Are you familiar with the “shell game”? You know, it’s the one that they show in the movies all the time where the street hustler sets up a table with three shells of some sort on it. He proceeds to put a pea under one of the shells, shuffles them, and then asks passers by to bet on which shell has the pea under it. Guess what – nobody can ever guess the correct shell. In sales negotiations we’ve got the same game that we play, but we call it the 80/20 rule.
The 80 Part
So it turns out that in your next sales negotiation, you are in control. You might not be able to control what the outcome of the negotiation is, but you sure can control how you get there.
The reality of life is that most of a negotiation is taken up with “other stuff”. There are the things that we talk about that really are not the key points that the deal revolves around – from your point of view.
As a smart part of the negotiations, you can use this to your own best advantage. It all comes down to making a decision before the negotiations start as to what you want to spend your time talking about.
Prior to starting a negotiation, you need to decide what topics you want to cover. Once you have this list, you need to make sure that during the discussion that these topics are the main focus of the negation. By being aware of what you want to talk about and driving the discussions to center on those topics, you’ll ensure that at the very least, those topics are covered.
The 20 Part
The flip side to knowing what you want to talk about is knowing what you don’t want to talk about. In every negotiation, there are a set of topics that you want to avoid spending much time on if it is at all possible.
Once again, it is vital that before the negotiations start that you spend the time needed to determine just exactly what specific issues you would prefer to stay away from during the negotiations. These can be issues that will decrease the value of what you are selling or perhaps issues that could reveal the true value of what you are trying to purchase.
Since every negotiation has a fixed amount of time in which it can be conducted, by steering the conversation towards the 80% of the issues that you want to spend time on, you’ll naturally limit the amount of time that is available to cover those topics that you would prefer to shy away from.
Remember, you are in control of the course that a negotiation takes. The topics that get covered during the negotiation are up to you to control. You have the ability to make sure that what’s important to you is front and center. Likewise, any topics that you don’t want to spend very much time on can be sent to the back.
What All Of This Means For You
What gets discussed during a sales negation is under your control. What this means is that you have the power to determine what topics get covered.
Assuming that everyone has limited time, you can choose to steer the conversations towards those topics that you want to cover. Likewise, you can keep the conversations away from those topics that you would prefer to not talk about.
Once the negotiations have run out of time, what was discussed will be what was discussed. If you’ve done your job correctly, the time was spent on what you wanted to talk about and not on what you wanted to avoid. See, the old shell game is still alive and doing well in the world of sales negotiations!
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™
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Question For You: What is the best way to restrict the amount of time that is available to conduct a negotiation?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
What’s your most valuable resource? You might have said money, but I’m willing to bet that it’s really something else – time. You can always earn more money, but once you spend time on some task, it’s gone, gone, gone. That’s why when you are negotiating with someone it is critical that you quickly get an answer to the most important question: how much authority do they really have?