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7 Qualities of a Great Sales Negotiator

What makes a great negotiator?

Negotiation is a craft that can be learned by just about anyone, as I discussed in my recent podcast with RainToday.

There are, however, certain characteristics of great negotiators that are difficult to develop through the even the most rigorous of training initiatives. They are qualities you either have or don't or that develop over years of experience, coaching, training, and self-reflection. If you have them, you're ahead of the game. If you don't, negotiation success may be elusive.

Great sales negotiators share these 7 qualities that guide their success:

  1. Realism: Great sales negotiators get a good read on what might happen and what might not. They understand what's in the field of play and what's beyond. They make good decisions, and offer trades and ideas, that often work. Realistic negotiators are also less prone to reacting negatively when they don't get what they want or think they deserve.

  2. Intelligence: Numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning, and conceptual thinking skills are crucial for an effective negotiation. Without these IQ-type attributes, it's difficult for to come up with ideas, make sound trades, make your case for value, and be taken seriously.

  3. High self-esteem and confidence: If you're negotiating with an aggressive party, they can often sense a lack of confidence and use it to their advantage. On the flip side, high self-esteem and confidence tend to breed success. They allow for appropriate boldness and risk-taking.

  4. Thinking clearly under stress: Negotiations can get stressful. Those who think clearly throughout the process emerge from difficult situations with progress and success. Those who don't often fold, miss opportunities, or find themselves leaving tense situations at a disadvantage.

  5. Emotional control: Sellers can get excited when negotiations seem to be going well. After all, they're close to a sale. Conversely, some lose their focus and temper when things take a wrong turn. Sales negotiators who control emotions can remain in control of the negotiation. If you can't, the other party can easily take control just by pushing your buttons.

  6. Indifference to a failed negotiation: This is more than just a willingness to walk away from an agreement that leaves you with unfavorable terms. True indifference means you really don't care—and while you might "want" the deal, you certainly don't "need" it. Another good one is always around the corner. If this is your belief, it's like having built-in leverage in the negotiation.

  7. Stamina: Some negotiations end when one party "can't take it anymore." They either walk away too early, or don't put in the additional time and effort needed to achieve success. The best negotiators are willing and able to stick with a long or strenuous negotiation if it's the right thing to do.

With enough practice, anyone can become a better negotiator in sales conversations or in everyday life. But the more of these qualities that you can check off the list, the more likely it is that you'll find consistent success. 

Additional Reading
4 Tips to Avoid Caving in Sales Negotiations

My grandfather Sidney was raised during the great depression. Often hungry growing up, he learned the value of a dollar the hard way. It stuck with him the rest of his life. When I was in college, he never let me call him because he would say it was long-distance.

I told him that the distance was long, but the call didn't cost anything. Still, he could barely stay on the phone for 5 minutes. I could visualize the nickels clinking in his mind, making him uncomfortable with the cost of the call.

Emotion is Not the Enemy: 7 Ways to Use Emotion to Your Advantage in Sales Negotiations

It's common advice to minimize emotions in a negotiation. For example, the reading line of the article "Emotion: The 'Enemy' of Negotiation" is "To succeed in negotiation, says one Wharton expert, one must take emotion out of the equation."

We disagree. Emotions are primary drivers of decision making in buying, and primary drivers in negotiation outcomes. Emotions shouldn't be minimized. Instead, they should be guided and managed for both buyer and seller so that the best outcome can be achieved by all.

How to Lead the 4 Stages of Sales Negotiation

"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality."

Warren Bennis, Author, On Becoming a Leader

When it comes to sales negotiations, all too often sellers:

  • Don't plan for successful negotiated outcomes
  • Let the buyer define the negotiation process and venue
  • Allow the buyer to set the agenda for negotiation-focused meetings