Top 21 Sales Negotiation Tactics & Strategies From Experts

Read our list of the top negotiation tactics for salespeople, along with commentary from experts on how to use them most effectively.

Negotiation tactics are verified strategies and frameworks that help you overcome objections and close deals as you discuss the terms with prospects. The best negotiation tactics are repeatable methods that put a prospect’s mind at ease and work toward win-win outcomes. To help you negotiate great deals for you and your prospects, we’ve put together a list of the best negotiation tactics for salespeople, including advice from expert sellers.

1. Identify the 4 Levers You Can Pull

There are four main contract factors you can adjust during a negotiation. Being aware of them will enable you to adapt to any given negotiation situation and find creative ways to satisfy the prospect without granting unfeasible demands. Chief revenue officer Matt Green elaborates on the four levers:

In Todd Caponi's amazing book The Transparency Sale, he lays out the concept of negotiation "levers," specifically four levers that you can pull when negotiating with a prospect: volume (how much of the product or service the prospect going to buy), timing of cash (how quickly the prospect can pay), length of commitment (how long the contract is), and timing of the deal (when the signature will actually happen). Be sure to take advantage of these four levers once you get deep into negotiation.

Matt Green
Matt Green
CRO at Sales Assembly

2. Be Silent to Uncover Information

When your prospect starts to haggle on the price or terms, it’s usually due to some hidden reason that you must uncover to discuss. For example, perhaps they don’t fully comprehend the monetary value one of your features offers, and they’re therefore trying to remove it from the total price. If you unveil that hesitation, you can properly deal with it by walking them through how that feature will directly impact their bottom line.

Of course, the trickiest part is finding these hidden reasons that drive these demands or requests for concessions. Joe Benjamin, who’s currently helping startups improve their sales with his sales consulting business RevPilots, says that silence is often the key to learning more about your prospects in a negotiation.

An easy negotiation tactic is to use silence to get the other party to speak and divulge more information. Salespeople have a tendency to talk too much or be afraid of silence, but silence is your friend during a negotiation. When the other party is speaking and they say something you want to know more about, keep quiet. They'll fill the silence with additional info.

Joe Benjamin headshot
Joe Benjamin
CEO & Co-Founder of CheetahIQ; Owner of RevPilots

Next time your prospect says, “This should be half the price you’re asking for,” try staying silent for three seconds and see what happens. Your prospect might start elaborating on why they believe this to be the case. And, if the situation is heated, you’ll also cool it down by allowing the prospect to go on a cathartic rant that both relieves their inner tension while also giving them time to realize that they might have unrealistic expectations.

3. Ask for What You Want

In a sales negotiation, it’s important to clearly state the price that you believe your product or service is worth and ask your prospect to purchase it at that price. Leave discounts out of the conversation at the beginning. Will Exline at Twitter has this to say on the matter:

You don't get what you don't ask for. It seems simple, but I've seen so many salespeople hesitate to make the ‘ask’ at the end of a pitch or a meeting. Your success rate will dramatically increase if you are direct and clear in your ask.

Will Exline
Will Exline
Sports Partnerships at Twitter

A stark contrast to making a specific ask would be stating a range of prices you’d be willing to accept. For example, a rep might say, “Would you do this for $1,500–$2,000 a month?” Besides showing a lack of confidence in the offer’s value, this also lowers the total revenue you’ll acquire from the closed deal. Why? Because the prospect will choose the lower option now that they’ve seen it. To make matters worse, if they want to negotiate down, $1,500 will be the starting point.

4. Seek Win-Win Solutions

A negotiation is not your chance to sit behind your mahogany desk, blow cigar smoke in your prospect’s face, stroke the fluffy cat sitting on your lap, and think of nothing but winning. It’s about seeking a solution that is beneficial to your buyer and to you. Go into your negotiations with this mindset and you’ll have much more success finding common ground, getting that contract signed, and keeping your new customer in the long run. 

