Successful Negotiation in a Business to Business Setting

Being an effective negotiator is an essential skill for any salesperson. Having negotiations to close deals and to get things moving is considered to be a standard way of doing things in retail businesses, service companies, and of course the entire range of B2B and B2C businesses. Companies with prolific negotiators will thrive, while those that have not inculcated this necessary trait for business success will have a hard time keeping out of the red.

Part science and part art, being a good negotiator is something that can, in fact, be learned and perfected over time. Here are some of the things you can do to improve your negotiation skills in a formal business setting.

Be confident, and do your homework. As soon as the negotiation starts, let those on the other side of the table know you mean business, that you know what you’re talking about, and that you have come prepared. Learn what they know, and avoid making assumptions. Do some research and figure out what they value and what they don’t, and pitch your proposal accordingly. If they don’t value what you have, the chances of striking a deal will quickly fall from slim to none.

Deal with the boss. Make sure you negotiate with the person authorized to strike deals. If you negotiate with non-decision makers, you’ll end up being stonewalled and perhaps waiting indefinitely for an answer from the superiors of those you actually spoke with.

Only start negotiations when you agree on things in principle. Can your service resolve the client’s issues? Can you provide proof of ROI? Can you fix what needs fixing, and take care of what needs taking care of? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, then you are heading into a failed negotiation right from the get-go. Address the customer’s pain-points and solve their problems first, agree on things in principle, and then you can have negotiations on things such as pricing, delivery, and timelines.

Battles and wars. Sacrifice pawns for bigger gains. Be ready to give up something if you’re getting something of equal or greater value in return. For example, you may not want to give a discount for a service that is already priced competitively, but if you agree to sign a deal that includes a referral to another customer, or having the client sign early so that you can meet quarterly sales targets, then giving the discount makes sound business sense.

Don’t rush, and keep a level head. Never commit to something without taking the time to think it over; you can always call a client back later regarding a query or a request for something that came up unexpectedly. Always remember: negotiations rarely go as planned. You might be asked for a discount when you were least expecting it, or your client may threaten you with cancelling their order unless you give in to their terms. Poor decisions abound under these kinds of scenarios, so ask for time to think things over. If you have your doubts, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so know when to walk away from the table.

There’s more to business than money. Sales negotiations invariably involve discussions on price, so salespeople should, by default,  be prepared to talk about discounts. However, think of things in terms of value as well. Value is something more subjective, and value is tied to a customer's perception of, and satisfaction with, your product or service. If you focus on what you are offering in terms of benefits and utility instead of simply talking about price or cost, you might be able to get a lot more for a lot less. You’ll also be able to charge closer to your initial bid price than having to offer a deep discount to close a picky client.

You could also offer other intangibles to the client, such as free coaching and on-boarding, offering easier payment terms, or offering services in lieu of client referrals (as mentioned above) or perhaps a positive testimonial or an honorable mention on the client’s blog.

Let the client go first. Since you’ve stated your terms to your prospective client, they essentially have everything they need to make a decision, and the ball is in their court. Let them start the conversation. You may be tempted to sweeten whatever deal you just offered so that everyone can go home and call it a day, but you never know what they will say, or if they were going to go for your initial offer to begin with! Listen first, and speak only once you’ve heard everything the client has to say. That way, you avoid making assumptions and unnecessarily amending your proposal.

Never give a range. Why would someone go for 10% off if 20% off was also offered? Stick to quoting one figure, and then go higher or lower as the negotiation progresses and you have a better idea of customer demands and requirements.

And last but not least…

Keep the conversation light. Clients and salespeople may sit on opposite sides of the negotiations table during the negotiation itself, but if the deal is closed, they will both be partners. Keep things light, open, and sincere, and you’ll be able to not only build on a stronger relationship should things work out, but you’ll also be able to avoid a lot of bad blood should things not go according to plan.

 

 

Have a negotiations tactic that is especially effective in your line of work? We’d love to hear from you!

