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Negotiation isn’t just a tool that turns potential buyers into customers. The best negotiators create an ongoing partnership. My returning guest on this episode of The Modern Selling Podcast is a good friend of mine, Petek Hawkins.

She says that you’ve already begun negotiations before you first reach out to a potential buyer.

Petek is Head of Enablement at Melio, where she works to keep small businesses going. In this role, she ensures customer success by delivering tools, skills, knowledge, process, and content to handle each customer interaction with efficacy and value.

Listen in on our conversation to find out how she’s found success in negotiations throughout the buying process.

The first negotiation with a customer doesn't happen when closing a deal, Petek Hawkins says it begins before your first reach out. Learn more on this ep. of the @GoModernSelling #podcast with @M_3Jr. #Sales #Prospecting Share on X

When Do Negotiations Begin?

When I talk about negotiation with my kids, I like to get them to think about what they can give in exchange for what they’ll get.

Sometimes, negotiations don’t go exactly as we expect. One side or the other may walk away from the table without everything they wanted from a deal. Often, it can be hard to gauge where we should push and where we need to respect a boundary.

Petek says that starting negotiations before contacting a potential buyer can help you navigate the conversation and come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. I asked her for more insights on when negotiations begin.

“Negotiations really begin even before your first ‘hello,’” she says. “The moment that you go to somebody’s social LinkedIn page, or their company, or just find any information about the company that you’re targeting – the negotiations begin there.”

Instead of deciding right away whether a client fits as a potential buyer, Petek says we should use our discovery process to learn what value we can offer them. Then, after we identify their specific needs, we can come to the table from a position of strength.

In our full conversation, she explains why this stage is crucial in convincing your potential buyer to listen to you immediately, instead of everything else fighting for their attention.

Petek Hawkins of @meliopayments offered a fresh perspective on Negotiations with potential buyers on the @GoModernSelling #podcast! Love this episode @M_3Jr! ❤️ #salestips Share on X

Continuing Negotiations Into the Buying Process

Petek says that understanding a client’s goals and their values will help you align the story that will follow.

By familiarizing yourself with the company’s situation before you reach out, you’re setting the tone for the coming negotiation; you’re trying to set up an ongoing relationship. You’ll also establish context for your conversation in hopes of helping move the buying process forward.

“The conversation that we’re having right now – the purpose of that is for us to align on x, y, z, and take the next steps. Are we aligned?” says Petek.

She says that, sometimes, the fundamentals of negotiation are neglected because salespeople feel like they’re pushing too hard. You’ll start to lose if you don’t begin to uncover clear goals for both parties and set expectations.

The Benefits of a Good Discovery

In short, a properly executed discovery and greeting will keep you from leaving too much money on the table.

Petek explained how building a relationship can put you in a better position to handle potential objections as you move forward.

“This is creating a way for both parties to agree or disagree. You have to understand how far each party’s supposed to go for what.”

Within the episode, she goes into depth about how good discovery helps you understand the company’s goals and create a common vision for both of you.

Best Practices During a Negotiation

I asked what the best practices are to keep the buyer interested in continuing negotiations after you’ve set the stage.

She said you’ll need to ask the right questions to understand “what’s the present situation and what are some of the pain points from being in the current situation, and what does good look like.”

She says that a mutual action plan provides a reason for a company to move forward. Taking the time to put this plan together also helps to ensure that the buyer will commit to a previously discussed budget.

An excellent mutual action plan serves as a way to drive your value when determining price. If the potential buyer asks about a discount or brings up budget restrictions, you can return to the MAP to discuss what issues you’re solving together.

By referring to what you’ve already aligned on, you have a better chance to uncover the reason for any objections.

Later in our conversation, she described several alternatives to providing a discount. These include offering a better price if they commit to a multi-year plan or offering to delay billing after signing until the company has resources.

Tune in to the podcast and hear her thoughts on how her former employer, Cbeyond, anticipated objections with their mutual action plan.

Don't miss this episode of the @GoModernSelling #podcast where Petek Hawkins of @meliopayments and #modernsales master @M_3Jr shares their customer negotiation best practices! #Sales Share on X

What Should a MAP Look Like?

I love speaking with people like Petek, who can formalize all of these sales concepts clearly. I often feel like they shine a spotlight on negotiation tactics that come naturally to me.

I wanted to know more about how a mutual action plan works, so I asked her whether it was primarily a verbal agreement or if it involved any documentation.

She told me that a “Mutual action plan is very much a document… you are aligning, and you’re holding each other accountable on both sides.”

She says that a good mutual action plan should contain the following elements:

  • Methodology
  • Targeted metrics
  • Discretion process
  • Budget
  • Key stakeholders
  • Timeline
  • Initial use
  • Possible expansion

Getting a “yes” from the buyer on these topics will condition them to follow through with the plan and hold both sides accountable.

Petek says that these shouldn’t feel like a sales interrogation. It shouldn’t be about how much a client is willing to spend, for example, because they may not be able to answer at this stage.

Listen to the podcast to find out how you can use questions, about the costs of a company’s goals versus the cost of doing nothing, to determine a budget at this stage.

Who Should Be On Our Team During Negotiations?

Sometimes, sellers can feel limited in their ability to negotiate by their perception of their level of support. Petek says it’s important to understand that salespeople shouldn’t try to be lone wolves.

By leveraging your team, you can help communicate genuine concern for a potential buyer. You also level up the negotiating space by ensuring that any expert perspectives on both of your teams come to the table.

Connecting leadership will also help to boost your client’s confidence in you so they don’t dictate terms due to perceiving that they have more experience and knowledge than your team.

Petak said you should “Make sure you are aligning that leadership internally with that external leader through LinkedIn as fast as you can.”

You can hear how to make potential buyers feel special and establish a more robust network between firms in the complete audio.

The Best Venue for Negotiation

My closing question for Petek was about the best place to meet for a negotiation. Not surprisingly, she said that in-person is best whenever possible.

“When you’re across the table from someone, it’s hard for them to hang up on you because they can’t… They really have to get all of the objections out of the way.”

She had strong opinions about Zoom meetings without the use of a camera. She said that negotiations about pricing and return on investment should never be done through email. The best practice is to use email as a follow-up for your meetings. You can outline the mutual action plan and keep essential stakeholders, who may have been absent from the meeting, informed and up to date.

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