The absolute best ‘trick’ that no one really tells you in negotiations, sales, marketing, interviews, and even just good ol’ fashioned persuasion is that there is no trick. There’s no magical instant-win trump card nor a text-book catch-all approach. There really is no ‘trick’ to success, except good preparation.
While there are many tricks, tips and strategies you can use to be good at negotiations and sales, there is only one real way to succeed: Be prepared.
It’s no secret and there is no trick to being prepared. All you have to do is be ready. Abraham Lincoln said: “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” In Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote: “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” he’s talking about the basics of business, strategy and success.
From the HBR blog:
Ben Koeneker knew the odds were stacked against him. Then the head of business development for a midsize Midwest telecom company, he was trying to convince Siemens, the multibillion-dollar electronics conglomerate, to give his firm an exclusive distribution contract for a new business communications product. At the time, his $28 million company was known more for refurbishing than distribution. “We were tiny,” he says. “We were the ant shouting at the elephant.”
Koeneker did copious amounts of research prior to sitting down at the table. He researched Siemens products and why their current channels of distribution weren’t working well. He also made sure he knew that his own company could deliver on every level, preparing counterarguments for any doubts that might arise. “I knew we couldn’t pretend we could do something we couldn’t do,” he says.
When the negotiations began, he emphasized the pros of his company’s distribution model, rather than the cons he felt currently existed in Siemens’ current method. “If you spend too much time talking about the negatives, you’re basically telling them that they’re doing their business wrong.” He also pointed out that signing with his firm would free up money to devote to marketing, which he knew from his research was something that Siemens wanted.
A turning point came when a senior Siemens executive said that while he was impressed with the proposal, he wondered if Koeneker’s company could scale effectively if the product line took off. Two rivals to Koeneker’s firm, the executive said, were bigger and could more easily handle growth. “I turned to him and said, ‘Are those two companies interested in distributing your product at this time?’” Koeneker says. “I already knew the answer from my research that those companies had turned them down.” He followed up by adding that while his firm was small, it was better thought of as “boutique,” with the unique ability to focus completely on the Siemens brand.
Shortly after, they inked the contract.
A local business owner Don Bloom has a unique practice, one of the things he does is disaster preparation. Not in the form of building shelters or creating product, but in the form of what do we do if X happens to minimize the damage, what are the best things to do going forward to prevent XYZ issue from cropping up, and ‘ok, the shit has officially hit the fan: now what and how do we get back to work’? He and I were talking about the need for businesses to be prepared:
Don: Most businesses don’t have a plan on how to secure their data in the event of an emergency, nor even a way/process to make sure their data is always backed-up, safe and secure. What if there is a fire at their office which just happens to house their mission critical servers? Is there a backup? What’s the process for accessing and activating the backup? How fast can it be done? What are the steps? How about what if the very important company CEO who is the heart and soul of the company suddenly dies? Who will take over operations? Does the next person in line know how to access the important files and how to pick up where Mr. Old CEO left off?
Most people don’t think about such things in life, so how many businesses do you think really go through such proper preparations? Barely any.
Big companies have big instruction manuals (or at least they should have them) for a reason: to minimize liability and to make sure everyone can know what to do in every possible situation.
This applies to negations and sales because you can’t sell or negotiate properly if you don’t know (let a lot understand) your own company’s offerings and the buyer’s needs. For example: did you know that when purchasing a home you don’t need any downpayment, loan nor cash for closing?
Depending on who you’re talking to, you setup a deal where all you’re doing it taking over someone’s existing mortgage (if any) or if there is little/no mortgage you can have the seller directly finance the home purchase. That would mean no loan from a bank! You would then instead be paying the seller directly every month for the agreed amount. Not everyone will agree to something like that of course, but if you learn and find out that the seller really just needs money to cover monthly expenses and isn’t too interested on the lump sum (And the taxes that come with it) then it could be possible. But only if you did your homework beforehand!
When going to a job interview what’s better: to know about the company and people who will interview you or to show up ignorant? Same thing with you are the one selling to a client: the more you know about the client, their business and what their needs are the better you will be in the process.
There is no magic here. Just plain and simple preparedness.