Have you ever been sitting during a negotiation wondering why you have no leverage and your prospect can push you around and beat you up? How did that weak positioning suddenly manifest itself during a critical stage of the sales process?
It didn’t. You created that condition.
How you position yourself early in a sales conversation is as important as anything else you’ll do in pursuing a client. Most of the conditions you will be dealing with in the final negotiations are established very early in the process of prospecting and meeting with your client. You set the tone and hence create your own negotiating environment, good or bad.
That means that the setting of the initial conversation (usually how you prospect that client) is going to have a lasting effect, beyond them even buying, into the fulfillment/renewal/referral stages. Setting that foundation correctly is key.
To do that, whenever possible you should position yourself as the buyer and not as the seller.
What does that mean? That means that your prospecting should be done with a focus on disqualifying them as a prospect, not qualifying them as a customer.
Read that last sentence again. It’s key.
It is a highly counter-intuitive thing to do, and initially it may feel dishonest to some sales people, but if you really think about it, it is in fact accurate that your customer needs to be qualified into the business conversation as much as you do. That comes from the assumption that you are seeking a win-win fit, instead of just “selling something”. It actually makes you more of a professional to be concerned that the customer is a fit and not just assume that.
Think of the professions that require a lot of professional skill and training, like a doctor or dentist. Would you consider it professional and ethical of a doctor to allow you to walk into their office and just buy something because they think they want it? If you walk in and ask for a triple bypass, doesn’t the professional ethic require that the doctor start asking you questions to make sure that a triple bypass will actually help you? Or should he just assume that know what you need and provide it without further conversation?
Why would you think your product or service is any different?
Is it OK to sell someone advertising that you know will not reach the right audience for them to get results?
Is it OK to sell someone a car that doesn’t fit their family needs?
Is it OK to sell someone a software that doesn’t fix the issue that made them seek software to begin with?
Are you a professional or a commission hunter?
Prospect from a mentality of “being the buyer” and making sure the customer actually needs what you are selling first. It is the right thing to do, and it also maintains your leverage as an equal party in the business conversation.
It’s what professionals do.