How To Write Killer Sales Email

Email marketing is relatively inexpensive, and it is typically effective for getting subscribers to your site. As such, it has one of the highest returns on investment for many e-commerce merchants. However, because of this very fact, there is so much competition when it comes to email campaigns! Some estimates place the number of emails sent each day at 205 billion , which means you are up against a lot of other people when it comes to getting screen-time from your readers.


As is true of pretty much everything, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. With that said, there are good ways and bad ways to send emails. Whether or not your sales emails or email campaigns will be successful and will speak to, engage, hook, entice, educate, and ultimately close a client for you will depend on how you pitch the content you are sending out. If you’re wondering how to execute an effective email sales campaign, read on below.

 

Know your market segments, and speak to each segment appropriately.

New subscribers respond slightly differently from regular customers. A customer may click an item directly from an email and place their order, whereas a new subscriber may visit your site, poke around a little, and do some comparison shopping before actually making a purchase.

Some simply ways to segment your markets are using recency (how recently a customer last bought from you), frequency (how often a customer buys from you), or dollar value (how much the customer typically spends with you). Large companies use complex statistical models that factor in many different data types, but for even the average company, basic segmentation will give you an edge over the competition.

Be consistent.

It may take months to see the results of a successful email-marketing campaign actually come to bloom. However, you cannot lose steam or soften in your determination, because it is only by consistently being placed in front of customers, being easy to reach, and providing useful, informative content that you will land more visitors and convert those leads to paying customers.

Perfect your pitches, and automate where possible. Craft succinct subject lines that are short and to the point. Be direct, avoid ambiguity, but keep the element of surprise open (examples of good subject lines and pre/post-meeting templates are given below). Also make sure to set up auto-response emails for the right actions: a welcome email when somebody signs up to your service, a thank you email when they make a purchase or complete a form, a referral request wherever needed, and similar custom emails for actions or events specific to your line of work.

Pro-tip: If you’re savvy when it comes to tracking where exactly your customers are in the purchase cycle, you’ll be better able to send them relevant material. A useful link, a customer review, or a product comparison would be more useful to someone in the research phase of things than a casual visitor who is just browsing. Effective targeting is key, so do your best to not only understand who is whom but keep tabs on what they’re doing and how they’re interacting with your site as well.

Simplify your content, and give whatever you can of it away for free. Email is great because it forces you to be simple, and you absolutely must be to the point, otherwise your audience won’t give you their attention. Ask yourself if you would want to read what you’re writing, and whether or not the content is written in a compelling or encouraging voice. The next thing is to see if any bloat or excess can be cut out, and finally make sure to include a call to action. All your copy and content should aim at doing one specific thing, whether it’s getting a customer to sign up for a service, or to visit a link. Whatever it is, make sure the objective is clear and obvious, otherwise you’ll have lots of fancy text that achieves no tangible goal.

Although many businesses dislike giving away information for free, customers love being given your product or business secrets. Help and educate your readers by teaching them about what’s what in the industry, and you’ll develop a loyal fan base on this initiative alone.

Try and test things to see what works. Don’t write blandly; your content, subject lines, meeting requests and follow-up emails should all speak to your customers in one way or another. You can emphasize a pain point (“How we can help you solve X”, or “How we went from X to Y in 5 easy steps”), talk about common ground (“Thought you might like to discuss X”, or “My suggestions re. Proposal A discussed last week”), or directly ask what you want to ask (“Can you refer me to X?”, or “Help me close this deal with X”).

Pro-tip: Once you’re in the groove of writing catchy subject lines and meeting invites, you’ll notice that they can be broadly categorized into a few distinct groups as below.

