I have often been asked if negotiating skills are part of our program offering. However, when asked the question I've learned that everybody has a different idea or definition of what negotiating is and why they need it. Because of that, I've found that the need for that type of training is usually driven by certain conditions or situations that they/their staff are having difficulty with.
Usually, I need more information to be able to answer the question correctly and to be able to provide the help they need. Through more questions, I have found that the desire for negotiation skills training is usually driven by a host of other problems (that are the root cause) and that by providing just "negotiating skills" we may not end up solving the real problem.
Certainly, negotiating is part of the selling process. In fact, I think the minute you make your first prospecting call and get your contact on the phone you are literally "negotiating everything". You are "negotiating" for their time and attention on the telephone, you are "negotiating" to get them to have a discussion with you and you are certainly "negotiating" to get an appointment. I believe the entire sales process needs to be looked at as one "giant negotiation", facilitated by a highly developed set of selling skills delivered within an effective and efficient sales process (...now that's a mouthful!).
Many times we find out that the need for better "negotiating skills" is often driven by not being able to get more for what you/your company sells. Your inability to get more (margin) or "higher prices" is often driven by root causes/problems that typical negotiating skills really won't address, like:
Problem: "The people I sell to always want to buy on price because they see no difference between my offer and the competition".
It would seem that what this situation would call for is not just "negotiating skills" but skills that would help to differentiate your offer from the competition. You need to create and master a "selling process" that creates difference and eliminates sameness and avoids "cloning" (a condition caused by selling and presenting).
"I do a great job of explaining our value and they just don't seem to get it".
It would seem that maybe the reason they don't get it is because you are not doing a great job of explaining it in a way that they can understand. Or, maybe you are making a presentation that does not uniquely fit their needs and really may need better questioning and listening strategies. Or you may need to be better at uncovering the real decision maker because you could be guilty of making a presentation to someone who really doesn't benefit personally from your offer (this often happens when trying to sell quality to purchasing agents).
"I make a great presentation based on their needs and then they take it out to the competition, shop it out, get my ideas "cloned" and then say they want a lower price!
The problem here is you are making a presentation out of "sequence". You are using a selling model that benefits your prospect and allows them to completely control what's happening, and as long as they control, they usually win!
In selling, it is important to get people to define their problem in such a way that you can solve all of it, not just some of it. Most of the time, pure negotiation skills training, devoid of other skills, a good "sales process" and the right people (some can, some can't) will end up leaving you with half (or less) of the solution. Whether a sales person or sales manager, in your quest for more successful negotiations, look past just the symptoms and try to address all of the problems! More often than not it's not just needing more skills but more importantly which ones!
Action Step: Think about negotiating in your business and identify the problems that occur that would make you think you need to be better at it. You'll be much closer to getting what you really need once you understand the real problem!