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Negotiation Skills and Strategies

Written by:

Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

Negotiation Skills and Strategies

Negotiation Skills and Strategies

Sales is rarely a simple linear process of making a pitch that leads straight to close. As you probably know all too well, it’s often a complex and time-consuming back-and-forth. In fact, 60 percent of customers say “no” four times before finally saying yes, according to marketing consultancy Invesp.

Since saying no four times, at the end of the day, amounts to a lot of beating around the bush, it’s crucial for sales reps to be patient and persistent. It also helps to have excellent sales and negotiation skills. To that end, if you’re looking to improve your team’s negotiation skills, you’ve come to the right place, as this guide details the essential strategies for overcoming objections and closing more sales. 

What is Sales Negotiation?

Sales negotiation is exactly what it sounds like: a back-and-forth between buyer and seller over a deal.

Beyond simple persuasion, negotiations offer a platform for both parties’ concerns, values, and interests, and for reaching an agreement that sets the stage for a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

Both B2C and B2B sales can involve negotiation, but for B2B, successfully negotiating a deal can result in a multi-million dollar windfall and years of success. After an arduous sales cycle full of lead qualifications, sales pitches, and demonstrations, negotiation is the last hurdle before closing the sale. 

Why Do I Need to Negotiate?

Sales reps need to make sales or they’ll soon be out of a job. The problem is that customers often say no a few times before making their way to yes. And most of them aren’t playing hard to get; they have serious concerns that give them pause. 

So if you or your reps give up after the first no, you’ll never make any sales. Similarly, being rigid and uncooperative when the prospect requests a bit of flexibility is also a good way to fail.  

The surest route to closing is to be flexible and responsive, taking the time to address the prospect’s concerns and objections and be willing to negotiate. You might not sell at the full price or get everything you want, but you will make more sales. 

And who knows? Rather than one person’s gain being the other’s loss, open, engaged negotiations might yield a new solution that makes both sides happier than if they’d kept their cards close to their chest.

Robust negotiations tend to build strong, positive relationships between company and client. Strong-arming prospects, on the other hand, usually damages a company’s reputation. Negotiating closes deals in the short term and improves your firm’s reputation in the long term.

Even if the sale falls through, a positive relationship built through negotiations could open a new door down the line.

A few months later that client might refer a friend to your company, or their situation could change, making them more amenable to a deal. 

Good negotiating requires skill and patience, so if your team is short on these traits, consider additional training to help them raise the bar (and your bottom line).

Before Negotiating: Things to Prepare

Before we get into tactics to practice at the negotiation table, there are a few key bits of information sales reps should know beforehand to drastically increase their chances for a successful negotiation. 

1. Research The Prospect

The more a salesperson knows about their client’s wants, needs, and pain points, the more appealing the resulting sales pitch and approach will be. Researching the client’s budget, pain points, and product alternatives gives sales reps a better understanding of their position and a greater chance to identify common ground.

Researching the client company’s representative is also a good idea. Do they have the budget and authority to finalize the deal? It’s best to understand the company’s hierarchy and management, find the decision maker, and negotiate with them.

If you’re unsure whether you’re dealing with the right person, you might ask: “If you had everything you’re asking for, would you be able to close the deal right now?”

The bigger the deal, the more research it deserves. A sales rep can never be too prepared for a multi-million-dollar deal. In such cases any bit of info about the client can help – their previous deals, their negotiating preferences, the terms of those previous deals, and anything else you can find out. 

2. Know The Product

Next up is to gather strong data and develop convincing arguments about how your product solves the client’s pain points. Knowing the product specs and company policies inside and out translates into confidence during the negotiation.

Consumers are more willing to trust fellow consumers when it comes to products, which is a concept known as social proof. Therefore, your sales data and customer testimonials become invaluable proof that your product delivers on its promises. 

3. Know Your Own Position

More than the product and company, a salesperson should be aware of their position as a negotiator.

Does your company absolutely need this deal, or do you have other prospects lined up you can turn to if things go south? Clearly understand your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). Knowing your BATNA provides leverage during the negotiation and reduces your chances of agreeing to a bad deal. 

It’s also crucial to know exactly the extent of concessions your company is willing to give, such as how steep the discount can be before the deal becomes unprofitable. If the client makes unreasonable demands, walking away is often wiser than agreeing to a net-negative deal. 

