Games Customers Play and How to Win Them

Sales negotiations can be a fierce game. Just when you think that you’ve won, you’re customer pulls a new trick out of their sleeve and trumps your hand. In complex sales, this is a constant occurrence. As a sales person the best thing that you can do to keep your negotiations game in top shape is to anticipate the cards that your customer is holding before they even put them on the table.This type of clairvoyant anticipation is best achieved through years of experience playing the negotiations game. However, even if you are a newcomer to the world of complex sales, there are steps that you can take to make yourself think more like a seasoned player. You should try talking to people at your organization who’ve been playing the game for years and referencing out free sales training resources like for extra help.

But if you need a few tips that you can start using right away, just keep reading. Below is a list of three of the more common ploys that customers will try to use to throw you off guard during a negotiation. If you can identify these tricks properly, it will be much easier to counteract them.

1. Vague statements saying that you must “do better.”

This card is a common one. The customer tries to demean you by constantly telling you that the deal that you are offering is simply not good enough. By being vague, they put no limit on how much you will need to do to please them. In this kind of situation, you need to turn the customer’s vagueness into specificity. Before you make a concession, ask if lowering the price by “X” amount will actually be enough to close the deal. If they say no, force them to tell you just what exactly they would need to take the final step

2. The customer threatens to break off negotiations.

This is akin to an act of psychological terrorism. The implied threat is that if you do not lower the price considerably (perhaps ridiculously) that you will lose the opportunity to speak, in interact in any way with the customer. The only way to trump this hand effectively is to have enough information and research on hand to call the customer’s bluff. You should know from your research whether the customer really needs your product or not. If you know that they do, they are likely to recant once they see that you aren’t budging.

3. The last minute objection.

The customer representative literally has the pen in his or her hand and is ready to sign…  …but makes one last objection. Can’t we bring down the price just a little more? Couldn’t we throw in this or that? If you care about your sanity, the answer to these questions almost always needs to be no. As we have already noted, if you have done your research you should have a pretty good idea of how much your product is worth to your customer. If you know that they need the product and are willing to pay the price that you have agreed upon, it is almost always best to stand your ground. If necessary, explain to them again why the product is worth the agreed upon price, and why they can’t afford to go back on the deal.

Knowing how to combat these three tricks is a good start, but really only a beginning. In order to be able to trump your customer’s hands 90% of the time you will need to be constantly improving your game. Just as we suggested earlier, you should always be on the look out to gain more information about effective sales techniques whether through talking to top sales professionals at your company or through free online educational materials. You can never have too much skill in this area.

Good Selling
Mike & Joe
SalesRoundup Podcast

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8 comments for “Games Customers Play and How to Win Them

  1. March 6, 2009 at 9:49 am

    These “games” are merely transparent tactics to manipulate sellers into dropping their price. Buyers do it because most sellers give the buyers what they want, thinking the deal will close. Unfortunately, the buyer comes back with more tactics to enjoy the sport of getting further reductions. Don’t allow this to happen to you!

    As with most isses that appear at the end of an arduous sales cycle, the fix starts early in the process. In this case, VALUE is the seller’s weapon. If you establish the value of your product or service and quantify it for each stakeholder, gaining their agreement along the way, then you have a strategic weapon to combat gamesmanship.

    If the buyer wants to delay, then that’s their choice but a value savvy seller will be able to show how every day of delay costs the buyer a specific dollar amount in delayed benefit, ROI, cost justification, etc. This quantified and accepted value proposition exposes gamesmanship for what it is….childish play and allows sellers to hold to their price and realize increased margins while closing earlier.

  2. Jonathan Wiener
    March 12, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Great comments Cindy!! I can tell you are someone who operates at a very high level. Yes, I would like to echo your point that value, especially quantitative value is a very powerful ally and a sellers greatest weapon. If you have established that value the customer will have a very difficult time commoditizing your offering or asking you to drop your price. Delays as you pointed out will come at their expense and they will have a very tough time threatening you with competitive offerings; especially if you can illustrate how your offering, company, processes and intellectual properties will drive more bottom line value than those competitive offerings. As you stated, quantify value early, gain consensus on that value across your population of client buying influences and then stick to your guns when things get tough…..or silly.

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