I was a new sales manager and fortunately, my company was smart enough to send me to a sales management training course. An instructor teaching negotiation skills made a huge impression on me as she began her presentation. She strutted (yes, strutted) on stage, planted her foot on a chair and announced, “If you can’t walk, you can’t talk.”
She explained the importance of not being attached to the outcome of a sales call or negotiation — and being willing to walk away. Now, walking away is not just some sales tactic made up by negotiation skills trainers. Research shows that people want what they can’t or don’t have. Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of “Influence,” describes the concept as the “scarcity principle.”
Retailers have used the concept for years to entice people show up at crazy hours for Black Friday or participate in Cyber Monday. Really—is the store never, ever going to have another sale? Show promoters know that tickets will sell out if it’s “Bob and Betty’s Final Tour.” (Anyone still waiting for “Hamilton” tickets?)
Good negotiators have used the take-away or walk-away tactic on salespeople for years.
- Your competitor is priced 20 percent lower. Can you match the price? (Or, I’m walking away.)
- We’d like to work with you. However, it’s been a tough year. Is this the best you can do? (Or, I’m walking away.)
Without self-awareness and emotion management, it’s easy for a salesperson to get triggered by the walk-away tactic. He responds by discounting his price, or over defending and justifying it. Neither response positions you a value-add partner.
The effective salesperson manages his emotions and redirects the sales conversation, asking the prospect to justify the need to continue the sales conversation. For example, if the prospect is pulling the competitor is priced 20 percent lower card, the common-sense question for a salesperson to ask is, “What’s making you look at other options when XYZ Company is clearly the cheapest option?”
The effective salesperson possesses delayed gratification skills and consistently prospects to ensure she has a robust sales pipeline. She isn’t desperately attached to every deal because she has other prospects lined up willing to pay for her expertise and service. As a result, she is comfortable walking away from deals that aren’t a true win-win proposition.
Remember, if you can’t walk, you can’t talk.