How to Fix the #1 Mistake that 94% of Sales Professionals Make in Negotation

After years of work around sales negotiation and studying the world-class sales negotiators on a global basis, I have narrowed down the scope of this work to seven immutable laws. While I discuss these laws in-depth in my book Closing Time, I wanted to share some of this top-level knowledge further with all of you.

Law #1: You have to be the buyer’s #1 choice!

Never begin negotiations until the buyer has confirmed you are the #1 choice. Why? Because you can’t discount your way to number one. If you try, it becomes a race to the bottom as there will always be competitors willing to undercut you for what will ultimately be low margin or unprofitable business.

If you aren’t the number one choice, your buyer is just using you to drive down the price of their real top choice – your competitor. If you are the top choice – you’ve earned the right to command a price premium (more on this later).

Amazingly 94% of sales professional make this unnecessary and easily avoidable mistake. How do you become the buyer’s top choice? It is simple, you must lower the buyer’s risk!

People don’t buy price, they buy risk. Which is why you want to know their risks – both business and personal — early on. It’s also why you want to routinely ask yourself if you are minimizing their risk.

From a business perspective, when evaluating solutions, your client is focused on risks like, “If we choose this vendor and the vendor’s solution fails ... “

  • Will it adversely affect our profits, shareholders, and employees?
  • Will we lose good customers and prospects to the competition?
  • Will we become uncompetitive in the marketplace?   

On a more personal level, your client is likely asking himself, “If we choose this vendor and the vendor relationship fails ... ”   

  • Will I get fired?
  • Will this derail my 15-year career at the company?
  • Will I not get the bonus I need to pay for my family’s _____?

Few buyers are going to worry about any marginal difference in price between you and your competition if they really believe you are their best protection from these risks, and even fewer will risk their personal careers, lifestyle, take-home pay, and the families’ quality of life to save some of the company’s dollars. It just doesn’t happen that way.   

Action Items for Immutable Law #1

Before you go into negotiation, ask yourself if you have accomplished the following:

  • Have you addressed your buyer’s business and personal risks?
  • Have you confirmed that you are the buyer’s #1 Choice?  Do so by asking the questions: “If price was not a factor, would we be your top choice?” followed by, “Why” or “Why not?”

If you are not, then you aren’t ready to negotiate. Find out what your shortcomings are, go back and sell better. Start by re-confirming your buyer’s risks and articulating how your solution will minimize them.

If your buyer says “yes,” you have effectively confirmed your place as top choice in their mind, while having them describe all the reasons why gives you the ammunition to command a price premium. At that point, and only at the point, are you ready to begin negotiations.

About the Author

Ron is CEO of the Sales Optimization Group, an international sales and sales negotiation consulting and training organization and author of the book Closing Time: The 7 Immutable Laws of Sales Negotiation. For More information please visit


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