Negotiation is often misconstrued as a quality, one that people are perhaps born with, in fact it is not. Negotiation is a skill. It’s a skill that you can learn, improve and refine. It’s a skill that requires focused time and energy to hone and master. Negotiation is an essential skill. You have to be able to negotiate well in order to maintain relationships, boost outcomes and create value.
Let’s explore the best ways to improve sales negotiation skills. There are plenty of free resources available online. Things like sales training games and activities but it’s hard not only to find them but also make sure they’re effective without being gimmicky or misleading. It’s important to find resources that are suitable for both experienced sellers who want to learn the nuances of negotiating, as well as non-salespeople that want to learn how to negotiate and learn how important it is.
So, the question remains how to increase the skill of negotiation for sales in an effective manner?
The answer is through simulated sales negotiation training exercises. Any provider of high-quality interactive sales training will advocate for simulated role plays. Roles plays extend our theoretical knowledge of the topic of sales, the ‘what’ of a negotiation, and helps us apply and effective process, the ‘how”.
A simulated role-playing takes place between two or more people, who act out roles to explore a particular scenario. For example, a sales negotiation scenario. It’s useful to help individual or teams prepare for and practice commonly occurring scenarios and how to improve them and/or manage difficult situations. For example, you can use it to practice sales negotiations or client interactions.
By acting these situations out, as if they were real, you can make an assessment of your own approach to sales negotiations and make changes if you or others see fit. You can explore how other people are likely to react to different approaches; and weed out those approaches that might be ineffective. You can also gauge what other people are likely to be thinking and feeling in a commonly occurring situation.
By preparing for and executing a role-play, you build up experience and confidence. We’re preparing for the real deal and will hopefully develop skills and strategies for when the arise in real life. You can develop behaviours and responses to situations. This means that you’re improving the likelihood of reacting effectively as situations evolve, rather than falling into ineffective patterns of behaviour.
Where to start?
We are communicating constantly as we negotiate. The best place to begin in any negotiation or simulated role play is to ensure that we are communicating effectively.
Have you ever seen the transformation that occurs in people when a department store opens its doors for the end of year stock-take sale? Ordinary shoppers suddenly become aggressive warriors, battling for bargains.
Conversation, especially in tense or uncomfortable situations, sometimes undergoes a similar transformation – turning into a frenzied competition for airtime. People make long-winded statements without pausing for breath or a response, they interrupt your statements without apology, and generally do little to demonstrate any desire to understand your point of view. As a result, negotiation is plagued by misunderstanding, the communication process becomes inefficient, and working relationships are seriously undermined.
What causes the problem?
One reason for this problem is that people assume that sales negotiations – a process of influencing others – consists of little more than telling our counterpart what they need. We forget that the impact of our messages mightn’t always match our intention, and that our counterparts are expecting their perspectives to be heard and understood before decisions are made.
Other reasons why communication may not be constructive include:
- We may not be clear about, or mindful of, our purpose in communicating.
- The surrounding environment may not be conducive to effective two-way communication.
- We, or our counterpart, may be easily distracted by our own thoughts – our “internal voice.”
- The way that we express ourselves may irritate our counterpart and make listening more difficult for them.
What can be done?
- Know your purpose.
It is much easier to listen when you have a good reason for doing so. Your purpose might be simply to find out new information about customer needs, to find out where their logic differs from yours, or to show them a level of respect that will enhance your working relationship. In each of these cases, listening becomes a purposive and important task, rather than a function of necessity.
It seems obvious to say that the speaker who isn’t clear on their purpose is likely to have a hard time being either effective or efficient in the way they convey messages. Once you are clear on your purpose, you can then work at ensuring that the impact you have on your audience is consistent with that purpose.
- Establish an appropriate environment.
The environment in which you communicate should support and be congruent with the important messages that we wish to convey through our communication.
Is this the appropriate forum for our communication? Is it too relaxed, or too formal? Is this the best time of day? Am I using appropriate audio-visual equipment? Am I talking to the right people? Do I need others in the room to reinforce my message?
All of these are important questions relating to the communication environment.
- Promote interactive listening.
The messages that we send when we communicate are complex, invariably comprising substantive information (the contract, my performance, the price etc.) as well as emotional issues, and information about our relationship with our counterpart. Given this level of complexity, it is helpful to regard listening as an interactive, rather than passive, process.