  • Question subject lines (“Do you do X?” or “Do you know the benefits of Y?”)
  •  ‘How to’ subject lines (“How to improve X”, or “How to avoid Y”)
  •  Limited offer subject lines (“Offer expires tonight!”, or the classic “Call back when operators are available”)
  • Basic announcement subject lines (“Introducing X”, or “Visit site Y to see XYZ”)
  •  Curiosity-gap subject lines (“You’ll never guess what happened to X”, or “Most people don’t know this established fact”)

Summary

Like every art, writing convincing, professional emails in a tone that is true to you and your business is something that takes a lot of practice. You might get things right some of the time and wrong at other times, but by knowing your customer base, being persistent in your emailing efforts, crafting your emails the right way, and continuing to plug away with lines and approaches that work, you’ll be able to hook more people more effectively. In doing so, you’ll be able to consistently grow your network and your reach, and since email isn’t expected to go out of fashion any time soon, you’ll be set to reap the benefits for a long time to come.

Seven Brain Hacks To Learn Anything Faster

The world is changing, advancing, and evolving at such an unprecedented pace that just staying competitive and ahead of the curve in the world of business has become a science of its own. For today’s high school and college grads to have to continuously invest in learning and perfecting new skills right from their early teens all throughout their career just to stay relevant has become the norm. Gone are the days that you could develop expertise in one specific area and continue to do that one thing all the way to retirement!

Learning new skills is such a hot topic that there are perhaps more methods out there for doing it than are humanly possible to adopt. With this in mind, I’ve chosen seven of my favourites – true and tested techniques that will help you learn things better, faster, and for longer, and that will help you make learning a lifelong habit.

 

1. Teach others. There is a saying that if you cannot explain a technical topic to someone in simple terms, then you probably don’t understand it well enough yourself. Just like writing and taking notes (explained in more detail below), when you go through the steps of explaining things to someone else, you end up stumbling upon facets of the topic that you yourself may not have been clear on. You’re also more likely to run into potential questions that your imaginary student may have, and in doing so, you’ll develop a more comprehensive understanding of your topic.

Teach Others

 

2. Timed bursts, and the 80/20 rule. The mind can only absorb so much in any given span of time. Think of a garden that you need to water: you can either give it its weekly supply of water in one go (resulting in a lot of waste of water that the garden simply cannot use right now) or you can pace things and give the garden water as and when it needs it. Experts suggest dividing your study hours into 50 minutes of intense learning, followed by 10 minutes of relaxation to allow the brain to cool down and churn over what it has taken in.

Further, productivity experts also say that if you focus on learning only the most critically important topics of the subject at hand (usually quantified as the 20% most important content), you’ll end up learning the other 80% automatically. Because everything about any given topic related, if you can develop a detailed-enough mental map of your study subject, your mind will make logical connections of its own and you’ll even end up augmenting your learning that way as well.

Pro-tip: No more multitasking! Studies have shown that working on multiple tasks at the same time ends up distracting you more than it helps. It has also been found that once you are distracted, it takes at least 25 minutes to return to your original task. Talk about a waste of time!

80/20

3. Take handwritten notes. Your laptop may be faster, but using a pencil and paper will help you learn things better and more comprehensively. The reason is simple: it all comes down to mental engagement. Taking notes on your laptop is more of an absent-minded transcription task than a learning task, and it is also prone to a higher incidence rate of distraction from, say, email, or other applications. 

There is also the fact that on your laptop, you are more likely to take notes word for word (because the speed of note-taking allows you to do so) but with handwritten notes, you are more likely to be forced to reframe things in your mind and take notes in a different form from how the concepts are originally delivered to you. This means that right off the bat, you’ve thought of the same content in two different ways.

writing on paper

 

4. Develop healthy habits. You can prime your mind and make it a sharper, more analytical tool by living healthy. Regular exercise has countless benefits, the least of which is that it also improves learning and memory. In one study, it was found that memory and the ability to think clearly improved measurably after a single exercise session.

