February 28, 2020

How to Make Sales Under Pressure

By Andres Lares, Managing Partner, Shapiro Negotiations Institute

Have you ever noticed how many times a sale or a negotiation comes down to the very last minute? Trust me: It happens a lot, but it doesn’t have to be a negative. 

The pressure of the deadline can be overwhelming, and it can often lead you to accept a deal you otherwise wouldn’t be happy with. This article will show you how to overcome that pressure and use it to your advantage.

Prepare for Your Selling Situation
Yes, I know what you’re going to say: “How can I prepare for a conversation when I have only a little bit of time to close the deal?” Think of it this way: Spending even 15 minutes preparing can save you hours of negotiating. So, sure, you may delay the conversation a little bit but, over the long haul, you’re saving yourself time – and, more importantly, you’re entering the sale in a better position to succeed. 

To aid your efforts when you’re under pressure, I recommend creating a checklist and referring to it as you go. See below for an example we often use, called our “P.A.I.D. checklist.”

  • Precedents: Are there past deals that could affect this for both sides? Draw on lessons learned.
  • Alternatives: What options are available to you? Think of the gold standard and the one you’d walk away with contently.
  • Interests: What does each side really want and need? Think of yourself and your counterpart.
  • Deadlines: When does the deal have to be done to satisfy each side? Are there milestones or objectives within, or is it comprehensive?

Once you’ve worked your way through your checklist, you’re ready to engage.

In a High-Pressure Selling Situation, Ask More Questions
The biggest problem we frequently see with negotiations is not knowing what the other party cares about (see “Interests” above). Assumptions are common: for instance, “I bet they want X price point,” or, “They need it by X day,” when, in fact, they may care more about something entirely different. Assumptions tend to increase when pressure is added to the situation. Avoid that and focus on probing for information you can use as leverage for your side. 

See below for some common probing questions you can apply.

  • Precedents: How did you come to that price? What are you basing this value on?
  • Alternatives: What other options are you considering?
  • Interests: What is important to you? What else? 
  • Prioritizing Interests: Of your interests, which is the most important? Why is it important?
  • Deadlines: What is your drop-dead deadline? What is this deadline for, specifically? Why is it important?

If you’ve probed successfully you should walk away feeling like you have a list of decision making factors you can refer to as you engage for the sale. If you’re still a bit unclear, then consider asking a few more questions. 

Should You Make the First Offer in a Sales Negotiation?
When you feel up against the clock, it’s common to “accept” the “best deal” on the table versus “getting” the “best deal” on the table to fully maximize your win. Rely on the knowledge base you’ve established up to this point.

The first offer is critical as it sets the stage for the entire sales process. If you sense that both of you understand the landscape, then make the first move – anchoring the discussion and allowing you to move strategically ahead. If you feel your counterpart does not have a good sense of the landscape, then let them go first – because, at best, you have an offer better than you expected and, at worst, you know where they stand. 

Once the first offer is on the table, rely on your negotiation training to move the conversation to a deal that is good for you. Avoid simple and lazy agreements of splitting it down the middle or accepting the first offer on the table. Don’t let the clock pressure you into a sale that doesn’t meet your goal. 

Trust your instincts, follow your preparation, ask questions appropriately, and close like a winner. 

Andres Lares is managing partner of Shapiro Negotiations Institute (SNI).