In this post, I am going to share with you the two critical negotiation lessons you need to learn from to improve your sales negotiation skills.
If you want to learn how to negotiate, try having kids.
When I became a father in 2010, I can honestly say my sales and coaching skills were tested on a whole new level.
I remember being in a negotiation scenario with my son, Alexander, when he was five.
Alexander was going through a testing period, and I had been strategising with my wife about how we could best handle his temper.
The following evening, I got the chance to apply one of those negotiation strategies.
How to Negotiate with an Angry Customer
We’ve always had a set bedtime routine in the evenings with Alexander.
We aim to have him ready and in bed by 7 pm, which means we’ve to get things rolling by 6.30 pm to leave room for the explosive reaction to come.
Part of our new strategy was to give Alexander a short pre-warning five to ten minutes before the bedtime routine was to begin, and this was where I began.
On this particular evening, Alexander was happily playing with his toy trucks in the hallway.
I approached and gave him a pleasantly toned warning.
“Five minutes before it’s time to start getting ready for bed, Alexander,” I said.
“FIVE MINUTES? THAT’S NOT MUCH,” he yelled with an angry tone.
Luckily, Alexander wasn’t at the age where he fully understood time, but he was at the stage where he would negotiate everything.
“Okay then, you can have two minutes,” I said, knowing full well his response would be to negotiate an extra minute or two more.
As expected, he settled for three minutes and continued to play.
Phase one complete.
Now that’s how to negotiate.
I had successfully negotiated an agreement seven minutes better than aimed for and, more importantly, avoided the explosive tantrum we expected.
Knowing three minutes feels more like thirty seconds in a child’s brain, I let Alexander play for a couple of extra minutes before approaching him again.
“Okay, Alexander. It’s time to go to the bathroom now,” I said, to which I got a super aggressive “NO!” in response.
I took a deep breath, smiled and calmly knelt to his level and, in a low tone, said, “Hey, listen. We agreed on three minutes before, and I’ve allowed you almost ten.”
“Ten,” he said in shock.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Okay then,” he said, and off we walked to the bathroom to get ready.
I looked at my wife with a huge smile.
“I’ll be using that one again next time,” I said.
The negotiation was complete, both parties were happy, and I had a recipe for success.
Or so I thought.
When Negotiations Go Wrong
A couple of days later, I found myself in a similar situation.
Alexander had just started playing with his building blocks in the living room, and I calmly walked in fully prepared for action and gave him his ten-minute warning.
Only this time, there was no negotiation.
Alexander smashed his building blocks to pieces, sending them flying across the living room floor, and spent the next ten minutes kicking and screaming.
What the hell went wrong?
The Two Important Factors of Negotiation
So, here we have a story of two similar negotiations, approached with the same strategy but with two different outcomes.
And it’s a story with two very important lessons about how to negotiate.
1. Every Negotiation is Unique
There is no one winning formula to ensure you win every negotiation on your terms.
You can master tips, tricks, and techniques, but the outcome is often never the same.
2. Emotions Drive Decisions
If you’ve been in sales for long enough, you’ve probably witnessed a prospect get angry after you’ve told them the cost of your solution.
This emotional response can often come down to their expectations about the cost.
Maybe they had seen a lower price on your website or made a foolish assumption.
You never know.
There was one small critical difference in the two almost identical scenarios I just shared about Alexander.
In the first negotiation, I approached Alexander after he’d been happily playing for some time with his trucks.
He would have liked to play a little longer but had no big plans.
In the second negotiation, I approached him just a few minutes after he’d started to construct something with his building blocks.
This time he had expectations of playing a little longer and maybe building whatever he had planned to complete.
Then along came Daddy, who destroyed those expectations, resulting in the emotional reaction that essentially ended the negotiation.
Sure, I could have avoided or stopped his emotional outburst by offering him a better deal, but the result would have been a tired and grumpy child in the morning.
The child wins the negotiation, and Daddy wins the sale, but it’s a bad deal for both parties.
When reality doesn’t align our expectations, we often react in an emotionally negative way.
It’s a common human error you’ll need to navigate with your prospects.
So next time you enter a negotiation, remember Alexander and try to treat every situation as unique, and learn how to control your emotions so you can stay calm and in control.
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