A few tips for taming your fears during a negotiation

staff Published by Staff – 25 June 2021

First let’s take a look at a clip from the Pixar masterpiece Inside Out, which shows how our different emotions – including fear – always have a purpose or a positive intention.

There is virtue in feeling afraid: a motivation to avoid loss or danger. And if you feel that emotion during a negotiation, that means that you really want to do your best and close the deal.  You just have to keep that fear from blinding you.

Three tips for fearless — and shame-free — negotiations

Orient the pressure in the right direction

A lot of people are apprehensive about negotiations. The problem is that they feel dependent on the outcome and fear losing out. In reality, there’s only one question you should ask yourself if you fail: who will suffer the worst consequences? You, your client, or perhaps neither?

Sales reps sometimes forget this component. The consequences of a poor procurement decision can be much more dramatic for the client than a lost sale for a supplier. The salesperson can go about their business, while the buyer has to face up to the consequences of their mistake.

One last thing to remember: the more aggressive your client is, the more likely it is that they have a lot riding on the deal. In which case, you have less to be afraid of.

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
 John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Plant seeds of doubt

Sales reps are often too kind—they try to make nice with their clients, bend over backwards, etc.  When you’re up against negotiators intent on tipping the scale in their direction as far as possible, this kindness is clearly counterproductive.

It’s better to point out the risks, provide examples of failures, challenge the obvious, instill doubt and maintain a level of fear with regard to these risks.

That sometimes requires asking questions that raise doubts:

  • What level of risk are you willing to take on this deal?
  • What will happen if the promises are not kept?
  • What do you have on the line personally with this project?
  • How can the terms be so different for two solutions that are so similar?
  • Have you taken the time to request and check references on projects of this complexity?

3. Think of it as a game

Take a step back to breathe a bit and gather your confidence. If you think of life as a game, then nothing’s too serious. Even if the knot in your stomach never goes away. The best sales reps are those who are determined to do their best to win and know how to take a failure in stride.

Champion basketball player Tony Parker put it well:

The most important thing when you miss a basket is to forget it immediately and move on. Kind of like when you hit ‘Delete’ on the computer.

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