Negotiating, the sale within the sale

Tim Border

Tim Border is an associate professor of professional sales at Weber State University.

Standard-Examiner contributor
April 16, 2015

A common myth in negotiations is that there must be a winner and a loser. This practice is better known as haggling. With popular TV shows like Shark Tank and Pawn Shop Wars, the media paints a hardcore picture of borderline negotiation tactics; such as: lowballing, bluffing, or, take it or leave it. These techniques are acceptable only in short term business transactions and would not be acceptable in long term win-win relationships.

The art of negotiating is when both parties feel like they come away with more than expected. This outcome is often achieved when more time is spent exploring creative alternatives. A good example is when the early traders negotiated for a buffalo — instead of splitting it in half, arguing over who got the bigger half, they discovered that one may be more interested in the skin and the other may be more interested in the meat. If negotiated correctly, both parties could walk away with more than expected.

One of my students, Matt, who worked for Utah Transit Authority as a land negotiator for the FrontRunner program, came across a landowner who refused to negotiate their piece of land. Fair offers were made, but both parties were deadlocked. In the end, if the landowner would not agree, the land could be condemned. This was the last resort Matt ever wanted to take, and it would be used only if all other options were exhausted. Matt took the time to stop negotiating and start understanding their needs by asking the landowner to tell him their story of why the land was so important. It was discovered that a garden existed right where the tracks were proposed to be placed. The landowners said the garden was created by their late son and had great sentimental value. Matt sympathized with the family’s position and offered to relocate the garden and erect a monument in honor of their son. A deal was negotiated and both parties came away with more than they thought was possible.

Win-win requires that we understand the big picture (their story) and creatively come up with alternatives that help the other accomplish their objectives. If the time is spent, creativity employed and a real desire for a win-win outcome, both parties will walk away with more than expected.

There are several ways to find the story of your customer: 1. Ask more questions, and be genuinely interested in understanding the needs of your clients. 2. Involve different people to brainstorm more alternatives. 3. Take more time, work a little harder, and demonstrate integrity in finding an ideal solution.

Symbol Arts, based out of South Ogden, is an organization that is in the business of finding out the needs of their customers and helping them to tell their story with their products. I have seen some of the coins and badges they have created and they tell powerful stories. This win-win outcome is created when you take the time to understand the story. The sale within the sale, at that moment, is when your customer trusts your motives because you have spent more time asking good questions, understanding needs and having the integrity to develop more creative alternatives.

Tim Border is an associate professor of professional sales in the Department of Professional Sales.

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