How to Negotiate with Influence [Complimentary Training]

Everyone negotiates, every single day. It's how life and business gets done

So whether you're a CEO, teacher, sales professional, manager, parent, hospital administrator, or anything in between, negotiating, terms, price, agreements, settlements, deals, quantities, whatever, it's in your best interest to sharpen your negotiation skills.

Enjoy this complimentary training, and let me know if you or your people have questions, or need further assistance in honing your negotiation prowess.

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Where Most People Drop the Ball in a Negotiation

I'm sure you've heard this before, but it bears repeating, time and again, especially if you're anything like me:

"If you want to "win," and truly get what you really need, want and expect when you negotiate . . . prepare, prepare, prepare.

See, I told you that you've heard that before. But are you doing it? Enough? Consistently?

Or do you consistently drop the ball when it comes to the preparation because you're busy, overwhelmed, over scheduled, or plagued, like me, by a touch of "adult-onset-of-ADHD."

I admit it, I have the best intentions, I really do. But as good as those intentions are, there are far too many times I let "good enough" derail my "very best" because, let's face it . . . preparation takes time.

Honestly, though, I stated taking this whole preparation thing much more seriously when someone pointed out to me that, on average, across industries, professional buyers (anyone whose job, or job in part, is to purchase stuff for their company) invest 3 hours of prep time for every hour they plan on negotiations. Wow! 3 to 1! I know I hadn't been investing that much time. Not even close.

I am glad, however, that I took this statistic to heart when I was preparing to negotiate my salary at the last employer I worked for before I started my company, Influence Seminars. I literally spent close to five hours preparing for what turned out to be a thirty-minute conversation. I prepared three pages of notes, a spreadsheet, and had printed copies of evidence I would use as proof and salary justification, should I need to.

It's a good thing I prepared for this conversation as thoroughly as I did. Ultimately it came down to a one-on-one negotiation with the CEO, who I was certain had tons more negotiation experience than I did. And he had ALL the leverage (or at least it seemed).

When all was said and done, and all the smoke had cleared, the CEO and I both emerged with a win. He, with a world-class Director of Training (who had absolutely no experience on that role, only mad skills as a trainer), and me, with a salary, benefits and perks that would rival any other person in that role, in the United States.

All because I was prepared. Over prepared!

So let me ask you . . . what is your time in preparation worth to you? What if you were absolutely "loaded for bear" the next time you stepped to the negotiations table? Can you put a number on it? If so, please don't forsake the preparation process ever again. You now know what is at stake.

So when you prepare, here's a checklist to help you do so effectively, efficiently and meticulously, so that you can get exactly what you need, want and expect:

1.    Know whom you're negotiating with. Spend time with the person if you can. That's the best way. If not, spend time researching them on social media, talking to people who have worked with them, or picking up the phone and having a conversation with them prior to the actual negotiation.

2. Add value to their business or life. Once you know who they are, what they like, what they think about, what they focus on, and what they value, help them get more of it. One of my mentors, John Maxwell says it best: "Influence is adding value to the lives and businesses of others. There's a story of a lady who landed a ten-minute interview with Warren Buffet. When she entered his office for that ten-minute interview, she entered carrying his favorite beverage. The first thing out of his mouth was, "young lady, you can have as much time as you need."

3. Get clear and specific with what you want, how much and why. Write it down. Going in with vague expectations in your head is a recipe for disaster and failure in negotiations. Know what you want, need and expect in advance. Then write it down to carry in with you.

4. Anticipate their need, wants and expectations. Just like you, there's a reason they're at the negotiations table. Find out what that may be. If you're not sure, just ask. If they won't tell you it's because you haven't yet built a relationship of trust. Or it's because you asked them first without sharing yours first.

5. Have a list of questions. Now how much time, effort and energy you invest into preparation, there are always going to be things you still don’t know. Write down questions that will help you uncover the answers during the conversation. The last thing you want is to be caught like a dear in the headlights, searching for the right question to ask.

I sincerely hope this article served you. If you'd like to learn more about how negotiate a win-win, every time you have an opportunity to negotiate, join me for one of our upcoming live seminars. I'd be honored to work with you and help you achieve the outcomes you deserve.






How to Negotiate as a Sales Professional to Influence a Win-Win Outcome

As a sales professional,  you may be tempted to believe that you have no influence or power when negotiating with a customer. In fact, many sales professionals I work with during my strategic work sessions and seminars don't even realize they are "negotiating" in the first place.

The truth is, you are negotiating every single time you have a conversation with your customer and, more importantly, you have a tremendous amount of power to influence the outcomes of those negotiations. I'll explain . . .

Though the customer does bring the power and influence of the final decision and the checkbook to the table, you and your company bring something to the table that the customer cannot do by herself. Otherwise, you wouldn't be having the conversation in the first place.

You bring an outside perspective, data, research, superior products/services/strategies/ideas and proven strategies to apply your solutions they do not have, that can help them solve their most expensive and pervasive problems. But first, you have to understand what those expensive and pervasive problems are, and you have to prove to them you can solve them.