5. Identify What's Most Important to Your Buyer

Often, we think the price is our prospect’s main concern, but there might be something else, like the length of the contract, opt-out terms, or who they’ll be working with internally. Find their priority by asking them questions before or at the beginning of your negotiation meeting. A simple way to get a boatload of information is to ask straight up, “Which terms of the contract are you interested in focusing on?”

This keeps you from negotiating things the prospect doesn’t care about. For example, if they ask for a price reduction and you offer to give them a shorter commitment, but what they really care about is having access to more product training, you might’ve missed your chance to win them over without giving a discount.

6. Confirm the Value Proposition Before Negotiating

If you and the prospect share the same set of beliefs about the solution’s value and also the desired outcome of the negotiation, you’ll both be more cooperative when negotiating and more likely to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. You’ll trust that the person on the other side of the table shares your intentions. Here’s what Cathleen Moynihan, Enterprise Sales Director at a B2B data management company, recommends doing before you negotiate:

Make sure the value proposition is clear and the business case is confirmed before negotiations. And if validated by the buyer, you both can collaborate for an outcome that is worthwhile for both parties.

Cathleen Moynihan
Enterprise Sales Director at Okera

This could be as simple as saying your value proposition and getting them to verbally agree with it before you start talking about the price. It’s best to quantify your value proposition as a percentage improvement in their bottom line, productivity, or output. For example, a proptech seller might kick off pricing discussions by saying, “So we’ve discussed how we will reduce your operations costs by $2,000/month. Does that sound like a reasonable assessment?”

If they say yes, move into the negotiation. If they are resistant to agreeing to that number or confused about how you reached it, you have to take a step back and walk them through your calculations. You could do this on this same call, or, if short on time, schedule another meeting.

7. Practice Active Listening

Sometimes your prospects have needs that have nothing to do with satisfying their budget requirements — more value, less risk, or a feeling that they got a great deal. To do figure out those needs and provide for them, Elisa Ciarametaro, Chief Sales Officer of an inside sales consulting business, recommends doing a lot of active listening:

Listen to learn and understand the other party’s issues and standpoint. Most importantly, clarifying that what you heard is what the other party means by restating and getting their agreement will help you better facilitate a successful win-win conclusion.

Elisa Ciarametaro
Elisa Ciarametaro
Chief Sales Officer at Exceed Sales

So if your prospect goes on a two-minute soliloquy that shows hesitancy to sign a long-term contract, rephrase their speech in a sentence or two. This shows them that you understand and ensures you heard them correctly. So, you might say, “What I’m hearing is that you’re slightly worried about the length of the contract because things might change on your end?”

If they agree, address the concern. If they don’t, ask them to explain it to you once again. They’ll appreciate your desire to understand their needs.

8. Negotiate With the Right Person

The last thing you want is to negotiate with the wrong person — someone without decision-making power. You’ll just have to do it all over again and will have lost all the rapport and compromises developed during discussions with the wrong prospect. It’s therefore crucial to find the decision maker early in the sales process.

Before ever getting into contract negotiations, ask the point of contact in an email or call, “Who will have the final say on this deal?” If the prospect says anything other than “me,” ask them if it’d make sense to invite this decision maker to your upcoming contract negotiation meeting.

9. Go Above & Beyond for Your Prospect

Some prospects negotiate on price in an effort to reduce the risk of the deal. Sometimes, the best way to make a deal feel less risky is by always going above the call of duty for your client throughout the sales process. They’ll then be more likely to trust that you and your team will do the same after they purchase, and the commitment will be less scary. Account executive Lindsay Hamel has this to say about this “go above and beyond” mentality:

It’s a given that salespeople need to add value at every step of the sales cycle. But what takes the most risk out of the deal? A salesperson’s willingness to go the extra mile. Those (seemingly) small client requests end up being highly memorable when it comes down to either your product or a competitor’s. Which salesperson was the most helpful? Who was the most responsive? Who made it clear that this deal was their priority? That’s the salesperson who is going to win the deal. So make it known to your customer that you’re willing to go above and beyond to win their business. And then ask them how!

