Early in my career, I viewed closing as something that was done at the end of a process. As a result, I became very frustrated when, after all my hard work, I did not get the results I had anticipated.
To resolve this problem, I hired a coach to refine my closing skills. In our first conversation, I realized closing was something that should take place from your first interaction with another person. It was important to pre-close throughout your negotiations, so there are no obstacles or surprises when you present your proposal. He taught me this saying, which is still posted at my desk.
"It's better to close too early and too often, than too little and too late!"
Timing Is Critical
A proposal presented at the wrong moment may be rejected, while the same offer – presented at a different moment is accepted. Present your proposal when the other party is receptive, using all your skills to create the right atmosphere.
Praise your counterpart. "That was an excellent point. I think that in view of that, I can offer."
Be self-deprecating. "I've been unable to come up with any bright ideas, but I think we could agree to."
Emphasize progress. "I think we've made really good progress today and feel I can offer."
Final Offer or Not?
Do not say a proposal is final when you know it is not. This will discredit you if you than proceed with another offer. Think in advance how to indicate that your offer is final, making it clear there will be no deal if any further compromises are presented.
"This is my final offer. I have no room whatsoever to move further than this."
"I have no authority from our Corporate Office to make another offer."
"I have already gone much further than I intended to go."
When you make a final offer, create an atmosphere of decisiveness. Increase the urgency and firmness of your voice, gather up your papers, stand up, walk around, and look as if you intend to leave the room.
Lastly, verify that your counterpart has full authority to close the deal but do not rush them. If your counterpart feels pressured, they may decline your offer.
Additional Negotiating Strategies
The following are negotiation strategies that will help you overcome potential obstacles that could prevent you from a successful close.
Strategy 1: Negotiate the Process. At the beginning of the negotiations, a specific process should be agreed upon. Questions that should be answered include: "Who will facilitate the meeting?" "What issues will be discussed, and when?" "Ground rules?" "How will negotiations proceed?" Agreeing on the process in advance eliminates confusion and unrealistic expectations. It enables a more efficient and streamlined negotiating process.
Strategy 2: Set Benchmarks. As part of the negotiation process, set short-term benchmarks as well as a realistic deadline. If a benchmark is not achieved, a new schedule is created, and a discussion is had on how the process can improve going forward.
Both parties are working with the same benchmarks and deadlines with encourages concessions and creative thinking and resolution from both sides.
Strategy 3: Take a Break. If negotiations are tense and stressful, adjourn until the following day or week. This allows you to recap what you have accomplished and how far you need to go to achieve the desired results. You will also determine whether it is wise to keep moving forward or time to walk away.
Strategy 4: Bring in a Third Party. When both parties are reluctant to put their best offer on the table, you might enlist a trusted, neutral third party. In private meetings with the third party, both sides disclose their bottom line and deal breakers. The third party then determines if an agreement is possible, or if it is time to walk away.
Strategy 5: Change Your Negotiators. If you or your team is having difficulty closing a business deal, consider bringing in replacements. A new team on one or both sides may be able to look at the negotiation with fresh eyes, free of any emotional baggage or personality clashes that could be sabotaging negotiations.
Strategy 6: Trade-Off. The idea behind this strategy is to get something in return for everything that you compromise or give up. When you ask for a trade-off every time your counterpart asks for something, they will eventually stop asking for more concessions.
Strategy 7: Get the Proposal for Writing. When you hear a proposal, it often sounds different than when you read it on paper. A written proposal guarantees that both parties are on the same page and understand the impact of the proposal. The proposal should be signed by both parties and dated.
Whenever possible, you want to draft the contract making sure conditions that are most important to you are included. The other side can review the contract and amend the document. When they ask for concessions, you will counter with your concessions.
When you implement these ideas and strategies, you will successfully close more of your proposals while both parties understand the benefits of the agreement.