As such, both the speaker and the listener have a responsibility to establish a consensus about the meaning, and the impact, of the conversation. Some of the things that you might do include:
‐ when listening, ask questions to clarify the speaker’s intent, or paraphrase or summarise the conversation to convey your understanding of the speaker’s comments, both at the level of substance and emotion;
‐ when speaking, you can check in with your listener to ensure that messages have been understood.
- Speak to promote listening, by trying to manage their internal voice.
The general purpose in speaking is to have others hear, understand and be influenced by what we have to say. Successfully achieving this purpose depends in part on the effect you have on your counterpart’s own internal voice. The way you express yourself might irritate their internal voice (for example, by causing them to think defensively, or by sending them into a daydream), or it might help to keep their internal voice calm and constructive. Here are some key examples of ways in which you can help manage your listener’s internal voice when you’re speaking:
‐ Share your understanding of their perspective before advocating your own.
“I imagine that you’re seeing this pretty much as a situation where every dollar I gain is one that you lose – is that about right? My own view is that we each have a whole range of other interests that we haven’t yet explored, from which we may be able to develop options that add value for both of us…”
‐ Share your data and reasoning, not just your conclusions – and be tentative.
“You’ve given me a 15-page report when I asked for an executive summary. A similar thing happened last week when I asked you for a summary of the Smith file. Is this because you don’t remember my instructions?”
“You never do what I ask you to do.”
‐ Share the impact of their actions on you – don’t judge their intentions.
“I felt really embarrassed when you told everyone about my new diet.”
“I can’t believe you deliberately embarrassed me like that in front of everyone!”
‐ Consider inviting them to share their internal voice.
“You seem troubled by what I’ve been saying.”
“You look like you’ve got something else on your mind right now – what is it?”
Now that we have our communication optimised, let’s focus on using these techniques and applying them to sales negotiation training exercises. As one of the pillars of sales negotiation training, role plays are the most effective means to not only solidify skill but also practice and refine for reality. Learning is about thinking and doing. Affording individuals, the opportunity to test out new skills is a safe and controlled environment boost their confidence and reinforce their learning.
Throughout this process sales trainees can also learn to identify the customer’s needs, concerns, hopes goals, fears and how to use theme to create value and great outcomes for both parties. At the same time, we don’t want to ignore any of our own hopes, goals or concerns. Simulated role plays allow us to not only understand these drivers but also test them out in the moment.
Best sales negotiation training exercises for team
Sales training exercises can bring teams together. They can bond over shared experiences, learn from each other and navigate the sales process in a safe and controlled environment with limited risk.
One of the best places to get sales team training ideas is to partner with a training provider. They often have the best sales workshop ideas as they regularly offer solutions of this nature.
Some examples of what may be offered by training providers could include, sales training ideas for meetings and other team gatherings. Sales exercises for meetings are a great way for team members to work closely together and become aligned in a process before they engage in client conversations. Some fun sales meeting games may have meeting attendees anticipating client resistance to their proposals and the team could come up with effective responses.
Best sales role play exercises
The best role play exercises are those that are aligned to types of sales interactions that participants regularly engage in through the course of their daily lives. We want the exercises to be as close to reality as possible. Any sales training games like role plays or any games for sales teams work best when they are in context.
Best sales negotiation training exercises for Individuals
When it comes to sales negotiation training for individuals, 1:1 coaching is best. A coach or mentor can provide a sales training activity specific to the learner’s needs. Together they can focus what needs to be developed. In many cases all that is needed is a process or framework to assist the learner navigate a sales negotiation. Once they have this down pat, they need to practice
Best sales negotiation training exercises online
Online is the new frontier for sales negotiation training. In the current world we live in, more and more sales and transactions are occurring online and no longer face to face. Any high-quality training provider will either conduct sales negotiation training online or equip participants with the resources to conduct their training exercises online.
Providing sales professionals with experiences like training and sales negotiation role plays make them better, more effective sales negotiators.
Organisations and teams looking to boost their sales negotiations should consider investing in Sales Negotiation Training. In doing so you equip your people with better tools for measuring the quality of the negotiation, building effective relationship and increasing the result for all parties involved.
The sales negotiation process is one that is multifaceted. Beyond the bargaining phase of a negotiation exists a slew of human elements that can’t be ignored. Role plays and associated training exercises assist individuals to see these elements and manage them more specifically and deliberately in the moment.
The sales negotiation process is a balancing act. As is the case in any negotiation we need to make sure we are communicating clearly and effectively.