Sales negotiations are ideally supposed to flow in a mutually beneficial direction. But that’s not always the case. We sometimes run into negotiation counterparts who are downright difficult. In such a challenging negotiation, strong emotions and feelings of desperation may easily set in, increasing the odds of losing the deal.
It is not easy to manage such difficult negotiations, but with the right tactics, you can turn the challenge into an opportunity each time. Here are the tactics to employ if your find yourself in a difficult negotiation situation.
Don’t react, stay calm
Being faced with an adversarial or even abusive negotiation counterpart can make you lose your cool. But that will not benefit the negotiation. To keep your emotions in check, start by taking a deep breath.
A deep breath helps you retain your composure by stopping you from plunging into a fight-or-flight response. With your heartbeat and breathing in check, your mind can work optimally to figure out the next smart move.
Even though an unexpected display of anger can frighten some people into making concessions that benefit your interests, this approach can be counterproductive. In most cases, the anger will only convey desperation and not strength on your part. Also, strong emotions tend to cloud your judgment, keeping you from thinking clearly. This could lead you into giving in prematurely.
It helps to retain your composure, take a step back from the hard line, take an objective look at the dispute, and plan your comeback. In all cases, always remain professional as you approach the negotiation.
Disarm the other party by acknowledging their points of view
Because everyone wishes to get the advantage in a bargain, the last thing a person will expect is for you to cross over to their side. For a particularly difficult person, this should be one effective way to make them lower their guard.
Start by acknowledging the disagreement as you express the willingness to understand the person’s point of view. Consider acknowledging their position and make it clear that you realize the position is important to them.
Such a concession will go a long way in calming the adversarial negotiator down. What this does is show the person that you are willing to hear them out – people like to be heard and their points recognized.
Take a moment to play along. It doesn’t mean you are drifting away from your standpoint, it’s just a necessary break to create a conducive atmosphere where everyone can be adequately heard.
Encourage the person to talk by asking them solicitous, open-ended questions that help clarify the nature of their hardline position. You’ll notice that this also helps you understand the interests behind the other party’s position. Such understanding also normally helps open your eyes to vistas of alternative ways to resolve the sticking point.
With this, the atmosphere should slowly change from one of conflict into one of collaboration. Ultimately, you’ll be able to respond more accurately to the actual points of concern, rather than just offering general responses to things that you have assumed in your head. Done properly, this tactic should indicate genuine interest to your negotiation counterpart and completely shift the nature of the conversation for the better.
Transfer the focus to the less contentious aspects of discussion
Once you have sufficiently understood the nature of the adversarial situation, it is sometimes a good idea to shift attention away from the most contentious item of discussion. This is basically a tactical move to diffuse the tension before you can return to the topic from a less contentious angle.
Reframe the dialog around some items of collaboration. What are the shared interests that you both have? What constitutes the foundation of your working together? Is there a way this deal can help the customer save face? How getting this deal done will be a win for them?
Once you find answers to these questions in your head, it should be easier to remind the other party as to why they should see the deal through. Make them sober up and climb down from their high ground. Make them see why you are on the negotiation table in the first place and it will be easier to get them to say “yes”.
Pointing out the shared interests, helping the customer see why they need the services or product under discussion can be a great way to lead them into making a concession. Then, you can reintroduce the more difficult issue(s) in a more relaxed way once the tension has eased down.
As a salesperson, you will sometimes have to deal with a difficult customer. Sometimes the bargaining session may shift in the other party’s direction, and without good preparation, this can easily throw you off balance. However, arming yourself with these tactics should ensure that you survive (and increase your chances of winning) just about any sales situation.