The same goes for meditation, avoiding too much junk food (and getting a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids that are crucial for brain function), getting enough sleep (different from study naps, which have benefits of their own), keeping yourself properly hydrated, and taking the time to relax. Sleep is required for basic brain function, maintaining good judgment, and keeping reaction times sharp, and is as important for memory as the basic study is, as explained in by the Harvard Medical School. A well-oiled machine is a high-performance machine, so be sure to keep your body as well as your mind in tip-top shape to be able to apply yourself to your fullest.

481407916.jpg

5. It pays to fail, and also to test yourself beforehand. It has been found that people who were given difficult problems to solve without any help or instructions were more likely to fail, but they were also more likely to come up with creative problem-solving techniques than the control group. They were also more likely to succeed when faced with similar problems later on. This learning phenomenon is called productive failure, and results in more creative and flexible thinking.

Also, be sure to test yourself regularly. Simulating a test environment or forcing yourself to perform under stressful situations will help you to perform better under the regular conditions that you may need to recall your study material in.

Test Yourself

 

5. Have an agenda, and keep yourself pumped. Having goals is inextricably connected to success, so having goals and creating realistic study schedules is critical. Keeping your work hours and downtime spaced, taking only scheduled breaks, avoiding distractions, and continuously working towards your study goals will together help you to reach them. Also, realising that a dip in motivation is bound to come will better prepare you to overcome it once that period of demotivation sets in. It happens to the best of us: after some time, you start asking yourself why you’re even learning something, or you start wondering what it is even worth to you.


One way to structure things to overcome this dip in motivation is to give yourself rewards for every achievement reached, slotting away slabs of time to do what you need to do, and to develop habits that fall more or less in line with the seven points here. Once you’ve nailed down your approach to learning, you’ll start to reap the benefits of actual learning, and learning things (and remembering them!) will become second nature to you.

6. Change your learning methods. ‘Reconsolidation’ is the term given to the process by which memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge, and it plays an important role in strengthening skills and learning. Studies have found that if you perform slightly modified versions of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you simply practice the exact same thing several times in succession. Like taking notes by hand, reconsolidation allows you to approach the same material in a new way, and other examples might be using flashcards for one study session, then taking notes the next time, and then teaching someone what you’ve learned for the third session. Doing things this way will help your brain remember and recall information more efficiently and effectively.

Learning Method

In conclusion, keeping up to date in this fast-paced world is a challenge, and everyone is out to jump you for the lead. By staying on your toes with these effective approaches to learning, you’ll be in a better position to stay ahead of the pack and to continue to learn effectively throughout your life.

5 Business Development Techniques to Help You Achieve Success

Being successful at sales isn’t a hit-and- miss endeavor; rather, sales is an activity that takes careful planning, diligence, and persistence. If you’re finding that you aren’t hitting your sales numbers or are unable to meet business development goals, it might be that you don’t have an effective sales strategy.

What does having a strategy mean? Does it mean making calls? Yes, but it may be that you are making calls, but haphazardly. Does it mean reaching out to prospective clients? Sure, but you may not be following up with leads, or tracking data on which clients are more likely to close, and when. If you execute your sales and outreach initiatives in this way, your efforts may become diluted, and you lose not only momentum but customer recognition of your brand or product, not to mention all of the time and efforts that you spent bringing in the customer and educating him or her in the first place.

Developing your brand, educating customers, and creating a profitable sales channel is not an easy task. However, once you’ve given yourself a starting push, it is your sales strategy that will keep your momentum going as your business grows and you end up expending energy elsewhere, for example, in team development, or on product improvement. The strategy you have should be robust, responsive to client needs, and it should take care of itself once it has been set up.

Wondering what the best way to have a successful sales strategy is? Read on to find out!

1. KYC. Know Your Customer.

This just isn’t a fancy term for business people. In fact, it is mandated legislation for many financial institutions. You need to know who you are selling to. Define your customer segments. As the saying goes, the quickest path to failure is trying to please everyone at the same time. For businesses, the corollary is trying to serve everyone at the same time. You need one narrowly defined area on which to focus, and you can take it from there and expand to other areas, niches, or even countries once you are successful.

