Why is your deal stuck? Why do they keep coming back with “No”? Our negotiation coaching experience shows that opponents say “no” for a small number of reasons. It’s often one of these:
- Your opponent doesn’t emotionally connect with the vision of benefit they stand to gain with a “yes”.
- Your opponent lacks the data necessary to support a “yes”.
- Your opponent doesn’t have the authority to say “yes”.
- Your opponent may be willing to say “yes”, but is using “no” as a bluff in an attempt to drive concessions.
To uncover what’s holding our negotiation back, we consider each of these possibilities in order.
Sharing your vision
We’ve spent a lot of time selling this deal, but we’re stuck. The most common mistake is to assume it’s all about price. We lower our price and get rejected. It’s time to consider our list: What happens if all our selling hasn’t painted a vision in our opponent’s world that they can share? That’s on us. We should fully expect to be rejected if our opponent doesn’t share our vision. Try to provide a simple clear vision statement and ask, “What do you think?”, “or “Where did we lose you?” Once we get clarity and agreement on the vision, we can look to the next possibility to see if that explains why our deal is stuck.
We’ve confirmed that our opponent agrees with our vision. Their business will benefit by the use of our new Wizbang. They need the Wizbang to operate 24/7 at 150 cycles per minute, but we’ve never run it at that speed. What data can we provide to build confidence in our product? And: What happens when they accept the data?
We have clear agreement from our opponent on our shared vision. The data they asked for blew their team away, but when we ask for clear decisions, we get “no” – or worse, “maybe” from their team leader. What’s going on? It could be that our opponent doesn’t have the authority to say, “yes,” but how do we find out? We rely on interrogative questions from the beginning: “Now that we have agreement on our shared vision, what happens next?” “You’ve requested data to support our performance claims. If you’re impressed by the data and results of our testing, what happens next?” Often these kinds of questions will provide clarity that our opponent’s representative has the authority to make decisions. In other cases, our opponent may be a blocker for the real person of authority.
Uncovering a bluff
Only when we’ve ruled out the prior three reasons for rejection do we consider our opponent may be bluffing in order to gain advantage. To expose a bluff, we first ask for clarity to see if they can hold their position under scrutiny. Ultimately, to expose the bluff we may need to call it by accepting their decision. And when we accept their “no” or their rejection, we don’t walk away. We can say, “OK. We understand and accept your decision. What happens next?”
Bluffing without authority
Our startup client ABC made a proposal to BigCo, for about $10M in services. After preliminary agreement to move ahead, the business team at BigCo introduced ABC to their procurement department resulting in the following message from John, their Vice President: “While ABC’s service is the preferred solution for BigCo, your price is far more expensive than the next 3 responses to our RFP. We require you come back with a lower price in order to continue.” ABC was confident they had agreement on a shared vision of what the service would provide to BigCo and had provided convincing data on how they could provide the services to meet BigCo needs. BigCo’s price rejection therefore was most likely due to lack of authority or a bluff. With our coaching guidance, ABC responded with key champions from the business team copied: “We’re surprised with such a large price difference that our proposal is still in contention. What is it about our service that still has us under consideration? We would respectfully like to ask for clarity, are you officially rejecting our proposal on behalf of BigCo?” This question asks procurement if they have the authority to reject. If not, it puts procurement into an internal negotiation with their business team. The result was BigCo (business team) accepted the ABC proposal without a reduction in price.
Learn more on Systematic Decision-Based Negotiation in our seminar.