This article was originally published in the Inside Sales Blog.
One of the biggest mistakes sellers make in a sales negotiation is letting buyers take control of the negotiation, leaving you to play defense. If you want to come to a great agreement (and you do), you need to lead the process.
In our white paper, 6 Essential Rules of Sales Negotiation, Rule #3 is: Lead the Negotiation. A key part in leading a sales negotiation is teeing up the meeting properly with an agreed to agenda ahead of time.
When you write the agenda, you can more effectively lead the conversation.
Nearly all meetings in any given negotiation are unique, so you'll need to plan for each one specifically. Start by creating an agenda to determine what information will and won't be discussed.
If you bypass this step, the meeting could start off on the wrong foot with the buyer making demands or pressuring you on price.
3 Tips for Setting the Agenda
Here are three tips to remember when creating a sales negotiation agenda:
Review Background and Objectives
The first part of the agenda should almost always be to review background and objectives. By starting with objectives, you set a tone of collaboration, and can focus the buyer's attention on their goals and where they're hoping to get to, not their problems.
Identify Issues to be Addressed
Specify all issues that need to be worked out. If you don't do this, key pain points may not be addressed, leaving room for the buyer to take control of the conversation while you appear unprepared.
Confirm the Agenda with the Buyer
Once you've defined the agenda, don't assume you've covered all the bases. Email the agenda to the buyer before your meeting and request their input. This provides them with an opportunity to add, edit, or remove items. This will help them feel respected, engaged, and valued.
When you arrive at the meeting, open with, "Here's the agenda we set. It covers X, Y, and Z. Does this still work for everyone?"
If you follow these three tips, your agenda might look something like this:
I'm looking forward to our meeting on the 5th. It seems we've agreed on the solution set that will best help you enter the European market. We still need to discuss:
- Timing of pilots and roll out
- Success milestones we need to achieve to move from pilot to roll out
- Team on both sides for implementation, including roles and responsibilities
- If we should lead the engagement with our staff or if we should license and train your team to execute
- Agreement terms
If you agree with this, here’s my recommended meeting agenda:
- Meeting kickoff, review agenda, and confirm expectations (5 min)
- Review your objectives (5 min)
- Discuss options and implications of each (30 min)
- Examine best path forward (10 min)
- Open discussion (10 min)
Please let me know if you agree with this or if you'd like to make any additions, changes, or deletions.
What to Do When There's Tension at the Start
Sales negotiations can be stressful. Emotions run high. Even if you've both agreed to the agenda ahead of time, don't open by jumping straight to the agenda if you sense tension in the room. If you do this, the buyer will remain guarded for the rest of the meeting.
Instead, try to diffuse the tension. Ask if anyone did anything fun over the weekend, give a genuine compliment, or make small talk about sports or kids. Focus on building rapport first and then address the agenda. Remember, people do business with people they like.
In any sales negotiation, don't put yourself in a position where you're playing defense or losing control. Set the stage by creating the agenda. If you take the lead, you're putting yourself in a position to achieve the best outcome.