Know your customers

2. Pick your channels.

Will you call customers on the phone, engage them on your social media page, and send out fliers or an email newsletter, or all of the above? This report says that almost 75% of all buyers use social media and some form of comparison chart before making purchases. Further, almost three-fifths of all buyers are spending more and more time online researching products, reading reviews, and learning about different options before they reach for their wallets. So what do you need to do? Reach out to people in your network, tap into your contact lists, develop your business circle, and identify which platforms most of your customers are active on. You then have to build your own presence on those specific platforms. Doing this will put you in the right place at the right time to not only sell to high-conversion customers directly but for them to stumble across you themselves.

Know your customers

3. Under-promise and over-deliver.

Always deliver what you said you were going to deliver, do so on time, and ‘wow’ your customer. Then follow up and make sure you build on the relationship so that that client, knowingly or unknowingly, becomes an enthusiastic spokesperson for your brand. Remember that no sale ends with the sale itself, rather it should extend beyond that to become a lasting relationship between you and the customer you just closed. Your mantra should be that customers are for life, not just one-off trades.

Over Delivery Expectations

4. Be analytical.

This is an often overlooked aspect of sales strategies. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t, and improve, pivot, tweak, and experiment with things until you have a winning strategy. In fact, this report states that companies who keep detailed records and track data generated by everything from their website and social media engagement figures to ROI are 12 times more likely to generate profits year-over- year. Marketing teams too often go for whatever is new, but for how long can you do things by trial and error? Such an approach is not only expensive and time consuming, but is an unprofessional way of doing things if looked at from the data science perspective of marketing. What you should be doing is asking yourself how things went, what worked, what didn’t, did you achieve your targets, why or why not, and figure out how you can improve each step of the process incrementally. After repeating this several times over weeks and months, you’ll have a system that has been tried and tested in the market and is actually built on factual data and first-hand market research.

Analyse

5. Think big.

Most small businesses and startup entrepreneurs start small with one web page, one product or service, and one goal in mind. But if you do a good job of executing on the four things outlined above, you will hopefully find yourself in the enviable position of having too much work to do but not enough time or resources. What can you do in such a situation?

Here are a few ideas.

  • Open another location. However, only do so after maintaining consistent profits and steady growth from your original business, site, or location.
  • Franchise your idea. For sales folks, this might mean giving commission-based works to new market entrants, or having freelancers or other outsourcing companies do some of the heavy lifting for you while you main proprietary control, as well as a share of profits.
  • Licensing and alliances. These can be effective, low-cost options once you have an established brand. Look into companies providing products or services similar to yours, and align yourself with those who have similar values as you. Trying to keep all the money to yourself is actually a losing strategy; the market is big enough for everyone, so if you can give a little to get a lot, it will be worth it at the end of the day, and the sales numbers will speak for themselves.
Thank Big

In summary: 

When it comes to sales, your bottom line is defined by how well you hit the sales process on the head. It isn’t rocket science and just takes a bit of persistence and market smarts, but with a little work, intense focus on (and application of) these five points, and tweaking of your process in repeated iterations, your sales will in good shape before you know it, and all you’ll have to do is to continue drumming away.

How To Become A Thought Leader In Your Industry

What is Thought Leadership?

The concept of thought leadership has become increasingly popular with the explosion of social media, big data, and the ability of consumers to obtain information on anything almost instantaneously. But what exactly is thought leadership?

Well, thought leadership basically means being able to answer the questions of your customers, your target market, or your audience in general. To put it simply, if you are a thought leader, you are seen as a pioneer or a trend-setter in your field, and you are the go-to person whenever anyone gets stuck. And by being in such a position of authority, you can even swing opinions, impact industry best practices, and determine what matters and what works from what does not.

If you are a thought leader, your opinion counts, and your footprint lasts.

