One of the most important skill sets you could master to prepare you for business leadership is sales and negotiation. Some of you may be thinking, “Gosh, I’m not going into sales or marketing. I can skip this blog post!”
But I want to assure you, regardless of your field, sales and negotiation are part of it.
If you’re working in operations and want to expand your department, you need to sell that idea to your executive staff. If you’re a designer with a bright idea for a new line, you’re going to have to sell that idea to the people you work with … to the other managers, engineers and stakeholders in your organization.
Wherever the outcome of a proposal has as much to do with the personalities involved as with the information presented, sales and negotiation skills are required to be successful.
Everyone has experienced a sales person that they don’t like. In fact, the entire industry has a reputation for attracting pushy and dishonest actors. Bad salespersons have questionable characters and always seem to be working some angle.
So if you’ve encountered one of these bad salespersons, you’ve already taken your first lesson in sales: What not to do.
The key in selling an idea or a product or service is to find a good fit. Many salesmen make the mistake of selling their product without even knowing whether their customer needs it. This is the problem with telemarketing. They cold-call you with an offer to sell you vinyl siding or a car warranty without even knowing if you own a house or car.
Thus, the best way to start a sales pitch is to understand the needs of the person you’re approaching. You have to know your audience. You have to invest the energy to know what that person has, what they don’t have, and what they need.
Even if you’re not in the sales profession, this still applies to you.
Understanding the needs of the people working for you, your colleagues in other departments, and your company’s the top executives is the best starting point to finding a good fit for your idea.
A second lesson from the world of sales worth knowing is the value of honesty. Salespersons have a reputation for “stretching the truth” to get their commission. But tactics like this will never lead to a long-term customer. So if you can find a fit between your product and the customer’s needs, fantastic. Share it. Now you’re in a position where the product sells itself.
But if there’s not a good fit there, don’t keep wasting your energy. Move on. Don’t waste that other person’s energy either. If you invest the energy to learn the needs of a potential customer just to find out that there is not a good fit, then you’ve left them with a good impression. Someday, in a different situation, they may invite you back to the table.
Regarding negotiations — whether you’re haggling for an antique at your local flea market, vying for a pay raise, or trying to settle on a price for a capital purchase – one factor holds more people back than any other: fear. Fear of hurting the other person’s feeling. Fear of getting the door shut in their face. Or fear of making the situation worse.
There are plenty of outstanding negotiation tactics worth learning, but getting past your own initial fears is the first step toward being a good negotiator.
Here’s a few other tips for growing your negotiation skills:
– Be likeable. It costs you nothing, and it’s much harder for a potential client to “shut the door” on someone they like.
– Negotiation doesn’t have to be a win-lose situation. Often you can give something up to get what you want.
– It can’t hurt to ask. Too often when people get part of what they want, such as a job offer, they freeze up and say yes, when they could have also asked for a higher starting salary.
Sales and negotiation are the skills of a successful manager. When you’re being evaluated not just on your personal accomplishments, but on the accomplishments of your team, your ability to sell is essential.
Ray Harkins is a manufacturing professional and online educator. He teaches a variety of low-cost, high-quality manufacturing and business-related courses at Udemy.com. Click on the course titles below to receive substantial discounts on these courses.