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Negotiation tricks from top salesmen


Guest articles > Negotiation tricks from top salesmen


by: Steve Gates


What makes an effective sales pitch? Of course it depends largely on who is delivering the pitch - but why are some people so successful, when others are not?

In part it's down to who has the experience and training, and specialists like The Gap Partnership can offer coaching on negotiation skills that can be applied to the sales process. But there are several tips and tricks you can learn from the professionals in practice, too.

1. Blue-Sky Thinking

Be positive. The more positive you are about everything, the more positive the overall sentiment of your discussion with your potential customer will be, and that means when it comes to the final sales pitch, there's a better chance of them saying yes.

It's not only in sales where this is the case - a positive sentiment makes all negotiating parties feel more like they are getting something good out of any agreement, making it more likely that they will say yes to whatever is on offer, from a product to a pay rise.

Look out for this from door-to-door salesmen and charity collectors in particular; both will often start with seemingly innocuous questions like "Have you heard of us before?" or even just "Are you having a good day?" to elicit the first 'yes' from you - and then you're one step down the road towards the big 'yes' they're hoping for at the end.

2. Be Relevant

Choose your topic and your timing carefully, because the effect described above extends beyond just positive and negative sentiment - it also encompasses the subject matter you're discussing.

Don't pitch for a pay rise the day after the company's kindly old grandfatherly founder dies, because nobody is going to be in the mood to even discuss it, let alone approve it. Fight those battles the day after strong trading figures are posted, when there's a clear case for more money being available, and everybody's likely to be in a celebratory mood.

This interplay between mood and subject matter is called mood-thematic congruence, it's been around for 20 years or more, yet while many salesmen do it well, not many people out there can actually name it.

3. Rewrite History

People often refer to the 'benefit of hindsight', but actually looking back on past behaviour can distort people's ability to make a logical decision. In particular, if you think you've been 'good' in the past, you're more likely to indulge yourself in the future.

Salesmen tap into this by saying things like "Don't you think you deserve a treat?" and there are endless TV commercials based around the idea of a little luxury or indulgence; in negotiation, the same techniques can work, such as pointing out how many previous meetings you have had without receiving a pay rise, as a way of making it seem as though maybe you're due one now.

4. Comparative Value

How much would you pay for a cup of coffee? A normal cup of filter coffee, with milk and sugar? Probably not that much... but place it alongside an all-singing, all-dancing, froth cappuccino with chocolate shavings sprinkled on top, and suddenly you have something to compare it against.

Some of us would opt to pay the extra for the frothy coffee, others might be cash-savvy and go for the normal filter coffee, but crucially the mere fact that there was something to compare it with might be enough in itself to focus us on the benefits - price or luxury - and on what we gained from our decision.

Salesmen do this well, pointing out what you will gain from a product (often a saving of time or effort, rather than money), and if you can do the same in your own negotiations, you can increase your chance of a positive outcome.

5. Know Your Goal

Last of all - but essential in any negotiation - is to know what you want to happen at the end of the process. In a sales process, for instance, it's clear that you want an order to be placed at the end, but there may be caveats to that - a B2B salesman might want a large order, or there might be some haggling to be done over the price.

In any negotiation, you should know both your initial pitch, and how far you're willing to compromise. Don't sell yourself too cheaply; a good salesman will never make a loss overall, but they might be willing to throw in a freebie to clinch the deal, and knowing the difference between those two things can be all-important.


Steve Gates, runs The Gap Partnership, the worlds largest negotiation consultancy - 

He has also written ‘The Negotiation Book’ -

Contributor: Steve Gates

Published here on: 14-Sep-14

Classification: Negotiation


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