Why is it important?

If you are a thought leader, you must offer some sort of benefit to your readers or listeners. Either you are able to help them with decision-making, or in identifying problems, or in coming up with the next big thing. Everyone has some level of knowledge and experience, but the movers and shakers in the industry are the ones who are ultimately able to seal the deal and get buyers and customers to reach for their wallets. Because of this, thought leaders can build or break a brand, and they drive customer engagement and also help create the next generation of consumers.

Thought leaders also help drive innovation and progress, because it is by carefully crafted and managed thought leadership columns and other social media interaction points that thought leaders talk about new products, features, services, technological advancements, or ways of doing business. By doing so, they are able to inject customer feedback, comments, and experiences back into production processes or the general realm of doing business and are thereby able to initiate improvements and advancements in the industry as a whole, benefitting all current and future generations of consumers.

In a study conducted by the Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF), over 90% of respondents said that seeing low-quality online content being published by a company or an individual lowered their opinion of the content-creator, while an almost identical percentage said that high-quality content improved their opinion of the content creator. In short, quantity matters, but not more than quality.

And when it comes to thought leaders in the market, respondents to the AMCF paid upwards of $4million per year on marketing their thought leadership columns and articles. Further, the companies who were at the higher end of the curve spent almost twice the average. And with changing trends in journalism and publishing (both online as well as offline), this article shows that there are trade-offs between quality, quantity, having a vast number of contributors writing for you, and including different types of media (photos, graphs, and so on). However, even here, the bottom line is that your readership and followers will rise or dwindle depending on the content you are producing, and the dollar figure for what this is worth on the balance sheet start off in the low thousands of dollars (depending on company size) and can go into the millions.

How can one become a thought leader?

Here are five straightforward, actionable steps to becoming a thought leader and developing your very own niche in your area of interest or expertise.

1. Thought leadership is about providing useful information to your customers. A goldmine of information is contained in consumer feedback and statistics, so the first place to start is by conducting research of your own, slicing and dicing data sets to identify and derive insights, and sharing your results.

2. People are constantly on the lookout for entertainment, and they are especially partial to the human element in business. A clever way to kill two birds with one stone is to provide a fresh source of humor or wit in your content, whilst including personal anecdotes or stories of how or why something happened to you or someone you know in a way that relates to everyday customers, and how a certain approach, product, or insight helped you or them overcome the problem at hand. Doing things this way will imprint your comments and suggestions in memory, and casual customers will be more likely to remember you. Whenever they are ready to take the plunge and are ready to buy or purchase something, your suggestions will drive their actions.

3. Being internationally known takes time, but anyone can start small, say, with a blog. Refine your online presence. Use your blog or Facebook page or LinkedIn account to showcase your knowledge, and including relevant, beneficial content is key.

4. As you work to build your online presence, you must also promote your content in the right places, in the right way. Tweeting an update the right way, using the right images, crafting the perfect title, and even knowing what the ideal length of a post is all take time to perfect, but with time, and by using the right platforms with the right crowd, you’ll slowly gain traction and your search rank will slowly rise.

5. Stay ahead of the curve. To be a successful thought leader ie. one who is influential, respected, and followed, you need to understand your industry through and through. See what’s happening in online circles related to yours, keep track of industry developments, devour everything on the likes of Quora, Reddit, and LinkedIn groups, and also be sure to read books, articles, and online content created by other influencers.

Although a lot of different things go into becoming a thought leader and developing your own personal brand and presence, the five points above are enough to get you started. Once the ball starts to roll, things will snowball and you can then address different areas as the need arises.

Have a few tips of your own to share? Join the conversation and tell us your story by leaving a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

 
Pjay Shrestha

Pjay Shrestha

Pjay is passionate about entrepreneurship and helping businesses grow. He is the recent winner of MR. Nepal Oceania and loves writing articles about Business Development, Marketing, and Productivity Hacks. 

 
 
 
 

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