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Contrary to popular belief, selling and negotiating are two distinct disciplines, yet so many people consider them to be one and the same. Let me explain why I believe the two are different, and why it is so important not to negotiate until the selling is done.

Make sure the selling is done before you go to the negotiating table

I will start the differentiation between selling and negotiating by describing the selling process. Selling is prospecting, qualifying, identifying key decision makers and influencers, and finding ways to meet with these people. By the way, selling is really hard and we should pat our sales professionals on the back for the tough work they do on our behalf. Once they have identified the decision makers and convinced them to meet, the process of understanding their needs and issues and determining how you can solve those issues takes place. This involves helping them understand your unique value proposition, the things that differentiate you from your competitors, and how you are the best qualified to meet their needs, and the positive financial impact you can have their business. The selling is complete when you receive confirmation from the prospect that you are the company they want to do business with…as long as you can come to the right terms.

Now, what is negotiating? It is the process of defining the terms and conditions by which you will do business. Can you see the difference? Selling is about convincing them to do business with you, and negotiating is determining how you will do business. Here’s the rub; if you start negotiating the terms and conditions before the selling is done, what do you think will happen? The discussion goes right to price. Here’s why; if you have not had the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the rest, you look like all the rest. You are therefore a commodity in the eyes of the prospect. If you are a commodity and perceived the same as all the rest, the only way to differentiate yourself is the price. Now, you are stuck in a price only negotiation. If you find yourself or your sales professionals constantly asking for price discounts to seal the deal, the problem is likely that they are negotiating before the selling is done.

So, don’t get stuck in a price only negotiation. Make sure the selling is done before you get to the table. You will have much better outcomes.

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