Lindsay Hamel
Lindsay Hamel
Account Executive SMB at Monday.com

When your prospect knows you have their back and are set on providing the best service possible, they’re going to be more confident in a successful partnership that’s worth what they paid. So, even though you can’t give into every concession, it’s beneficial to give into prospects’ small requests. When they’re mulling over signing the contract, they’ll remember it.

10. Frame Negotiations as Teamwork

Use phrasing that makes your prospect see the negotiations as a team effort to solve a challenge: finding an agreement that meets everyone’s needs. For example, try using “we” instead of “I”: “So we’ve agreed on point A, and we’re having some trouble with the payment terms. But I’m sure we can figure out how to make this work for us both.” Then your prospect sees you not as an adversary, but as a teammate, so they’ll be less likely to play hardball.

11. Show Empathy Toward Their Situation

You have to show your prospect that you’re empathetic toward them. It makes them lower their defenses and open up about their needs and concerns, so it’ll be easier to reach an agreement. Two of the best ways to do this are called mirroring and labeling, coined by famed FBI negotiator Christopher Voss in his book Never Split the Difference.

Mirroring is when you repeat in a questioning tone the last few crucial words spoken by the prospect. If they said, “We’re spending a lot of time in the trenches,” you’d respond, “In the trenches?” and they’d elaborate. You’re uncovering information about them, which could serve as leverage in your negotiation down the line, while you’re also showing them you’re listening.

Labeling, on the other hand, is when you label the prospect’s emotions. It’s as simple as saying, “It sounds like you’re having trouble grasping a two-year-long contract?” Your goal with labeling is to get them to respond with a variation of the phrase “That’s right!” When they do, you’ve successfully labeled their emotional state, and they’ll feel understood, cared about, and happier to cooperate. And you’ll feel certain you know what to address.

12. Make Them Feel Empathy Toward Your Situation

Sometimes, you have to make prospects feel empathetic about your business situation, as well. Show them that you’re not just some money-hungry company trying to squeeze them for everything they have, but that you have sound reasons for pricing the way you do. Help them see how a huge price cut would negatively affect your business or your ability to serve them and other clients.

If they asked for 30% off the original price, instead of simply saying “That’s impossible,” take the time to explain why doing that wouldn’t be fair to you. You might say, “At that point, we’d actually be losing money helping you. Our customer service is a point of pride, but it comes with costs. Having an on-site support staff isn’t cheap. That’s why many competitors use off-shore, less effective teams.” Put them in your shoes, and they might see they’re asking for too much.

13. Practice Trading for Concessions

Buyer/seller relationships should be built on a foundation of mutual respect. If you simply give the prospect whatever they ask for, two things might occur. First, the prospect might lose some respect for you as a professional, or for your product or service. A price chop could be seen as a lack of confidence in the value of the solution. Second, you might start to resent the prospect for taking so much from you and giving nothing in return, which can hurt your relationship.

To avoid this, try getting something of value in return for some of your concessions. If they ask for an extra 20 hours of product training, perhaps a rep might ask the prospect to introduce them to a few of their peers in the industry who are ideal customers. Or, if you’re on a time-crunch, consider saying “If you sign this by tomorrow, I can give you that.” That way, you both walk away having won something, and the respect will be left intact.

Entrepreneur Darsh Somashekar explains this further:

Knowing how to create compromises by insisting on trade-offs is crucial. However, your goal should always be to make as few compromises as possible, and you should proceed with prudence and patience when making them. You can be flexible at times, but you must be willing to accept trade-offs.

Darsh Somashekar
Darsh Somashekar
Founder and CEO of Solitaired

14. Schedule Follow-ups

Never leave things open-ended during the negotiation phase. If you sent a contract, schedule time 2-3 days after sending to go over it with your prospect. You might make this meeting with your prospect on a phone call after they ask for you to send a contract. Or you might offer up a few dates/times to review the contract in the introductory email to which your contract is attached. This ensures that your prospect prioritizes looking it over and speeds up the sale.

