Don’t let your ego take over!
It’s not uncommon to negotiate with a buyer who tries to gain the upper hand. Sometimes that revolves around ego trips (real or feigned). Ego is never recommended because it distracts you from your goal. It’s like in judo. The more your opponent exposes that weakness, the easier it will be for you to use it as leverage. But you also need to watch out for your own ego. Here are four pitfalls to avoid.
Back-and-forth aggressiveness Responding aggressively never gets you anywhere. Instead, ask yourself why your client is so intent on trying to frighten you. Because they’re trying to negotiate and they think that’s a technique. And if they’re trying to negotiate, albeit heavy-handedly, that means that they’re actually interested, which is a good sign!
Overconfidence: Thinking you’re better than the other negotiator is often a very bad move. Underestimating one’s enemy has historically been one of the main causes of military defeats. You should actually always be wary of negotiators who seem harmless. Some are skilled at playing dumb to negotiate better terms.
Hard-headedness: Don’t try to always be right. The goal for the sales rep is to sign the deal under amicable conditions. If you’re intent on always being right, you end up squandering energy on things of secondary importance and even run the risk of making the other person lose face.
Noise pollution: Always make the distinction between style and substance. Pay attention to the substance of what your client is saying and ignore the style, which may be “polluted” by nerves, manipulation, annoyance, etc. The style shouldn’t impact results (in theory, at least, if you stay calm).
“A good negotiator picks up on others’ emotions while channeling their own,” Aurélien Colson, professor at ESSEC Business School
Three ways to avoid ego-related pitfalls
Don’t try to be perfect: Perfect people end up being boring, or worse, during a negotiation they can make clients want to pick a fight and/or afraid of getting ripped off. So don’t be a know-it-all. Approach the situation with modesty and an attentive ear. And if you’re up against a teacher’s pet, encourage them—they’ll be more inclined to lower their guard.
Learn how to look at the big picture: Discussions often get caught up in “matters of principle.” There are two rationales that govern negotiations: the contract rationale (upholding the contract, law, legality, etc.) and the honor rationale (upholding your word, moral values, ethics, etc.). In both rationales, it’s up to you to adjust to the client’s worldview if you want to succeed.
Don’t try to understand everything: failing to understand everything in a negotiation is not really a handicap. If a “specialist” ever tries to nail you on topics that you haven’t really mastered, there’s no need to panic. Don’t forget the reason why they’re negotiating with you—they want something from you—otherwise they wouldn’t waste their time. Believe in yourself and practice saying “What exactly does that mean?” or “I don’t really follow you” from time to time. A pinch of insolence and a touch of innocence won’t hurt in a negotiation. Set aside the exhausting enumeration all the technical details of the deal by a client who thinks that they’re winning you over, and reply: “I didn’t understand a thing.”
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