National account managers should be negotiators, not salesmen

If your sales team struggles with the difference between selling and negotiation, here is an illustration for them. You will have witnessed the travesty that is the estate agent. While selling they try their best to match your property to the needs of a buyer. Solid. Once there is interest and the price negotiation begins, these guys forget who they represent, who pays them, ie the vendor. Their role in the sell, like yours, is different from the role in the negotiation, despite the fact that both can be happening in the same conversation. Estate agents are indiscreet and can prevent you from achieving the best price by making it known that you are in a rush or that you will accept offers etc. So you manage the middleman by telling them nothing of consequence to the negotiation yet all the features of the sell.

In grocery, unless you are an indirect supplier, the middleman is in your head, and you let slip the same soft signals that damage your deal. Remember not to gush as a salesman or you will cripple yourself as a negotiator.

Knowing this should help, but a focus on motivations can help, too. Estate agents actively influence your outcome but with very different aims. On a £500k property, the extra £300 they get by earning you £20,000 more means nothing to them – they just want a quick sale, to take the £7,500, and get on with another deal. It’s a good thing that the average Joe doesn’t understand this, otherwise online attack would have brought the end for estate agents a long time ago.

Occasionally in Situational Negotiation training at Sentinel we see delegates pitting themselves against the retailers they negotiate with, although admittedly ‘we really screwed them this time’ is something I hear more from retailers than suppliers. When you are heading into a negotiation with Asda, who are you competing with? Your competition is still the company that supplies similar stuff to you, not the Asda buyer. And Asda needs to remember to save its worst for its battle with Tesco, Sainsbury’s and the like; the supplier across your desk might just be trying to help you with that. The NAM cannot be blamed for being on guard, but disarm rather than compete – save that for your competition.

Sentinel Management Consultants deliver sales, negotiation, planning and finance training courses for our clients worldwide.