Sales Negotiation: Set Yourself Up for Success

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The 80/20 rules applies to many situations and negotiation may be no exception. Sales negotiation can be thought of as a three-step process: (1) preparation, (2) engagement, and (3) deal agreement. Some people may say that 80% of negotiation success is in the preparation, which may or may not be overstated. However, it does beg the question: what are you doing to set yourself for success before going into a negotiation?

Key Negotiation Prep Factors

Although the objective of a negotiation should be to reach a win-win, it pays to be smart, and smart usually means being prepared. In my business tenure, I’ve negotiated long-term deals that were worth hundreds of millions of dollars, so I know a few things about negotiating, including some learned the hard way—through the experience of trial and error. I do believe success is heavily influenced by the degree of preparation and a few of my favorite preps include:

  1. Be prepared to walk away. The only way that most negotiators are prepared to walk away is if they know their drop-dead minimum and why it’s their drop-dead. Is it margin, risk, or some other variable? What’s the alternative value of the resources or asset utilization? Many people think they have a minimum position, but when the negotiating gets intense, the minimum usually moves to a lower position. When negotiators have thoroughly thought out their position, the minimum doesn’t move, and it becomes easier to confidently walk away.
  2. Brainstorm things to offer and concede. When entering into a negotiation, people aren’t necessarily wanting the same thing nor assigning the same priority to certain items. Knowing that a negotiation will likely mean trading off and giving positions to the other party, a savvy negotiator will make a list of things to ask for that can easily be conceded, because they don’t hold much value.
  3. Position yourself so you don’t make the first offer. The party that makes the first offer takes on more risk of leaving value on the table. Is the first offer significantly below what the other party was willing to pay? On the other hand, if the first offerer asks for too much, he could position himself out of the negotiation. Always think of a strategy and questions to ask that will get the other party to make the first offer. If asked to make the first offer, an experienced negotiator will answer with a question that puts the other into a position of offering first.

Many people are at least slightly intimidated by the negotiating process. What many don’t realize is they are negotiating daily with their coworkers, boss, family, friends, and kids. Any time you got your way, you negotiated. Negotiation is a skill and just like a muscle can be strengthened when intentionally exercised.

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and business coaching. She works with individuals and businesses as well as designs and facilitates workshops to empower people. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra or engage her as your coach by reaching out to her at or by visiting her website at

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