The Power of Negotiation: How Sales Engineers Close Deals

Power of Negotiation
Negotiation skills aren’t only for sales reps. Sales engineers can use these tactical tips from John Care to harness the power of negotiation.

Sales engineers often don’t think of themselves as having a critical role in negotiations. While salespeople have more responsibility when negotiating pricing and terms, SEs negotiate technical aspects of the deal, such as the scope of work, the timeline, and the level of support.

Many presales focus more on solving problems and pleasing people than getting the best deal for their company. As a result, they may be more likely to say yes to unreasonable requests, even requests from their sales teams.

During his DEMOFEST session earlier this year, John Care presented why sales engineers should think of themselves as negotiators. This article discusses how sales engineers can improve their careers by improving their negotiating skills. We’ll cover topics like understanding the different types of negotiations, setting clear goals, and managing expectations. We’ll also provide tips on building rapport with the other party and overcoming common objections.

As we dive into these best practices, sales engineers have much more to gain by becoming better negotiators. Sales engineers who are good negotiators not only get the best deal for their company. They close more deals, earn more commissions, and enjoy a more fruitful life personally and professionally.

Negotiation Terms

Sales engineers can use these negotiation terms to help them understand their own position, the other party’s position, and when it’s simply time to walk away. 

  • BATNA: Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. This is the next best option if the negotiation breaks down. The better your BATNA, the stronger your negotiating position. 
  • WAP: Walk Away Point. This is the point at which you walk away from the negotiation. It is usually a number or a specific condition not in your best interests.

Here are some examples of BATNAs and WAPs:

  • BATNA: You are negotiating a new job offer, and your BATNA is your current job. If you don’t get a good offer from the new company, you can always stay at your current job.
  • WAP: You are negotiating the price of a new car, and your WAP is $36,000. If the dealer won’t sell the car for less than $36,000, you will walk away and buy a different vehicle.

Tactical Negotiation Tips

Saying no as a presales engineer allows them to focus on their priorities and set boundaries. The goal is to say no in a kind and gentle way by being direct, respectful, and offering an alternative solution. 

Tactical Tip #1: Force Your Counterpart to Prioritize

Sales reps are trained to get a yes and will do whatever it takes to get the desired answer. This makes it difficult to deny any requests from them outright. Instead, acknowledge their busy schedule while being open about the limitations of your schedule. Then ask your sales counterpart to prioritize what is most important from their request.

An example of a real-world scenario:

Salesperson: I need you to prepare for three sales demos next week.

You: Sounds like you’re busy. That’s great! I can only do two next week. Which one should I prepare for first?

Salesperson: Acme Rocketscapes is the most important one.

You: Great. Okay, so that’s the most important. Which is the next one I should devote my time to?

By using this tactic, you have forced the salesperson to prioritize their requests, and you have a better understanding of their priorities. If they are still insistent all potential buyers need demos, consider sending an automated sales demo.

Tactical Negotiation Tip #2: Utilize data against emotion

We often make decisions based on emotions and back those up logically. When faced with emotional arguments, use data to ground the conversation in reality, making it more difficult for the other party to dismiss your arguments. Don’t throw any old data out there. Cite your sources, and use credible data relevant to the situation.

An example of a real-world scenario:

Salesperson: We need to complete all four RFPs by their deadlines.

You: Wow, way to build a pipeline! I have time for two. Let’s complete the ones we know the most about and then pass on or defer the others.

Salesperson: I think we’ve got to complete all four.

You: Our data shows we’ve got a 24% success rate for known RFPs versus a 6% success rate for random RFPs. Wouldn’t you agree we focus on those two first? That is the best use of our collective time to provide an excellent buying experience and give us a better chance of closing one of these.

Grounding the conversation in reality makes it more difficult to dismiss your arguments. 

Tactical Negotiation Tip #3: Invoke higher powers

When you are feeling backed into a corner, you can invoke higher powers. Ask the salesperson to check with their sales leader or your presales leader to get approval for the request.

Be mindful of the political landscape at your organization, as this approach can ruffle some feathers if not used carefully.

An example of a real-world scenario:

Salesperson: I need you to prepare a demo for tomorrow morning’s customer meeting.

You: I’m sorry, but I don’t have enough time to prepare a demo by tomorrow morning.

Salesperson: But this is a really important customer!

You: I understand that, but I still don’t have enough time. I need you to check with Robin, the sales leader, to see if they can approve a meeting delay or send an interactive demo instead.

By invoking higher powers, you have put the salesperson in a position where they need approval from their boss. This is often enough to get the salesperson to back down or try another approach, like sending an interactive video demo.

Tactical Negotiation Tip #4: Use “If” or “Unless.”

When faced with a tricky request, use “if” or “unless” to make the request conditional. You will agree to do what the salesperson asks, but only if they meet certain conditions. Now the salesperson has to think about the consequences of their actions.

An example of a real-world scenario:

Salesperson: Can we start the Cirrus Corp. POC next Monday? It’s really urgent now.

You: Yes, if we can push back the Cumulonimbus POC by ten days.

Salesperson: But that’s not possible!

You: Then we cannot start the Cirrus Corp. POC next Monday.

By using “if,” you have made the salesperson’s request conditional. That means that the salesperson knows exactly what will happen if they push for this new request. 

Tactical Negotiation Tip #5: Saying No to Customers

Negotiating with customers is different than with your sales counterparts. There are a few things to remember when saying no to potential buyers. 

  1. Don’t say “Maybe,” when you mean “No.” The truth always comes out eventually, so be upfront. 
  2. Don’t defer. If you know the answer is no, don’t say, “Let me ask someone else.” This makes you look indecisive and unprofessional.
  3. Be calm, confident, and direct. Don’t apologize or look down. State your no clearly and concisely.
  4. Use the word “won’t” instead of “can’t.” This shows that you have the power to say yes, but you’re choosing not to.
  5. Explain why a “yes” is bad. This will help them understand your decision and may even convince them to change their mind.

Saying no to your sales partners and customers can be difficult, but it’s an essential skill for sales engineers to master. Developing this skill will help you become a more confident negotiator in the future.

Consensus is Intelligent Demo Automation that scales your presales function.