Manage a Sales Team

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sales managementNo matter how good your product or service is, your sales team is an integral part of getting it into your customers’ hands. For this reason, it is important to make sure that they are given the proper attention. As the sales team manager, it is your job to make sure that they are achieving their goals, but just as importantly, it is your job to make sure that the team’s culture is healthy and that they are receiving the proper training. Below, we go through some practices you can follow to ensure their success:

Monitor performance indicators and make sure they are clear

Your sales team needs a clear picture of exactly what their goals should be. This will help them to focus their efforts and give them a target they can reach for. As time goes on, it can be easy to assume that everyone knows these goals, so it’s a good idea to articulate them regularly to ensure that your entire team is on the same page and working towards the same end. Keep track of these measurables and work with team members who may be struggling in order to help them to reach their goals. While you shouldn’t let underperformance slide, management and other team members should work with them to help them figure out what to do to meet their goals and improve their processes moving forward.

Build a culture that encourages success

Set high expectations from the beginning. People tend to deliver based upon the expectations set upon them, and if you act as though your sales team will perform poorly, chances are that you will be proven right. At the same time, if you set your expectations high, it is likely that they will rise to the occasion.

Creating a strong team culture also involves building relationships between team members. Building a cutthroat environment where team members are always looking to succeed at the expense of each other can be toxic, so encourage a feeling of camaraderie between team members. As your team members become familiar and comfortable with each other, your team’s work processes can become more intuitive and natural, further boosting performance.

Train the troops

Even if you have the best processes laid out for your sales team, they will do you no good if you don’t train the team. This can include everything from small, internal training meetings within your sales team to larger, day-long events. As they work in the same environment day after day, it is easy for salespeople to settle into a rut, which can dull their abilities. Bringing in an outside expert for negotiation training can shake things up and give them new insights on the best sales strategies, honing their instincts and revitalizing their efforts.

Coaching happens every day, not just in formal meetings

Corporate sales training events are a wonderful way to improve your team’s results, but training doesn’t stop there. As a sales team leader, you are responsible for your team’s results every day. While individual coaching opportunities can take time from your already busy schedule, it is worth the investment. Taking time to step aside and work with individual team members will build their confidence, both in their own abilities and in you as a leader, and can help them to feel like a part of a successful team.

Celebrate successes

When your team members achieve something, whether it’s big or small, acknowledge it. Celebrate it! Do this as often as you can, because each little celebration gives the team a boost and motivates them to do better. Recognize the successes that your team members have and reward them.

Some sales managers wait too long between wins to celebrate in order to make the celebrations seem more meaningful. While this makes sense to a degree, waiting too long to celebrate can backfire and make your team members feel underappreciated. When your team has a success, acknowledging that success motivates them to achieve even more the next time.

Your sales team is one of the most public faces of your company, but by putting in a little effort and providing the proper training, you can set them up for success. That will bring positive results for them individually and for your company as a whole.

The 3 Ps of Negotiation

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No matter the industry you are in or what you are trying to sell, negotiating is one of the most crucial skills a sales professional has to master. Here at the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, we’ve spent the last twenty years studying and teaching the art of negotiating. As a result, we have developed a systematic approach to the negotiation process:

3ps

For more information about proper negotiation tactics visit our negotiation training page.