How to Assess a Sales Consultant’s Negotiation Skills

Carl Erickson

Beacon, like a few other sales consulting firms, will provide training on negotiations skills for their clients, but they will also offer to step in and assist with actual client negotiations in your behalf. For those situations where this might be appropriate, like when a company loses a seasoned negotiator, they should be thinking through how they might do this.

Before engaging a sales consultant to negotiate on your behalf, what are key areas to assess to ensure that they can deliver at the bargaining table? Here are five aspects for an organization to evaluate before bringing on an outside negotiator.

Years of Experience

Experience matters, particularly when it comes to negotiating complex sales. Understanding the principles of negotiation strategy is a good starting point for a negotiator, but they also need to have relevant negotiation experience within your business sector to be able to add the most value. A résumé or CV alone isn’t likely to reveal enough information about the quality of a prospective negotiator’s experience.

In addition, ask the negotiator for specifics on their prior work, such as the stage of the sales cycle when they were brought in, specific negotiation points they were able to resolve, and examples of how prior work is specifically relevant to their understanding of the negotiation needs within the deal you are working on. Much of negotiations is about positioning and analysis in addition to the face-to-face skills. How well did they strategically thinking things through and how well can they articulate it?

Advanced Training

While much of a negotiator’s style and approach is learned, the completion of advanced training and coursework signifies that the person is serious about the field and about maximizing their ability to contribute value. The mere fact that a negotiator possesses a degree or certificate from a reputable program probably doesn’t matter as much as how that person puts the training in action. Ask for examples of how an advanced negotiation theory or strategy can be put into action to move the needle on the current opportunity you will be negotiating.

Sales Cycle Understanding

Chances are good that your industry has interpersonal dynamics that are specific to your sales cycle. This could mean that it is common for more stakeholders at a prospect to become involved in later stages of the cycle, or that decision-making often funnels to a common person or position as sales discussions advance. Knowing the personalities and having a road map of how the negotiation is likely to progress can be critically important. How well do they understand the role of influencing intermediaries and how did they track and apply that knowledge in an actual sales cycle?

Negotiation Philosophy

You can get a glimpse into a prospective negotiator’s style by looking at their own interactions with you on a meta level. How did they begin the communication? How did they go about educating you on the value of their services? And when you talk about an engagement, how do they approach their own agreement with you? In our experience, consistently approaching negotiations from a position of respect and with the goal of strengthening the existing relationships is most advantageous for winning new opportunities. In other words, value must be exchanged for value in the classic win-win framework.

Client Feedback

We live in a world where testimonials matter more than ever, and are easier than ever to access. Do some research on your own to find reviews of the negotiator. In addition, ask for references and actually take the time to follow up with these people. Some key questions to ask these references may include:

  • What was the nature of the opportunity being negotiated?
  • Did you personally observe the negotiator’s work?
  • What specific behaviors or tactics led the negotiator to arrive at the final outcome?
  • Have you contracted with a negotiator before and if so, how does this one compare?
  • What persuaded you to select this negotiator over others?

What We Offer

Beacon’s decades of research and practical experience with the negotiations process in a variety of industries has allowed us to provide value when negotiating on our clients’ behalf. Our negotiators apply best practices most relevant to the situation and setting. We can also serve as a sounding board for on-staff negotiators who need assistance at specific points or in choreographing an overall approach.