Here's how to wield your power and influence to facilitate a mutually beneficial outcome for the customer, your company and yourself as a sales professional:

1. Make a Value List. Based on the research you've done, and the conversations you've had with the customer, what is it that you perceive they value, need or want to feel like doing business with you is the right decision? What are 5-10 items you could give to them to add value to them, and help them achieve the outcomes they desire? Likewise, what are 5-10 you could ask for, in return, to be able to achieve the outcomes you and your company desire?

Make an actual list and have it with you during your next conversation with the customer. The purpose of the list is not to give all or ask for all on your list, it's to encourage creative give-and-take, and solution creation between you and the customer.

Enter a "What if?" Conversation. Now, take your list and start a non-committal, hypothetical exchange based on the list in front of you. "Mr. Smith, suppose we were to offer x?", "Would you consider . . .?" "How would you feel if . . ." Basically what you're doing here is testing the waters without raising sales resistance. You're just feeling your customer out to see which of the items on your list may or may not have merit. You're not promising anything, and the customer isn't committing to anything (yet).

2. Ask the Most Important Question. The most significant and important question you can ask your customer, to understand what they truly value, is some version of "what do you want?" How you ask this question is going to depend strongly on the relationship you have. The bottom line here is, you can do all the testing you want in step 1, but until you ask some of this question, you're guessing at what they value, at best. 

The secret to asking the "what do you want question" and getting a sincere and favorable response is to honestly disclose what it is you truly value and want from the business relationship first. When you do this, it lowers the resistance and defensiveness of the customer. They feel safe disclosing their true needs and wants because you did so first.

You can't begin to imagine the catastrophe I've witnessed when one party asks what the other "wants" before they volunteer what they "want." That's a recipe for conflict if ever I've seen one.

4. Partner to Create Viable Options. Many times your products, services, strategies and/or ideas won't appear to have merit with your customer. It won't be clear to you or to them how you can solve their problem. This is where the fun begins but, unfortunately, it's where most sales professionals throw in the towel and admit defeat.

If you've handles steps 1 and 2 properly, you've built adequate trust with your customer and created a problem solving momentum. Now, instead of trying to sell them a solution to their problem, get on the same side of the table as you customer, literallyand figuratively, and team up against the problem. Begin brainstorming ways to overtake the problem based on what you learned and discussed in the first two steps. Offer ideas and encourage them to do the same. When you here some for of "well, that won't work, but what if we try this?" coming from your customer, you've successfully entered the battle together.

5. Fight for Their Win. Now it's time to bring it home by assuring your customer you won't quit until you find a way to help them achieve their outcomes in a way that is fair and comfortable for the both of you. More importantly, make sure they know that you're fighting hard to help them achieve their win.

Consistently applying these steps to the negotiations conversations your having with your customers will help you to understand what it is they truly value. Once you do, you can then partner with them to help them achieve their outcomes. 

Sometimes, however, helping the customer achieve a win for their business may require you to refer them elsewhere for the short term, but it will lock you in as a trusted advisor, and you will be able to serve their business and drive revenue for your company long term.




Why most people do not negotiate effectively

For the past six and a half years, I've taught business professionals, executives and employees of all ranks, how to negotiate a win-win outcome.

Through the many experiences I've had negotiating my own deals, teaching and coaching negotiators,  and the direct feedback from the participant "laboratory," I've learned that there are basically three distinct reasons why people fail to achieve a fair and comfortable outcome for themselves, and the other party:

1. Lack of clarity - simply put, people show up to the negotiations table not even knowing what they want. They simple don't take the time to get clear, focus and prepare.

2. Their way or the highway - to make matters worse, they hunker down on how they want things to play out, and alienate the other party in the process.

3. They are trying to take, and it doesn't work - they are more concerned with what they're going to get, rather what they can freely give to add value to the other side first.

Obviously, when anyone approaches negotiations this way, the outcome might be a temporary win, but it does so much harm long-term. Trust is erroded, relationships are bruised, and the doors of opportunity are often slammed shut.

To be an effective negotiator, it is imperative that we add value to the other party first and foremost. We must be clear from the beginning on what we want to achieve, and what we're willing to give and ask for to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. 

If you are ready to develop or hone your skills as a skilled negotiator, look into our upcoming negotiations seminars, and join us for an experience that will get you results for the rest of your career.

Influential People Sell Themselves Authentically

There is nothing worse than having to endure a "sales pitch." I absolutely hate to be sold to. and I'm pretty sure you do too. In my opinion, the absolute worse form of this is when we are bombarded by an "interruption" sales pitch.

I've almost decided to completely stop shopping at Sam's Wholesale Club because, every time I walk down the left hand isle, I get accosted by the Direct TV sales people who jump directly into my path and ask me if they can ask me a quick question. "Sorry, man, you just did. No thank you . . ." and, more importantly, "how dare you?" In what world do they think people still respond to that crap?

If that wasn't enough, I have to get a sales pitch about Sam's Cash Back program every single time I check out. Every damned time! I think some people give in just to avoid future sales pitches.

