Is this customer always right?


“I want you to teach my sales team how to negotiate like a pro. Have you ever heard of the new Harvard negation model. I like it. That is what I want you to teach my salespeople.” Are they forgetting that negotiation is not a substitute for selling?

I’ve never met these people before and I listen in silence as well-intentioned Sales Manager and Training Manager give me instructions that if followed, may not lead to a positive outcome. Let’s take a closer look. They distribute FMCG across Jamaica. The local economy has had so little growth that even the best companies record only marginal year-on-year increase in volume of goods traded. Further, with a shrinking middle class the market is very price sensitive.

Recall that when you are negotiating you are prepared, if necessary, to give something away in oder to do business. But that’s not true of selling. When you are selling you do not give anything away. Your success rests on persuasion skills alone, (Rackham, 1989). In this case the sales reps cannot give a price concession on already thin margins. Neither can they extend credit terms nor give a fixed price for future deliveries because of foreign exchange uncertainties. And with demand relatively fixed in the short-term, loading a few cash rich buyers won’t help much. In fact it may even hurt. What then, can these sales reps negotiate?

The purpose of today’s sales rep is to create value for both their customer and employer by the way that they sell. They need deep customer relationships, and the skill sets to manage their accounts for the benefit of all parties. This includes business savvy, a continuous study of the market, and much data analysis which may, unfortunately, result in a little less face time with customers. Not exactly what most road warriors love. And, by the way; where is Marketing in this equation? Have they given the reps right products at right price supported by a well-crafted push or pull strategy and effective IMC strategies and tactics so that they can compete effectively? Who knows?

So back to our Sales Manager and Training Manager. They have identified a training need and want a trainer who will comply. Punto final. And this educator has a reputation to protect. Shall we negotiate?

Herman Alvaranga educates marketing and sales people.


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