Negotiators should be keenly aware of how passive or aggressive they’re being at all times and consider the best approach for the given client and situation. If the sales rep and client are both a bit bullheaded, talks might not make much progress. 

A good sales rep should be able to alter their approach as needed. But if you’re unable to connect with a prospect, there’s no shame in swapping out with another sales rep who might be a better fit. 

Key Negotiating Skills

Once you arrive at the negotiating table, here are five key skills to raise your chances of closing a great sale.

1. Clear Communication

Parties unwilling to express themselves clearly and listen to their counterpart are unlikely to ever reach a deal. To counteract that, embrace active listening, which is when the salesperson repeats key phrases and words back to their conversation partner to show that they understand.

Sales reps can also draw out the client’s thoughts by asking open-ended questions and requesting elaboration on certain key points. The better the salesperson understands the client, the more likely they are to reach a deal. And even if this approach fails, the rep has shown the client nothing but respect and likely left a good impression. 

Meanwhile, the negotiator should clearly state what they want in terms of the total payment, the goods purchased, and the length of the contract. You might be tempted to hold your cards close to your chest and be vague and cagey, but doing so will only lead to a frustrating and drawn-out conversation.

2. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, interpret, and control one’s own emotions, and recognize and manage the emotions of those around you. Lengthy negotiations can be frustrating, sure, but nothing undermines progress and a developing rapport faster than a sour mood! 

Salespeople should have the emotional intelligence to recognize when they’re nearing their breaking point and request a break to regain their composure. They should also be aware of the prospect’s mental and emotional state and alter their tone and approach as needed. 

You never want potential customers to lose face or feel inferior. Taking advantage of a desperate client can be just as bad as condescending to a client in frustration. Negotiating well often takes real sensitivity, which is something that can be developed through training and experience.  

3. Positivity and professionalism

A positive and professional tone not only helps sales reps appear more confident, but it also establishes a productive negotiating environment and may help the client open up, convinced they’re in good hands.

Unless you see a clear opening, it’s best to stick to discussing business matters during the negotiation. If you want to have a casual conversation to break the ice and build rapport, keep it impersonal – ask about last night’s big game and discuss the best dishes at this restaurant. 

4. Flexibility

During the course of the negotiation, an unanticipated client concern might come to light. Ignoring it could result in a failed sale, so be ready to respond on the fly to new information as it comes.

Being able to adapt your approach to new information is likely to open new opportunities and make the negotiations run more smoothly.

5. Objection handling

If a potential buyer has a concern, they’ll surely express that objection at some point. Remember that if they’ve agreed to negotiate, they’re already interested in buying – they may just want to be heard and have their issue addressed. 

The sales rep needs to be willing to listen to the objection, acknowledge its validity, and respond with a reasonable solution. Objections involving price can often be combated by highlighting the product’s value and impact. 

Instead of haggling over price, focus on the product’s benefits and how it’ll solve the client’s problems. When you present clear and convincing arguments on the product’s benefits, suddenly it seems to be worth every single penny!

Negotiation Strategies

Beyond simple tips, now we move to concrete strategies to get a negotiation moving the way you want to. We’ve broken these into two sections: offensive strategies to push your agenda and defensive strategies to counter the client.

Offensive Strategies

1. Take The Initiative

Sometimes the best defense is a good offense, so it’s best to be proactive rather than reactive. Pitching quickly enables the sales rep to lead the negotiation rather than passively waiting for direction. 

Beyond making a salesperson seem confident, this strategy can elicit the anchoring bias, in which people give greater weight to the first idea they hear. 

For instance, if you make an initial offer of $1,500 and have the client bargain you down to $1,000, that final price will seem like a great deal – on the other hand, if the client initially offers $500 and you negotiate them up to $1,000, the client may feel that they overpaid.

By being the first to present offers, objections, concerns, and ideas, the sales rep is constantly taking control of the discussion and ensuring it heads in their preferred direction. 

2. Focus on Benefits

A value-based approach tends to go over better than one based on price or concessions. Remember, pricing disputes are often a sign of the prospect’s limited understanding of the product’s usefulness.  

Rather than haggling over the price or giving concessions, think of why the client is asking for those concessions and instead explain how the product can deliver. 

