Sooner or later, every professional salesperson will need to sit down at the negotiation table. And when it comes your time, you’d better hope you’ve prepared by learning the most effective negotiation tactics beforehand.
Now, maybe you’ve never had to negotiate before. You’d lay out your product specs and price points, and end-users would decide if they’re a good fit—and that approach can get you so far.
But when you start dealing with bigger, more complex clients (say, one’s with their own professional buyers), negotiation to close the deal is a given.
So, what negotiation strategies and techniques do you need to use to ensure the best outcome? And how do you navigate discussions diplomatically without ruffling feathers, inciting emotions, and sending buyers off in a huff?
This guide shows you exactly that. Inside, you’ll learn the exact negotiation tactics framework to follow, so both sides walk away happy at the end of the day.
Why Negotiate Logically?
In the world of customer-facing sales, emotion tends to rule the day. Consumers hit with a dopamine rush fueled by beachside images, catchy tunes, and scantily clad models are notoriously easy to persuade.
But when it comes to the world of B2B sales, the same emotion-laden negotiation tactic tends not to apply. At least not to the same degree.
On the one hand, emotions aren’t always easy to interpret. A publication from the Harvard Law School cites one study from Washington University that found negotiators detected emotions accurately only 58% of the time. Inciting and working off of emotions during negotiations, then, isn’t bound to be the best strategy.
But beyond that, there are a few other important reasons why you need to ditch the emotions while negotiating and take a more measured approach.
Reason #1: Old School Manipulation Just Doesn’t Work Anymore
Buyers are smart these days. Not that they weren’t before, of course. But today, deals don’t get made in a single phone call.
Instead, sales cycles are getting longer and longer with each passing year. Demand Gen Report found that sales cycles were up as much as 33% in 2021 compared to 2020.
Added to that, Gartner reports that there are on average six to ten stakeholders involved in a purchase decision.
Both a longer sales cycle and purchase decisions by committee mean putting the charm or pressure on a single contact isn’t going convince the entire team that your product is their solution.
You now need a system that leans into human nature rather than a hard bargaining tactic to win modern business negotiations.
Did You Know? – Buyers spend just 5% of the buyer’s journey talking with sales reps (Gartner). The majority of their time is spent researching your product, digging into competitors, and getting stakeholder buy-in.
That’s why during negotiations, it’s so important for you to offer real, tangible value—not sleazy manipulation tactics.
Reason #2: Buyers Have More Power Than Sellers
It hurts to hear, I know. But in the changing landscape of buyer and seller relationships, buyers have most of the power.
First off, there are more competitors than ever. Some offer different or better features. While others hinge their value proposition on lower costs. In both cases, buyers now have plenty of options for products similar to yours. And that puts the walk-away power in their hands.
Added to that, the shifting buyer’s journey is actually empowering buyers as well. Thanks to the near endless amount of content that buyers can use to research sellers without talking to a rep, buyers are more informed. That means negotiation strategy has changed. Buyers can make clearer, more strategic decisions before even engaging with you.
Did You Know? – A whopping 48% of salespeople said competing with low-cost competitors was the biggest challenge of closing a deal (Richardson). Many markets are flooded with similar alternatives to your product, some of which may be substantially more affordable.
It’s your job to pick out the differentiating points and drive them home. Why should they work with you instead of the competition? What can you offer? With a bit of creativity with your negotiation tactics, the answer could be a lot (more on that later).
Reason #3: …But Buyers Still Need You
The changing world of B2B sales and negotiation skills isn’t all bad news for sellers like you.
True, the old negotiation strategies won’t work anymore. But that doesn’t mean buyers don’t need you. In fact, there are a few things buyers still look to sellers to provide.
- Solutions – While they can typically get all the product specs and use cases they want before hopping on the phone, they don’t have the expertise to truly know what to do with that info. Your job is to assess the problems facing buyers, decide if you offer a solution, and show them how that solution can help. It’s called “solution selling,” and it’s a great way to build long-term rapport and buyer loyalty.
- Creative Deals – Depending on your position, you may have the latitude for making creative deals and getting to common ground at the bargaining table. Selling doesn’t come down to payment terms alone. A skilled salesperson may be able to negotiate flexible deals that include fringe benefits like free onboarding, two weeks of cost-free consulting, or added enterprise users at no cost. It all comes down to weighing buyer paint points vs. what you can afford to offer. Let’s see a checkout page on a website do that.
