Josh Christie is the VP of Marketing & Recruiting at D&L Transport
The first part of this series, Negotiation — Tried and True Tactics That Work, focuses on the fundamental principles of negotiation, from preparation to tried and true tactics that actually work. This article summarizes the information from the first article and then dives into finding and overcoming objections, avoiding adversarial negotiation tactics, and finding creative solutions.
As part of our Negotiation segment, we also sat down with one of the industry’s leading consultative sales professionals. You can watch our full interview with Dennis Bain in the latest episode of Where in the World is D&L? | S2E6 to gain more insight on the topics of Strategic Selling and Negotiation Tactics.
Negotiation Tactics That Work Overview
It all begins with preparation, and as you well know, that applies to all aspects of your life and work. Key elements of preparation are researching the client, preparing your position, building your opening position, and establishing your limits.
The tried and true negotiation tactics we’ve found over the years that work include the following.
- Listen First, Talk Later
- Search for Critical Needs and Interests
- Use Probing Questions to Surface Underlying Needs
- Focus on Interests
- Use Framing to Outline Mutual Goals
- Make the First Offer
- Build Counteroffers That Win
- Press the Pause Button
- Be Ready to Walk Away
You can find more much detail in our earlier negotiation article. You’ll find it an excellent starting point for the rest of this article.
Openly Finding and Addressing Objections Earns Trust
Objections are at the heart of any negotiation. The trick is to find them early in the process so that you can determine how best to address those objections while meeting your own requirements. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the very act of rigorously working through objections earns trust and builds an ongoing relationship.
Here are the critical aspects of working through objections, which are at the heart of the negotiation process.
- Anticipate Objections. If this isn’t your first rodeo, you already have a good idea of the objections you will likely surface in any negotiation. It might be price, delivery, timing, or any number of items. Your early research on the client may reveal additional things specific to them and their business. With those in mind, prepare responses that address those objections while falling within the range of your own goals.
- Validate Objections. Once you’ve opened negotiations, use one of our tried and true tactics: listen first, talk later. Listen closely to the pain points expressed by the client and then read those back to them to assure them that you clearly recognize their requirements. You’re essentially validating their concerns and objections. Truly hearing their objection will go a long way to managing conflict in your negotiation.
- Respond to Objections. Since the prospective client has taken the time to articulate their concerns, you’ll want to respond to each one. Don’t try to avoid or sidestep their concerns. That will sink your chances since they can see you’re not upfront and straightforward with them. This is where you start establishing and building trust. There’s a very defined ‘zone’ in any negotiation that a buyer and a seller ultimately want to get to. Hear more about the ‘Zone of Possible Agreement’ and why understanding the boundaries of acceptable outcomes can lead you to a successful negotiation.
- Build Value. As you’ve worked your way through the list of objections, addressing each one in turn, make sure you also clearly point out the value that you bring. That might be based on your experience, the results you’ve found for others, the technology you bring to the situation, or the partners you work with, like D&L and the industry-leading support model they provide. This way, you’re building value for the client beyond pricing issues.
- Address Concerns. Ideally, you’ll be able to address every concern and provide an acceptable solution based on what you’re bringing to the relationship. If that can’t be accomplished, you’ll be able to find some offsetting solution that, while not entirely relieving the pain point, will provide additional benefits of value to the client. Recognizing both side’s pressures is a topic we discussed in our interview with Dennis Bain.
- Press Pause. There’s no reason to attempt settling every issue in one discussion. Once you’ve made all the progress you feel you can make in one meeting, suggest a pause before returning to the discussion. This will give both parties time to assess the progress achieved and give further thought to creative options or even breakthroughs.
- Follow Up. Always, always follow up the discussions with further information and certainly with any items you’d agreed to provide. In these situations, your additional thought can help pry open other avenues for negotiation. It will also serve to demonstrate how you do business every day. It’s not one-and-done. It’s ongoing continuing conversation and support to your clients.
Avoid Adversarial Negotiation Tactics
We’ve all been there, sitting in the car dealer’s office, attempting to buy a car at the lowest price possible. The tactics include talking to the sales manager, that missing person with the final say. That’s also a classic good guy–bad guy routine.
Then there are the tactics of name dropping, ‘Elon’ recommends this car, or saying that everyone buys this item. Setting deadlines and noting that someone else has their eye on the car also fit the model of adversarial negotiation tactics.
The reason these tactics are seen so much is that they often work and work well. But then, any ongoing relationship is jeopardized. Plus, as a client, you’ll do everything to avoid that type of negotiation in the future. So, it’s best not to go down this road.
Finding Creative Solutions
After exploring client needs, wants, and desires, you may be able to invent options that better fit your needs and the client’s needs. That’s the ideal situation and a big payoff for all your work to understand the client’s situation and requirements.
One approach presented in the negotiation literature is to design high-value offers that prospective clients cannot refuse. They’re called Mafia Offers, after Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Of course, to do that, you really need to understand your client’s requirements and what you can afford to offer.
But be aware that this approach can often reflect the attitude that there is only one possible outcome of negotiation: I Win, You Lose. Instead of focusing on winning at all costs, it’s far better to generate win-win options that not only complete the negotiation task but also build trust and start an enduring relationship.
Most approaches to finding creative solutions almost work the opposite of traditional negotiation tactics. Instead of drilling down to find the one or two options that meet everyone’s criteria, it seeks to build more divergent thinking into the process.
One helpful activity is brainstorming. This is where people offer their creative thoughts around one or more negotiation issues. During this stage, no one is allowed to evaluate the idea or even comment on it. To do so would shut down the idea-generation process. Once the ideas have been recorded, then evaluation and comment can begin.
What this does is open up the thought processes to wider-ranging possibilities. For example, the negotiation may focus only on one division of a large corporation. But, a creative option is to look across the corporation for further opportunities that might benefit everyone involved.
That example works toward creating value across the broader corporation. Yet another creative possibility is to look at smaller aspects of the problem. Perhaps you’re trying to capture all the business, and instead, the prospective client would find it less risky to start with a smaller effort.
Along those same lines, it might be wise to reduce perceived risk by including contingencies in the negotiated agreement. They may alleviate client concerns or at least demonstrate that you’ve considered them and found a way to address them should they arise.
Ready to Move Your Freight Agency?
No matter where you are in negotiation with prospective or current clients, it’s helpful to have a first-class partner on your side. That should be a partner that brings years of experience, tons of expertise, and has the resources to back you up at all times. That’s D&L Transport.
For further insight into our Freight Agent program, check out our BETTERLIFE™ with D&L video series. We talk to our Agents and select subject matter experts to help you navigate the challenging world of the Freight Agent.
For still more, look at our Agent Opportunities page. You can also hear directly from our successful Agents. BTW. You can even take a test drive. Try using us for a few loads a week with no strings attached. Then, get in touch, and we can get started.
Call toll-free: 866.559.0203. Or complete the form at D&L Agent Requirements.
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