Negotiating – Why Am I So Afraid?

Picture the scene: You have a spring in your step as you follow the secretary into the conference room for your 9:00 meeting. You know this is going to be a perfect way to end the week. Today you will walk out with a signed contract worth millions. You are confident that after a few minutes of conversation you will have them eating out of your hands and that they will not only sign the contract, but be grateful that your company is willing to provide them with such an amazing service. Your eyes scan the conference room as you enter. You notice the freshly polished wood of the conference table. You see that the luxurious leather chairs are occupied by serious, well dressed and obviously uptight executives. Your attention is drawn to the huge clock on the wall which says it is 9:10. You are painfully aware that you are both late and under dressed. You thought everyone observed casual Friday. Your palms are sweaty, your ears are ringing and your heart is racing. Then, you wake up.

Do you have an unrealistic fear of negotiating? Most of you don’t negotiate with customers face-to-face and if you do, it’s rarely in a situation like I just described. A customer is calling you. You don’t know when the call will come or exactly what the customer wants to negotiate. You don’t know if the customer will be nice and understanding or if he will sound angry and make unreasonable demands. You need to be prepared for the unknown.

Recently, a customer asked a CSR why she was willing to lower his rate only after he said a competitor gave a better price for service. The response was, “I’m still new at learning how to um to um have people stay with us when people call and cancel. I’m still learning how to keep people with us. And I’m not exactly sure, from my higher ups, how to keep my people. So, I would just like to tell them I’d like to drop your payment so I can keep you with us.” Her statement was very telling. Are you expecting your team to negotiate without providing them a strategy and training? There is something worse than not negotiating at all. It is expecting your team to negotiate without any guidance. Bad deals cut into your profitability.

What you can do right now

• Determine what types of customer calls will involve negotiating for both existing and prospective customers.

• Sit down with your customer service and sales representatives and have them write down what they are afraid a customer will ask.

• Educate them on your bottom line. Your team should understand what is profitable and what is not.

• Give clear guidelines on what the first response should be to someone who is price shopping or wanting to cancel over price. Provide not just the concept, but the right wording to use which helps prevent misinterpretation of your direction.

• Empower your team to negotiate. That means they need to know what they can offer in the form of a free service, discounted rate or incentive.

• They need to know when it is okay to walk away from the negotiation. Be clear on the protocol to escalate to a manager or bring the sales representative into the negotiation.

• Role-play using the questions they fear customers will ask along with specific responses.

Good negotiation isn’t about being tricky, it is all about preparation.