Sales people can sometimes be afraid to ask for the order because, if it’s “not a no”, then the opportunity stays in their pipeline. Other times a nervousness of the process is a problem. Sticking to these nine simple rules provides the best chance of success at the negotiating table:

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Without preparation you’re on the back-foot from the outset. Do your homework, be clear on your offering, understand what is (and isn’t) negotiable. Be prepared to justify your position, and to defend it. Also, the more you know about your competitors and their approach, the better placed you’ll be to deal with any objections.

  1. Pay attention to timing

Timing is crucial in negotiations. Choose carefully when to make an offer and when to ask for concessions. There is always going to be a time to press ahead, and a time to wait until the client is more receptive.

  1. Leave your ego at the door

The best negotiators are those who aren’t emotionally involved, or are able to make the other party believe that they’re not. Ensure that the customer feels he has negotiated a great deal and shy away from taking any credit for it.

  1. Ramp up your listening skills

Quiet, effective listening wins the day. Let others have the floor and make their case. Don’t interrupt and actively encourage others to talk first. This gives you a chance to understand their thinking, and their position.

  1. If you don’t ask, you don’t get

As part of your preparation, define in your own mind your highest and lowest justifiable price. If you can argue convincingly, justify your position (and especially if you’re able to generate good ROI for the customer) don’t be afraid to aim high. Beware of making an ultimatum. “Take it or leave it” offers can backfire so, if you make a threat, be prepared to carry it through.

  1. Anticipate some compromise

You should expect to make some concessions, so plan what they might be. Understanding the parameters in which you can move is essential to prevent it looking as if you had no authority to do the deal in the first place.

  1. Offer, and expect, commitment

The glue that keeps a deal from unravelling is an unshakeable commitment to deliver on what you say you will. You should offer this comfort level to your customer and then carry it through.

  1. Stick to your guns

Both as an individual and as a representative of your business, you have a set of guiding principles in which you believe. These are values that you should be unwilling to compromise on.

  1. Close with actions

Even if no final deal is struck, close the meeting by recapping the points covered and the areas of agreement. Formally and clearly confirm what happens next, by when and whom. It might be, for example, that the customer’s budget is too low. In which case, re-defining the size or scope of the job would be a positive move forward.

While each situation is going to be different, and while the size of the deal and the needs of the customer will vary, keeping these nine rules in mind will guide both your thinking and your actions. Good luck!