- A Trusted Source of Info – Last but not least, a buyer doesn’t view a skilled seller as just someone who closes the deal. They aren’t just a contact for when something goes wrong. Instead, they see skilled salespeople as trusted sources of information. If you can add more confidence to the other party, you’re adding value. They can help solve future problems with new solutions. They can offer invaluable insight. And they can help buyers in more ways than just hawking some wares.
Did You Know? – Only 3% of buyers trust sales reps (HubSpot). It’s true—we as sellers have to overcome a lot of skepticism.
That’s why it’s so important to go above and beyond simply selling to buyers. Instead, focus on solving their problems, not just making the sale. It’ll build trust and turn that skeptic into a true believer.
The Logical Negotiations Framework
Now that you have a better understanding of why you need to take emotions out of the negotiation equation, it’s time to take a deeper dive into the alternative—logical negotiation.
When you negotiate on logic alone, you’re catering to the modern world of B2B sales. No manipulation. No confusing and distracting emotions. And no misinterpreted signals.
Instead, you’re getting to the heart of what the buyer wants and whether they’re a fit for what you’re selling.
The Logical Negotiations Framework is one of the best ways to get to a win-win outcome that everyone, both you and the buyer, can walk away from happy. And it’s as easy as counting to five.
- Get Labeling
- Start With a “No”
- Invent New Options
- Get to a “That’s Fair”
- Solidify Commitment
1. Start Labeling (Get On the Same Page)
Simply put, if you don’t know the rules, you can’t play the game. And in order to have a logic-driven negotiation, everyone must agree to the rules that we’re playing by before we start the game.
That’s why the very first step of the framework is to work with the buyer to establish what it is you two have to work with.
What do they hope to leave these negotiations with? What resources do they have to make this a fair exchange? And in the interest of transparency, what are your hopes and available resources?
Listing each of these points out (both for you and the seller) is building a solid foundation on which to work from.
At the beginning of the negotiation, you’re going to take control by saying six magic words:
“This is how things usually work…”
The buyer might push back on you and start trying to make demands. And that’s OK.
But you’re going to stay strong, let them finish, and then repeat, “This is how things usually work…”
Eventually the buyer will say OK, and you two can start laying out what you have to work with.
Proper Communication: The Foundation of Any Successful Negotiation
Labeling your ideal outcomes and available resources is effective here because it facilitates clearer communication.
As you’ll see with the later steps in the framework, the best negotiation tactics aren’t cloak and dagger deception ploys. Instead, they’re problem-solving techniques that lead to a positive outcome for both parties.
And the more readily available information is from both parties, the easier it will be to settle on a mutually beneficial outcome.
Pro Negotiation Tips: Keep your cool. This tip is easier said than done. But even still, it’s so crucial that you learn to exude calm, assertive confidence.
Calm confidence signals that you’re coming into these negotiations from a logical, unemotional perspective. And it nudges your buyer to respond in kind.
“Some of the biggest mistakes I see salespeople make, Will, is when it comes to negotiation, all of a sudden they speak a bit faster. They fidget slightly because you can tell they’re nervous. Sometimes their voice goes up an octave or a semi-octave slightly. That’s the worst thing you can do. It’s absolutely vital when it comes to negotiation and discussing price, you maintain your calm.” – Interview with Niraj Kapur, Expert Sales Trainer
2. Start With a “No” (Identifying Boundaries)
When we first start the negotiation and we lay out the rules that we agree to play by, we only get the surface layer of rules established.
It’s not until somebody says “no” that you really understand where they’re willing to go.
That’s why your next move is to uncover those boundaries by getting your buyer to refuse deal parameters. The goal here isn’t to bully the buyer into saying “no.” It’s to politely test their boundaries so you can say logically, “this is where you are, this is where I am.” If there is some overlap, then there is room to make a deal happen.
You can use the closing framework to achieve this by asking:
“Would it make sense to [low offer], for [high exchange in resources]?”
If the buyer says yes, then you’ve just closed a much more advantageous deal than you’d have probably done otherwise. But most likely, they’ll just say “no.” At which point you ask the second closing question:
“OK, what would make sense for you?”
