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Sandler Sales Tips – Avoid Negotiation and stop Discounting (4 things you’ll need)

Next to not having a big enough pipeline, one of the most common complaints I get from MD’s and Sales Directors is that their people seem to be poor at negotiating and frequently need to discount to close the business.
Salespeople obviously need to be skilled and capable of dealing with an effective buyer during a negotiation stage, but the root cause of most discounting is not poor negotiation skills. Mostly it’s because the salesperson failed to do a thorough job earlier in the process, leaving them and the organisation vulnerable to the skilled buyers tactics.
With a deliberate and a disciplined execution of a staged sales process it’s entirely possible to minimise price and T&C’s negotiation to an acceptable and manageable level. It’s absolutely possible to avoid discounting entirely if executed really well.

Go Deep - It has to be emotional

People buy emotionally. They make and justify their decisions intellectually. Most sales people do a decent enough job of uncovering needs, but very few have the skill, structure and courage to ‘go deep’ with a prospect. By going ‘deep’ I’m talking about taking the prospect to a place where the level of trust results in them sharing their fears, desires, aspirations and even dreams. Uncovering this level of emotional insight and understanding requires a structured but natural conversation with the prospect that works through multiple business problems/challenges; understanding the implications of these on the business and the prospect themselves.

You have to earn the right to ‘go deep’ with a prospect. The prospect must genuinely believe that you are credible (you and your business), capable of helping them (you and your business) and are genuine in your desire to help them (its about them not you). If you tick these three boxes and you set the right expectation of how you’ll manage your engagement then you’ll likely earn the right to have a meaningful conversation. Doing this will provide an understanding of the ‘real’ problems that need addressing, what that means for your individual stakeholders and most importantly – why you are uniquely positioned to help them.
The prospect must need your solution at least or more than you need to win the business. If you do not establish this balance of power now you will never recover to a position of strength. 

Note: it’s also possible here that you uncover that you’re not right for them or that you don’t have a strong enough solution and on that basis you should qualify out – maintaining your relationship and credibility as well as saving your organisation the wasted time and effort pursuing something you’re poorly placed to win.

Agree on pricing and budget expectations before you pitch.

Why would you wait until you pitch or even afterwards to discuss pricing? How can saving the budget and pricing discussion until the point where you and your organisation has invested time and energy help you? Once you’re committed to creating, building and configuring a solution you’re putting yourself in a situation where you need to win the business. When price discussions come at the end of the process the buyer calls the shots and the pressure mounts on the salesperson.
A skilled salesperson explores budget with the prospect prior to committing energy and resource. There are ways and means of agreeing the budget or acceptable pricing range. Accepting that the prospect won’t share their budget or pricing expectations is a sign of laziness and negligence on the part of the salesperson.
Again, it might be that what we uncover here is unacceptable to us and an informed decision to qualify out saves us time and resource, allowing us to find prospects who we can help and who are willing and able to make the investments necessary.

If we agree that the investment/budget expectations are appropriate and we have explored the practicalities of making that investment then our solution is built according to that value or value range. Our process here should of course seek to inform investment considerations rather than just be the recipient of a budget number.
When we get to the end of the process and the conversation turns to finalising the investment, we’re in a much stronger position to negotiate if we’ve looked each other in the eyes and agreed to build a solution in line with that expectation. If expectations or funding availability changes then we can have an adult conversation about how we trade out things like functionality, service or quality; or take on more areas, extend the contract term, or change payment terms in order to meet the new expectation. The answer is never that we’ll just do it for less!

Don’t rush your understanding of the decision-making process.

A failure to deeply understand the machinations of the decision-making process also creates significant negotiation vulnerability. There are a couple of specific areas in this process step that help us negotiate more effectively and reduce discounting. Understanding Who will be involved, what roles they will play and at what stage will prepare you for the introduction of others into the process. Whether that means understanding the impact this will have on the timeline of the selling cycle through to informing your pricing strategy to allow the Procurement Director or CFO to take a ‘win’ later down the line if needed. Understanding When the prospect needs to have your solution in place and have an impact by also helps. If we understand the value that we’re providing we can also understand and quantify the cost or consequence of not implementing and this starts to re-establish the balance of power in any negotiation.

Guts and Courage

In addition to a staged sales process, and the technical skills and behaviours required to execute; effective sales people and effective negotiators must have guts and courage in the moments that matter. Having guts and courage helps us stay for longer in the early stages of discussion with the prospect, ensuring we have a deep understanding of pain across multiple business areas, together with an understanding of its personal impact. Having guts and courage allows us to stand firm when a prospect says ‘we don’t share our budgets’ and not leave until, through nurturing questions, we have the information we need. Having guts and courage allows us to recognise the value in what we do and have the confidence to walk away when we’re not a good fit for the prospect or they do not have the capacity to recognise our value. Having courage and guts allows us to hold firm and remind our prospect how we built the solution according to the budget and decision-making discussion that we had and provide de-scoping options rather than discounting. Having courage and guts means that we never need the business more than the prospect needs our solution.

If you’re a leader and your people either don’t have a staged process that they ‘always’ follow or don’t have the guts and courage to execute then we should probably talk. Join us for our next leaders briefing- Click here to register or drop me an email at

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