Negotiation and Sales: Winning the game

Prepare before you get into the grand final

Negotiation conversations are just like playing tennis.

If you had the opportunity to play in the Wimbledon Grand Final against Serena Williams, would you simply step off the aeroplane, take a ride to the tennis arena and step right onto the court before the game begins?

Would you turn up with a hockey stick, goggles and wetsuit?

Aside from being an hilarious image at Wimbledon, not only will you lose the game, but you’ll also lose face.

Approaching your sales conversation and your negotiation is no different and too often, people are making it up as they go, with the best of intentions, but just without process or preparation.

This is a terrible  strategy

If you stand to win or lose money in your sales conversation or negotiation, making the conversation up as you go is the same as leaving the result to chance. Or worse yet, luck, or hope.

If you properly prepare, you mitigate your risk of walking away with an unfavourable outcome.

On the flipside, even if you spend epic amounts of time preparing, you’re still not guaranteed a win, but, you’re much more likely to succeed by preparing, than not.

Tennis and negotiation

Liken your sales conversation or your negotiation to a game of tennis and consider 2 elements of importance; before the game and playing the game.

Before the game

Prior to stepping onto the court, into your sales conversation or negotiation, you should have by now:

  • Understood the purpose of the meeting
  • Had at least some conversation with your partner (yes, we call them a ‘partner’, because the conversation requires 2 people to play)
  • Conducted some research on who they are and what is important to them
  • Gained knowledge on why they wish to meet with you
  • Practiced, practiced, practiced the skills you’ll require for the game/meeting

Playing the game

To win the tennis game,  you’ll need competency in the following skills:

  • Serving
  • Footwork
  • Volleys
  • Lobs
  • Forehand
  • Backhand
  • Agility

When you are in the sales or negotiation conversation, you are setting yourself up for a favourable outcome if you are competent in these skills:

  • Active listening
  • Open-ended questions
  • Strategic silence
  • Objection-handling
  • Follow-up

But that’s not enough

As in tennis, you need to deploy those skills in a particular order if you want to win.

You can’t start the game by running into the net, hoping for a backhand, but ready to serve from there.

You also can’t stand on the spot and demonstrate your exceptional footwork, whilst your partner slams in an ace.

Just being competent in the individual skills isn’t enough.

You need to know the order of play for each skill for the game to work.

This is no different to a sales conversation or a negotiation.

If you are an exceptional active listener, then your conversation won’t be great if you don’t deploy any questions.

If you’re great at questioning, that is worth nothing if you aren’t deploying active-listening each time.

For even more validation on this topic, check out this previous newsletter edition.

Try this instead

Before your next sales conversation or negotiation, follow a process, that you can repeat each time for future conversations.

Through trial-and-error you’ll eventually land on a process that should work in almost all situations, I know it does for my sales conversations and negotiations because there is nothing I say by accident and every question and statement is deployed with the intention of bringing out the best in my conversation partner.

If I’m making it up as I go, or I’m conducting my conversation in a way that is arrogant, heavy handed, or ego-centric, then one thing I know for certain, is that I am not only less likely to achieve a favourable outcome, but I’m also most likely to lose the relationship.