We all know that nobody likes to be sold to, but that everyone loves to buy stuff. The difference is obviously who's idea it was in the first place, and the way we are assisted in the buying process. In other words, I make an emotional decision that I need or want something, I proactively seek out a solution and then and only then am I open to a sales person helping make that purchase.

Most of the time I don't need anyone's help at all. However, let's just say I did. At that point, how does the salesperson do their job effectively without pissing me off or making me second guess my buying?

Well, it's the exact same way we should all sell ourselves and our ideas, products and/or services. Authentically! Here's how it looks . . .

1. Serve - You must determine in your mind, before you even have a conversation with your potential "buyer," that no matter what the outcome, you're going to give your face off. You're having the conversation for one reason only - to give. When you approach your "selling" conversation this way, the other party feels it, and it begins to lower their sales resistance organically.

2. Ask good questions - The best way to do this is to be fully present in the conversation, give the ball to the other person, let them have control of the conversation, and ask the next logical question that will help you understand what they value, and what exactly they're looking for.

3. Listen - When you honestly and fully let go of your own agenda for the conversation, many serendipitous things begin to happen. Among them are the little insights and opportunities to add value that you may not have come to the conversation anticipating. Another is that, very quickly, you begin to understand what it is that they value as it relates to the potential purchase of your stuff.

4. Add value - Once you understand what it is they value, you must immediately do two critical things:

a. Scrap what you had originally planned on offering them.

b. Give them what they've just told you they value.

b. Partner with them to see what they may and/or may not be open to trying.

5. Have a partnering conversation - at this point in the conversation, you'll have a pretty good idea of what your potential buyer values as it relates to your offer, but you'll still need to clarify a few things so you can land your plane on their runway. This is where a "suppose that, what if, would you consider, how about" conversation needs to proceed making an offer. For more detail on how to have that conversation, read this.

6. Put the buyer in control - once you've discerned the "must haves" from the "nice to haves," you can add value to their buying experience by connecting the dots as to how what they really value can be met by what you're offering. Once you've done that successfully, you simply put a gentle offer on the table and let them decide what their next course of action will be.

If you've done a good job with steps 1-5, more times than not, they will make the decision to buy what you're offering - as long as it is of value and meets the needs/wants they were looking to have met.

If you will follow those six simple steps each and every time you get the opportunity to "sell" your ideas, products, services and/or yourself, you will see your efforts amplified immediately.

When you do, please come back to this post and share the results so we can share in your success and give you a virtual high five!


The Most Important Conversation You Can Have as a Sales Professional

After fourteen years as a successful sales professional, and six and a half years of training & coaching sales professionals, I find that there's one critical conversation that only the absolute best of all sales professionals are having with their customers.

I admit that this is not a conversation I was having as a sales professional, but it is one that every single sales professional, and I as a small business owner, should have on a regular basis, with each and everyone of our customers.

I refer to it as the partnering conversation. Now, if believe that you already know what this is all about, I invite you challenge yourself, and stay tuned.

If you are a sales professional, or a sales manager, this one thing, injected into your current sales process, could blow your current numbers out of the water - literally overnight. Bold claim I know, but stick around and you'll see.

This partnering conversation should take place between the investigation and solution recommendation stages of your sales process.

It's a conversation where neither the sales professional, nor the customer, is committing to anything discussed. It goes like this: 

Sales professional (introducing creative options):

"Suppose we . . ." "Have you considered . . .?" "What if we . . ." "Would you be willing?" "Could you possibly . . ." "What would it mean if . . .?"

Or some other verbiage that get creative ideas flowing, and on the table, with out raising sales resistance, or causing the customer to shut down.

Starting that conversation can be as easy as prefacing those questions with something like:

"I'm not committing to anything here, nor am I asking for a decision on your part, but what if . . .?'"

This makes it safe for the customer to engage in hypothetical back and forth without the threat or fear of committing to anything in that moment.

When, and only when, the customer engages in the conversation with agreement, or some version of "well we can't necessarily do that, but what about this?," you know that you have successfully gotten the customer to invest in the solution creating process and partnering with you.

I've heard it said, time and time again, that "people support what they help create." If you're consistently getting push back, or objections, even to objections that you've covered before they've arisen, it's because your customer doesn't feel invested in the solution creation process.

Why would they buy something that is not their idea? We all know that nobody like to be sold to, but everybody likes to buy stuff. We also are aware that the difference between the two is who came up with the idea.

If you never engage your customer in a legitimate partnership conversation, don't be surprised if they disconnect when you recommended your solution.

However, if you successfully engage in that partnership conversation, more times than not, if you did a thorough job from the start of your sales process up to that point, you will not have to use "closing techniques" to win the business.

It will echo what one of my mentors told me many years ago: "If you have to close, then you don't know how to sell."

I have come to understand, since he said that, that it simply means if you know how to get your customer creating the solution with you, they can't wait to buy.

Start injecting this conversation into your current sales process, and then come back to this post and share your experience in a comment below. I'd love tho hear about it.

If you have a question about this post, leave it below in the comment section, and I will do my best to help you out.

If you would like to have me do a FREE lunch-and-learn or sales meeting webinar for your sales professionals, on this topic, send me an email at 

Article by R. Duane Huff