For example, if they say the price of your CRM’s data analytics add-on is too high, you could counter with: “I understand money is a concern for you. But this data analytics program will analyze the effectiveness of past sales campaigns, helping you boost efficiency and save millions in the long run.”

3. Focus on the Client

For highly aggressive or highly passive clients, it may be better to attempt the opposite tactic and focus on the client rather than yourself.

Rather than trying to butt heads with an aggressive client and meet them blow for blow, build a rapport and find out what’s important to them, then work your needs around theirs.

Returning to the above CRM example, if the client says they don’t want too large of a package because they have few sales reps, you could concede that point and go in another direction. “I understand, we’ll focus on smaller packages. But if you only have a few sales reps, wouldn’t a sales automation add-on be nice to give your sales reps a break and keep them focused on big-ticket issues?”

Some clients are insecure and uncomfortable opening up about what they want, which tends to lead to a stalled negotiation. To prevent this, a skilled negotiator should be empathetic and receptive to whatever they say. 

In addition, the sales rep could make a show of being in need of their assistance. Once the prospect gains confidence and the conversation starts flowing, then it’s time to switch to a more aggressive tactic.

Defensive Strategies

Of course, buyers have their own tricks and tactics to get what they want. If you’re faced with a bad offer and pushed into a corner, here are some defensive strategies you might employ in an effort to turn the tables.

1. Silence

When the client suggests a deal that’s clearly unfavorable for the seller, the wise move is to be silent. Like a teacher facing a naughty student, force the client to stew in their disrespectful offer by silently telling them you won’t engage unless you’re taken seriously.

2. Flip Questions Back to the Client

Alternatively, if the client asks questions you’re unable or unwilling to answer, silence is the wrong move. Instead, flip the question back to the client in order to get more information.

For example, if the client asks “Does your CRM have third-party app integration?” it’s not clear if it’s something they want or not – dig a little deeper by asking “Is third-party integration important to you?” If it turns out that they don’t want third-party app integrations due to security concerns, you could answer “Yes, but it’s easy to disable,” to give an honest answer that still helps persuade your client.

3. Offer Trades

When faced with an objection you’re unable to overcome, you can still build value rather than simply conceding by proposing a trade.

This is where research on the client comes in handy: rather than price tag value, know how much the client values each item, and barter based on that. For example, if the client truly doesn’t have the money, a smart negotiator could offer a lower monthly price in exchange for a longer contract. 

Of course, you and your sales team should’ve already prepared acceptable concessions ahead of time. If the client asks for something you can’t give, it may be best to walk away.

4. Know the Power of Walking Away

Speaking of walking away, always keep in mind that there are plenty of fish in the sea if this deal falls through. If the prospect continuously makes unreasonable demands, they’re unlikely to be happy with any deal negotiated. It might be best to save both parties time and trouble and end the negotiation.

Knowing you have a BATNA for a negotiation is like having a safety net, increasing the negotiator’s confidence. It also calls out bluffing buyers who think they can bully the seller into their terms. Whether you close the deal or not, just knowing that you have that option could ease the negotiation.

And who knows? Even if a deal can’t be reached today, if you end things on an amicable note, you could keep the prospect’s file and reach out when their company is doing better.


In the B2B world, a failed negotiation can be devastating. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that you and your sales team have as many negotiating tools at your disposal as possible. Mastering these negotiation skills and strategies is sure to increase your sales and drive company growth. 

Negotiation Skills and Strategies FAQs

What are some common negotiation pitfalls?

Some common pitfalls negotiators make are not pursuing more value and settling for too little, not knowing when to walk away, and not preparing enough beforehand.

In terms of interpersonal skills, negotiators can also fail by not listening to the client, being too egocentric and unwilling to compromise, and falling victim to emotional outbursts.

What are some common buyer negotiation tactics I should look out for?

The client will also be employing negotiation skills and strategies to get what they want. Some common ones to look out for are lowballing, exaggerated emotional reactions, and drawing things out to frustrate the negotiator. These can be dealt with using the strategies outlined above. And remember: you can always walk away.

How can I get better at negotiating?

The best way to get better at negotiating is to practice. But if you’re just starting out, you can also train yourself by running negotiation simulations with your friends and family, and shadowing an experienced negotiator.

During your first few negotiations, consider bringing another sales rep as a second pair of eyes and ears to keep you from making big blunders. As you improve, you’ll find yourself relying on them less and less.