Expect the buyer then to try and haggle with you. This is normal, but it’s not what we’re trying to achieve here.
Once the buyer gives you their low-ball offer, you ask the closing question again and narrow the terms to something that is more in between your two points of view.
Getting this “no” out of the way allows you to reference logical anchor points that you and the buyer can work off of. Instead of you both saying, “I want,” you can now say, “you said ‘no’ to [X] and so [Y] should work for you, right?”
Aggressive Slips Sink Ships
It’s critical that you handle this step tactfully. This isn’t an opportunity to bully a buyer into an unreasonable sale. And in fact, doing so can instill resentment and ruin your chances for follow-up purchases and continued loyalty.
Instead, offer just a bit outside what you’d expect them to agree to. Test the limits. But avoid being insulting at all costs.
Pro Negotiation Tips: Think of the future. Don’t forget that retaining customers is 5X to 25X more cost-effective than acquiring new ones, according to the Harvard Business Review. The more reasonable (and less insulting) you are during this step, the more likely your buyer will be to return to you later.
“If you happen to work for a business where you don’t really need to have any repeat customers, where you don’t need to have relationships with your customers, where you don’t need to perhaps meet that person in another business context, then yeah, go in and negotiate like an asshole. Go in and try and win.” – Interview with Gavin Pressman, Media Sales, Leadership, & Organizational Development Trainer
3. Invent New Options (Open Doors With Creative Deals)
This step is simple: you invent new options that help the deal get made.
Deals aren’t made on price points alone. And to ensure the best results from your negotiation tactics, you’ll want to come up with some creative deal options to give you and your buyer more to work with.
You might have lots of leeway here in your sales role. You might be able to adjust pricing, give extra consulting/training, or manipulate other variables that have been outlined so far in the negotiation. If you do have that power, you can use those adjustments or added benefits to sweeten the pot for your buyer.
These creative deal options give you a lot more freedom when it comes to maximizing the value of your deal. They can also serve as enticing perks that bring buyers back from the brink of walking away.
That being said, some salespeople don’t have the luxury of manipulating their deal parameters, making this step a little bit tougher for some.
I talk more about creative deal-making in the Selling Made Simple Academy. So for more on that, be sure to check out the training.
Establishing Want Overlaps
This step is all about identifying where the wants of both you and your buyer coincide. This is called establishing want overlaps. And it’s the sweet spot of deal-making.
As the name implies, want overlap is about probing for solutions that provide equal benefit to both parties. Luckily, the first step of this framework has already gone a long way towards identifying those oft-hidden wants. But there’s more you can do here, too.
The best way to identify such overlaps is by doing your homework. Study the buyer, their business, and their industry. Where are they struggling? Which markets are they looking to expand into? Where are their competitors thriving?
These can all give massively valuable insights into which creative deal options will offer the most value during negotiations.
Pro Negotiation Tips: Expand your perspective. Don’t be blinded by your own interpretation of a deal option as being a really good deal. Be sure to put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. Will they really get a lot out of this added benefit? How will they take advantage of it on a logistical level?
“Oftentimes in negotiations, we may feel that this deal is the right thing to do, and it’s really good. But we do not realize that the value of it comes from what is good for us and what it does for us. And since we’re really bad about locating the sources of these feelings, we can misattribute it to the quality of the proposed solution. And both sides do that, and they just can’t understand why the other side doesn’t see it their way.” – Interview with John Bargh, Social Psychologist & Professor of Psychology at Yale University
4. Get to a “That’s Fair” (Win-Win > Win-Lose)
The goal of a negotiation is not (I repeat, is not) to win.
For you to win, the buyer must lose.
And for the buyer to win, you must lose.
Instead, the goal of a negotiation is to make sure everyone involved agrees that the outcome is fair. It’s to find options with enough want overlap so that everyone will leave satisfied.
It’s now time to get specific about the specific part of the overlap that we can agree is “fair” to commit to.
As we’re negotiating logically and we’ve already uncovered the data on what the buyer will and will not accept, we can be very literal in this step of the framework.
We’re going to ask the buyer:
“You said you couldn’t do [X], I can’t do [Y]. Is it fair to do [Z]?”
Then you near the middle of the boundaries that have been set and search for agreement. You’re looking to get the buyer to agree to an outcome that is fair.
