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To Negotiate, Or Not to Negotiate

To Negotiate, Or Not to Negotiate

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
2 min read

[Reading Time: 2m 3s]

Getting to the final steps of any sale is exciting. If you reach the point of negotiation, a lot of things have gone well already: you attracted a new prospect, qualified them, discovered their motivation and desired results, and made an offer.

Now you have to reach an agreement.

The most common question around negotiation is: How can I get someone to agree to my price?

That’s not the right starting place, though. Here’s a more fundamental question: Should you even negotiate?

Of course not everyone is going to agree to your terms. But that’s not a clear reason to make compromises. Any disagreement over terms may simply be a sign that you’re not talking to the right prospect. If there’s alignment between your client’s problems, desired results, and your value proposition, then price will be less of a factor.

Said another way, if you set your price based upon the value you deliver, it should be a fraction of your client’s anticipated upside.

Here’s an irony for you: Chris Voss, author of the book Never Split the Difference, is one of the world’s foremost experts on negotiation. He was a hostage negotiator for the FBI, and now trains people to be more effective negotiators. But I doubt he does any negotiating himself these days.

Now I don’t know the inner-workings of his business, but I know this: he’s a recognized expert, with a clearly-defined service offering (individual and corporate trainings), with an established delivery and pricing model. He spends a lot of time marketing himself and growing his brand.

More than likely, he doesn’t negotiate any client engagements. Because he doesn’t have to.

The world’s foremost expert on negotiation may never negotiate the terms of his engagements. And that’s the way it should be.

Which brings us back to the matter at hand: should you even negotiate?

The more leverage you have, the less willing you will be to negotiate.

If you have a large, well-established, and sustainable pipeline of potential clients, you’ll be less inclined to make compromises. Alternatively, the more productized your service – well-defined scope, fixed price, repeatable delivery – the less likely you are to negotiate, too.

Either could be true, and both could be true. But if you’re missing clarity in your service offering, and you’re lacking a pipeline too, you’ll likely be overly-focused on the finer points of negotiation and not focused enough on the reasons you feel compelled to negotiate in the first place.