Business development executive Michael Sullivan explains why it’s so crucial to always have time on your prospect’s calendar for another meeting:

During negotiations with a client, it's essential to set deadlines and schedule follow-ups. It's never a good idea to leave things open-ended because then you'll lose control of the conversation. Getting follow-up calls scheduled makes sure that you're staying in contact with the client or prospect, which will keep you informed about any potential roadblocks preventing the deal from moving forward. In addition, deadlines on price discounts will help create urgency and keep you in control of the timeline. While setting deadlines and scheduling follow-ups are super important, don't forget to ask for the deal — that's the most crucial part of any negotiation.

Michael Sullivan headshot
Michael Sullivan
Business Development Executive at Leyton Consulting

Michael echoes Will’s advice in tactic #3 above that you must ask for the deal. Once you’ve agreed on the pricing, terms, and conditions, say something like “I think we’ve done some good work here today. The agreement looks mutually beneficial, and I’m excited to begin working together. Are you comfortable signing this contract by {deadline date}?” If they say yes, you’re golden. If they say no, explore what’s holding them back by asking open-ended questions and address it.

15. Be Okay Walking Away

Sometimes, if your prospect is persistent about pricing demands that are unfeasible or term requests that would make it impossible to serve them adequately, you have to let them go. A lot of the time, showing the prospect that you’re okay with walking away will make them realize how unreasonable they’re being and motivate them to retreat and accept your terms. Other times, the salesperson will have avoided signing on a client who could be a problem down the line.

Before getting into a negotiation, define to yourself the limits on the concessions (price discounts, freebies, add-ons, etc.) that you’re willing to give to a prospect. This will help you maintain and enforce the “it’s okay to walk away” mindset in the negotiation.

16. Get a Specific Commitment

Many salespeople find that they can never get past the negotiation stage of the sales process with prospects that like to haggle. Getting a commitment is a negotiation tactic that involves asking your prospect exactly what conditions they want you to meet in order to make a purchase. This helps you convert hard-nosed negotiators by limiting their ability to haggle to a specific number or condition, and avoids wasting time on unreasonable expectations.

Getting a commitment means asking exactly what price, payment structure (if applicable), and delivery timing they need to make a purchase. Make sure that you’re in the closing phase of the sales process so that you don’t start conflicts over things like price and timing before you’ve them sold on the product. Once you pitch to them, and they tell you that they’re willing to discuss order details, then your first move should be to get their commitment.

If you’re going to use this tactic, do not make concrete concessions before getting a specific commitment in return. The only time you can do so is when it’s clear that they’re not willing to lay out specific terms. In this case, you’ll continue to demonstrate the value of the asking price, and make it clear that you can be much more flexible if they are willing to commit to purchase under specific conditions.

Founder and CEO Jordan Nathan echoes this advice, especially as it relates to your prospect’s benchmark and your own target for the negotiation:

A great sales negotiation tactic is to ask the question ‘What would it take to get you to sign now?’ Once this benchmark has been found, you can use it as a way to negotiate up to meet your own business needs. Have in mind what target you have for the deal and work your client towards this target.

Jordan Nathan
Jordan Nathan
Founder and CEO of Caraway

17. Find Alternatives to Price Concessions

The most negotiated element of a contract is the price, so salespeople should be ready to talk about it. But, they should be wary of discounting because price and value are intertwined in the buyer’s perception of your product. So, whenever possible, try offering other freebies or add-ons in place of a price cut. Here are some alternative concessions: 

  • Give a Guarantee: A 30-, 60-, or 90-day money-back guarantee can reduce the perceived risk of the deal. 
  • Offer an Add-on Feature or Service: Find another low-price product in your arsenal that’ll further help the prospect reach their needs. 
  • Waive a Fee: Consider waiving an implementation, training, onboarding, or processing fee.

Of course, talk with your team (often finance) to ensure what you’re offering is allowed before making any promises. If you’re in the middle of a discussion with the prospect, and you think of something creative you can offer, tell them you have to talk with your team about the option before you promise to add it to the contract. Say it’d be something you rarely do. This can make them feel special, too — sometimes that feeling is enough for them to feel like they’re winning.

18. Avoid Splitting the Difference

Splitting the difference is when you agree to meet a prospect in the middle of a price drop request. For example, if your rack rate is $800 and your prospect asks for $600, splitting the difference would mean you offer to do $700. This hurts you and your chances of hitting your revenue targets for a few reasons.