If they don’t agree with what you outlined, then ask them:
“OK, using the options that we’ve agreed already. What is fair?”
This question will either lead to the successful conclusion of the negotiation or end it. If the buyer doesn’t have an alternative method of putting the pieces together in a way that they think is fair for everyone involved, then it’s time to simply walk away from the deal.
The Zero-Sum Fallacy
We’ve hit on this point already quite a bit, but it’s worth reiterating here. Negotiations are not meant to be a game of winner and loser—also called zero-sum deals. In fact, these types of negotiation strategies are often bad for business.
Zero-sum deals often lead to buyer resentment. If they walk away feeling like they’ve been screwed, then they’re not likely to call you back up when they want a new product. And since return buyers are massively more valuable than new buyers, avoiding zero-sum and investing in win-win outcomes is a smart move.
Pro Negotiation Tips: Establish a BATNA. Though you certainly don’t want anyone to walk away from a deal, sometimes it’s unavoidable. As such, you’ll want to be sure you have a BATNA at the ready.
BATNA stands for the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. And with it, you’ll be establishing two things:
- A plan of attack should a large deal falls through.
- A talking point if your buyer threatens you with walking away from the deal.
And both can give you serious negotiating power.
“If you don’t have a way of walking away, if you don’t have a thought of what you’re going to do if you don’t get a deal, then you’re in trouble.” – Interview with Gavin Pressman, Media Sales, Leadership, & Organizational Development Trainer
5. Solidify Commitment (Confirm “If I… Will You…”)
Once the terms of the deal are established, your job is done, right?
So many salespeople negotiate with a potential buyer, walk away thinking the deal is done, and then find out three weeks later when the contracts aren’t signed and that the buyer is pulling out.
That’s why we need to get the “If I [X], you will [Y]” confirmation at the end of the logical negotiations process.
All you have to do is ask the question:
“Ok, you agree that [A] for [B] is fair. If I now organize [X], will you [Y]?”
It could look a little something like this in the real world:
“OK, you agree that you need 15 seats for the Selling Made Simple Academy, and we can do that for $1,997 per seat. If I get the contract over you to in the next 15 minutes, will you sign the contract before lunch?”
This ask is essential in pushing the deal forward, establishing commitment, and ensuring your buyer doesn’t bail at the last minute.
Once you’ve got the commitment set, all that’s left is following up until the papers are signed.
Importance of Standing Your Ground
After you drop your commitment statement, be sure to stand your ground.
Simply make the ask and wait in silence until you get a response from the buyer. Don’t help them along. Don’t start negotiating against yourself by saying, “but after lunch is OK for the contracts too…” if they don’t reply immediately!
Hold your ground. Here we’re leveraging the influence principle of “commitment” with the buyer.
Pro Negotiation Tips: Commitment counts. Once they agree to our commitment request, it cements everything else that we’ve done until this point, and it makes it very painful for them to want to change their minds after the fact.
A lot of that comes from people not wanting to destroy their own self-images. If they break their promise, it’s a hit to their view of themselves as an honest businessperson. And that’s why once they seal their commitment, they’re 10X less likely to double back on it.
“In investigations and in sales, we are striving for a commitment, not compliance. Compliance is essentially obeying an order. It’s very short-term, it breeds resentment. Commitment is achieved when people have the opportunity to at least take some idea ownership for the process, and the linchpin behind all of this is encouraging people to protect their self-images throughout the entire process.” – Interview with Michael Reddington, CFI (Certified Forensic Interviewer)
The old negotiation tactics simply don’t work anymore. And when you or the buyer bring emotions to the negotiating table, it’s less likely to end in a win for both sides.
That’s why it’s so vital to keep your negotiation strategies grounded in pure, untarnished logic.
The proven Logical Negotiations Framework is the best way I’ve found to keep negotiation conversations grounded. Just:
- Get Labeling
- Start With a “No”
- Invent New Options
- Get to a “That’s Fair”
- Solidify Commitment
Because when you do, you’ll be boosting your chances at a closed deal, improving the deal outcomes, and creating long-lasting rapport with buyers (and that can pay off big).
No more negotiation day nerves. No more tanked deals thanks to unchecked outbursts. And no more wishing you knew how to handle negotiations like a pro.