Sales Negotiators Know That They Don’t Have To be A Know-It-All

by drjim on September 23, 2011

Don't Worry – Your Brain Is Big Enough

Don’t Worry – Your Brain Is Big Enough

Can you remember back to when you were in school? At the end of the term in each class there would be a big test that would determine if you had learned what had been taught to you. You’d do all of your homework and then you’d take extra time to study for the test hoping that most of that information would stay in your head long enough for you to pass the test. Well good news, sales negotiations are not like school tests – you don’t have to know everything in order to do just fine.

Why We Think That We Need To Know Everything

When something is being negotiated, for some odd reason we place an extra burden on ourselves: we believe that we need to know everything that there is to know about this negotiation. What we forget is that a negotiation process is just that – a process. The other side isn’t really expecting us to know everything.

Problems can pop up if we start feeling obligated to provide an answer to every question that gets asked. In a principled negotiation you should feel comfortable not knowing everything.

In fact, if you ever get involved in a negotiation in which the person on the other side of the table always has an answer for every question that you ask, consider yourself lucky. What’s going to happen is that they are going to end up talking too much as they struggle to answer all of your questions and they will end up revealing too much.

What To Do When You Just Don’t Know The Answer

All of this, of course, leads to the big question. What should you do when you don’t know the answer to something that comes up during a sales negotiation? If someone asked you for a negotiation definition, I think that your answer would be to tell them that a negotiation is a process by which agreement is reached. Part of this process is the asking and answering of questions.

When one of these questions is asked of you and you don’t know the answer, this is the time for you to be straightforward with the other side and simply say “I don’t know”. You’ll need to follow this up by saying “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” This type of response is expected and you won’t lose any face by using it.

Keep in mind that telling the other side that you don’t know the answer to a question that they have asked doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t know the answer. It is perfectly permissible to not share an answer that you do know with the other side. Additionally, there will be times that you may want to share only part of the information that you know, or perhaps you’ll just want to put off sharing what you know until later in the sales negotiation process.

What All Of This Means For You

As sales negotiators we often like to think of ourselves as being all knowing. The reality is actually quite different – there is a lot out there that we just don’t know.

During a negotiation we need to have the confidence in ourselves to be able to speak up when we don’t know the answer to something. In fact, you might know the answer but that doesn’t mean that you have to answer a question. There is no shame in telling the other side that you are going to have to check on something or do some research before you’ll be able to answer their question.

Having the self-confidence to not have to have all of the answers is one of the great negotiating styles that is all too often overlooked. We all have different negotiation styles, but not pretending to have all of the answer is one style that we should all adopt.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: When you don’t know the answer to a question, what do you think that you should say to the other side?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

How do you view yourself when you are conducting a negotiation? Do you see yourself as poised, confident, and above all rational? I think that most of us see ourselves this way. However, it turns out that we might be missing something here – there is a real power in being irrational sometimes…

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