First, you have to know the psychological concept of anchoring — a human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information (the first number on the table) when making a decision. That means after you’ve stated your $800 asking price, the prospect now likely judges that any number around $800 is fair. So you probably could’ve gotten away with offering around $750 or even more and it would’ve been accepted.

Second, your prospect might use your middle offer as a starting point for another downward negotiation, especially since they now know you’re easily suggestible and open to the idea of dropping the price. They might try to get you even closer to $600. So, avoid splitting the difference, and stick closer to your original price in your negotiations.

19. Sell Like a Consultant

Consultative selling is a negotiation tactic that focuses on frequent open-ended questioning, designed to make it feel as though you are consulting the prospect on the best move for them rather than selling them on one specific solution. This way, the prospect doesn’t feel like they’re being sold to, but rather that they’re being advised to purchase by somebody who knows their situation well.

The focus of consultative selling is on the prospect, not on the product. Focus more of your time on your discovery call and needs assessment, using consultative selling and open-ended questions throughout both, and less on product information or extensive pitching.

The idea here is to only pitch or educate as a direct response to information that your prospect gives you, which usually results in a longer sales process. Don’t rush things, and don’t shoehorn a pitch into your early calls unless there is an obvious need expressed by the prospect. This way, the prospect knows you’re only recommending your product because you know it will benefit them.

Ecommerce growth professional Nick Shackelford sums this up well:

Be the solution, not the solicitor. It’s essential that when you’re in the process of negotiating a sale with a prospective buyer/client, you listen intently to address their pain points. If you are solely looking to create a pitch loosely based on a company script or agenda, you could be missing out on the key points stated in the customer’s narrative.

Nick Shackelford
Nick Shackelford
Managing Partner of Structured Agency

20. Know Common Buyer-Side Negotiation Tactics

Learning what negotiation tactics might be used on you helps you spot them and deal with them appropriately. Here are some common buyer-side negotiation techniques from Rain Sales Training that prospects use on sellers: 

  • Going, Going, Gone: Prospect says, “We’re speaking with {competitor X} later, and if they go for this, we’re picking them.” They’re using time pressure to get you to cave. To handle it, consider making a best and final offer that includes just one more concession. 
  • Good Cop, Bad Cop: Prospect brings a higher-up (often their CFO) into the negotiation to intimidate you. They’ll ask you about everything, even closed issues, looking for a spot to exploit. Stay calm. There’s no need to rush. Perhaps invite your own (respectful) bad cop.
  • Outlast: Prospect says, “This is a lot at the moment, and I’ll be out of office for a few months. Let’s revisit then.” They’re trying to wear you down with delays. Explain that you’re perfectly fine waiting. And talk about the benefits of buying now rather than later.

And if you have a theatrical prospect who acts shocked when you first state the price, let their outburst fizzle out, then refocus on the value they’ll receive from your solution.

21. Know Your Final Number & Terms

Sometimes, a buyer will try to talk you down. To avoid promising them something you’re unable to fulfill, never go into a negotiation without knowing the lowest number you’re authorized to give. Talk with your manager or finance team to find this number. Many of them will give discounting power to different titles. A VP of sales might have more discounting room than an account executive — perhaps 20% vs. 10%.

You don’t want to get caught off guard with an “I’m unsure if we can go that low / make those terms work.” This can throw you out of your element while also painting you as less competent in the eyes of the prospect. So check what you can give them before the call.

Bottom Line: Negotiation Tactics

Negotiating with a prospect can seem a bit daunting. But if you reframe the way you think about it, it’ll be less frightening. Instead of seeing it as a chess match of wits and mental fortitude, think of it as a lead nurturing exercise where two partners are trying to overcome business obstacles to reach the ultimate agreement. Often, these hard conversations will bring you and your prospect even closer, making them great beginnings to your working relationship.

For even more detailed information on negotiating, check out our ultimate guide on objection handling, where you’ll find strategies, tips, and a helpful script for rebutting your prospect’s negotiations.

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