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The Critical Skill you Might Not Be Measuring


People are negotiating right and left. The word ‘negotiating’ is bandied about in the news, print, social media, war rooms, caves, and mountaintops. The word is used so much I’m not sure anyone gets the skill required to be good at it. I think there’s ample evidence that there are far more bad negotiators than good. The good news? Case studies are everywhere.

You’re a business person, perhaps even a salesperson deeply enmeshed in the world of enterprise selling. So how good are you at the skill of negotiating? I mean, on a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate yourself? Be brutally honest. And please, supporting evidence and criteria are must-haves.

A blog is no place to take a deep dive into negotiations, but today I thought it would be helpful to share a few must-do strategies — three easy ones to be exact.

1. Have a Pursuit Strategy

A pursuit strategy is your Go/No Go strategy. The goal of business deals is to minimize the amount of negotiating you’ll have to do throughout the process, and certainly at the end when the black belt negotiator you’re sitting across from will work the hardest to move your needle in their favor. That needle is often price.

At Sandler, we use a tool called PURSUIT NAVIGATOR. It allows you to prepare up front, and throughout the process, for potentially hidden risks you’ll need to mitigate before moving forward.

2. Understand Your Sources of Leverage

The person with the greater need in a negotiation loses. How many times have you been blind-sided in a deal when, after months of time-consuming effort (and a boatload of unpaid consulting), the buyer, sensing your emotional excitement and need to “win the business,” inserted last-minute demands knowing you’ll compromise at the 11th hour?

Never enter a negotiating process without identifying your sources of leverage. It’s the sin of negotiating sins. What gives you ultimate leverage, or at least needed leverage to stay in the game? More importantly, be sure you’re clear about the leverage on the other side.

3. Co-Create the Process (and Value)

The people on the other side of the table are not enemies. They’re business people working to maximize their vision and organizational mission statement. Co-create the value proposition with them. That means stop pitching and telling them what you can do for them. It means inviting them in to co-write the pitch they want to hear. It means co-developing the value they need and the value you can honor that is the best fit for your business plan. A pitch with fingerprints is a winning pitch.

The first, right step in evaluating your skill set is to step back and ask others on your team how they perceive you as a negotiator. How would they rate you? What do you do good and what could you do better?

The second step is to track how often you modify your price, terms, and conditions? If your answer is, “every deal,” you’re a master of compromise, not negotiation.

Tim Roberts

Tim Roberts

Tim has led the way at Sandler® Trustpointe in Indianapolis since 1998. He is a Trusted Advisor to CEOs, Sales Managers, and best-in-class sales professionals throughout the state and around the world. Tim's one of a kind presentation of the Sandler System is a transformational experience that produces ethical, strategic, high producing, and powerfully professional sales and customer service organizations. Reach out to Tim at 317-845-0041 or