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A Quick Guide for Structuring Win-Win Negotiations

Consultative negotiations, seeking win-win outcomes, following a certain structure — not a precise ritual or Kabuki theater-style performance, but a series of phases that usually occur in a certain order.

Below is a quick guide to help you structure this process by understanding what to do at each phase of the win-win negotiations.

Pre-negotiation Phase

This is the “selling phase,” in the sense that this is where both sides decide to pursue a business relationship.

This is the preparation phase, where each side learns what it can about the other. The buyer will have done “due diligence” and determined that the seller is worth a meeting and further investigation. The buyer will have decided whether just to meet with one company, to meet with many possible vendors and choose the best offer, or to meet with companies only until they can come to an agreement with someone.

The seller will either contact the buyer or be contacted by the buyer to determine interest. In both cases, the seller will determine whether the buyer is just that — a buyer. The seller will determine how to appeal to the buyer. While the buyer is finding out if the seller is likely to be able to meet the buyer’s needs, the seller is trying to determine the buyer’s real needs as opposed to desires.

Food is a good example to show the difference between need and desire. People need to eat. They desire but do not need, to eat steak.

The Opening

The next phase of the sales negotiation is presenting a proposal. This can occur either at the meeting or beforehand in writing or by telephone. If a written proposal is sent before the meeting, the seller should spend much less time going over the details. The seller should consider having a draft written proposal at the meeting, even if that is the first contact. Edit as appropriate, and send to the client as confirmation as soon as possible after the meeting ends.

In all cases, be as friendly as possible, aiming to build mutual trust and confidence. Start with the basics — arrive on time and turn your cell phone off.

Present the details if no proposal was sent earlier. Or, ask if the client was able to read your proposal, and then, summarize. A proposal will basically describe the product or service, the schedule for delivery, the cost, and the schedule for payment. Stress the advantages to the client. Our baseball bats cost $100 each in batches of 500. This is a better price than our competitors can offer. Our bats measure up to MLB quality controls. We can deliver batches of 500 in mid-February, early July, and mid-September (hopefully, the client is thinking post-season play). We can fill orders for more, if needed, with one week’s notice. Payments can be spread over the season.

Either side can open discussions, but the one who makes the first move in presenting ideas and details sets the agenda for discussion. This side has the advantage in discussions.


The potential client responds to the proposal. The seller should just listen, maybe asking a few clarifying questions. If the potential client has made a more detailed than normal presentation or request for proposal, the substantive discussion starts here.

Converting Demands to Needs

Ask appropriate questions to separate demands and wants from actual needs. One way to do this, in a process which starts before the meeting, is to find out what the customer wants to accomplish, not just what products or services they want. Find out what they really want as early as possible in the negotiations. A customer seeking consultant services to improve a supply chain wants more than just that. He or she wants a way to increase production at minimal if any, additional cost. How can this be done?

Try to determine the personal agenda of the client contact and of anyone else who has to approve. The best way to do this might be to just ask.

Value Justification and Trading

Use trade-offs when you differ in terms. If the client wants to stretch out payments, for example, trade this for a higher price. Summarize each point of agreement when reached.

Be creative and flexible, but avoid concessions as much as possible. Be prepared, as a last resort, to symbolically walk out of the meeting if a point cannot be settled. Don’t storm out. Adjourn the meeting to a future date.

Closing the Meeting

End the meeting. Be the one to summarize what was decided — first verbally and then in writing and in more detail. This lets you continue to set the agenda. It is easier to just make a change than to ask someone else to change something. Agree to the next steps and their timing.


Carry out the next steps. Consider sending a thank-you e-mail to the client as soon as you return to your office. Then, send a more detailed response in a few days. Even if you are the decision maker, as a courtesy, clear it with anyone whose cooperation you need at your office.

About the Author

Richardson is a global sales training and performance improvement company. Our goal is to transform every buyer experience by empowering sellers with critical skills so they can create value to buyers and drive meaningful conversations. Our methodology combines a market proven sales and coaching curriculum with an innovative and customizable approach to learning that ensures your sales teams learn, master, and apply those behaviors where and when it matters most — in front of your customers. It’s our job to anticipate change in your industry so that your sales team can focus on fostering long-term relationships, becoming indispensable partners for their buyers.

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