Sometimes trying to close a business deal feels more like a conflict than it does a negotiation. Rather than go head to head with a potential customer, consider using a few mediation skills instead. Namely:
1) Learn what your customer cares most about. Price? Commitment? Service? Ask open-ended questions and then listen until she’s finished speaking. Trying to address every issue immediately may have you answering the wrong questions.
2) Get creative. Sure, you have policies to follow but maybe it’s time to shake things up. Trial periods are a great way to try on new ideas without too much red tape.
3) Expand the bottom line. If it’s all about the money, consider ways you can show financial benefit by looking at the bigger picture. Will spending a little more on your product or service save your customer time or money in other areas?
4) Ask what it would take. Rather than sounding like a robot stuck on replay, set your features and benefits statements aside for a minute and ask what it would take for you to make the sale. You’ll learn pretty quickly if the window of opportunity is open or closed. Plus, the best ideas on how to structure future opportunities can come from uninterested customers!
5) Leave the door open for future business. If you don’t make this sale, continue to communicate with your customer until what you have to offer matches up with his needs. Even if he never buys from you, he may turn out to be one of your best advocates.
Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator and the author of Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies. She spent many years in the competitive and often stress-filled world of high tech marketing where she realized resolving conflict within the confines of office politics was paramount to success. Through creative solutions to common conflicts she was able to bring various entities together, both internally and externally, for the betterment of projects and a productive working environment.
Prior to retiring from Microsoft in 1999 she developed the “America at Work” video series, a six-part program featuring small businesses employing technology in attention-grabbing ways. “America at Work” aired on the USA Network and received the Silver Screen Award from the International Film and Video Festival for outstanding creativity. Using discerning negotiation, mediation, and problem-solving skills, she successfully worked with others to co-create “How-to Guides”, “Seminar in a Box”, and even one of the first on-line Guerrilla Marketing books.
Since her retirement, Ms. Scott has gone on to earn a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences with a concentration in American Studies from the University of Washington. She completed an extensive practicum with the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish & Island Counties where she has mediated numerous cases, helping parties resolve conflict in workplace, family, and other disputes. Her private mediation practice has handled cases ranging from assisting business partners in ending their relationship to creating a new working environment within a law firm. Ms. Scott is a member of the Washington Mediation Association and spends a majority of her time advocating embracing peace in a volatile world.
Her book, Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies, can be found in bookstores, on www.amazon.com, www.dummies.com, or any number of on-line bookseller sites.