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Sales Strategy
Habits of Top Sellers – Using E-Mail to Advance the Sales Process
Feb 2, 2010 | Ralph Allora lock

You’ve presented your case to the prospect and the offer is on the table. Now comes the hard part—the tough negotiations that will largely determine whether you get the order.

You can greatly improve your odds of completing the deal by employing an art often neglected by sales pros: writing. Before and after every phone call or in-person meeting during the negotiating process, hit the keyboard and send a brief, informative e-mail that clarifies and advances the discussion.

E-mail is, of course, no substitute for face-to-face interaction at this or any stage of the sales process, as it doesn’t help you gauge the critical nuances of verbal inflection and body language.

But a series of smartly written messages during negotiations can serve as markers for what’s been agreed to and what’s still on the table. More important, it can solidify your bargaining position in a number of subtle yet effective ways.

Here are a few tips on how to use e-mail to your advantage during negotiations:

  • Stay on topic. Don’t rehash your entire pitch at every stage of negotiations—the prospect doesn’t have time for this. Start the message with a focused point, and back it up with one or two specific supporting points (e.g., “We can offer an additional 10% discount for a commitment of 300 units per month. This would result in a savings of $9,000 per month and give you access to 24-hour on-site service…”).
  • Keep it moving. Avoid giving the prospect an opportunity to shut down the conversation. Ask open-ended questions designed to draw out a meaningful response, not a simple yes or no (e.g., “Based on the widget needs you’ve outlined in our discussions, how does this latest proposal fit in with your expectations?).
  • Stay calm. If negotiations start to get heated, don’t use e-mail as the medium in which to vent your frustrations. Remember that once you’ve hit Send, anything you’ve written can and will be used against you. Because e-mail is a “flat” medium in which the recipient often has no idea whether you’re joking or fuming, you’re better off sticking to a positive message (e.g., “I can appreciate your concern about pricing. With XYZ widgets, you’ll be getting a durable product that actually reduces overall operating costs…”).
  • Stick to the benefits. You can disarm the other party by always presenting your case in the context of the prospect’s needs. It’s not about what you’re offering—it’s about the prospect and the benefits he or she can achieve. This is particularly effective when you bring out the core emotional benefit (e.g., “We can certainly look at extending the added value program if you’re willing to upgrade to our highly efficient D5000 model. With the D5000 you’ll be working smarter and spending less time at the office—freeing up time for that big family vacation you said you’d like to take.”).
  • Be flexible. If you’ve hit a dead end in your discussions, use your e-mail messages to bring up alternative solutions that better fit the prospect’s needs (e.g., “I understand that the new model is beyond your budget range. If we went with the certified, refurbished model at $2,000 per unit, how might that affect your pricing concerns?”).

When you communicate your negotiating position clearly in writing, you establish the framework of the discussion, and you set the stage for more productive phone calls or face-to-face meetings. Each e-mail message should serve as a guiding document on the way towards a successful deal.

About the Author:

Ralph Allora is the principal owner of Allora Communications, a consultancy specializing in marketing communication strategy, promotions, and creative services for clients in the media and service industries.

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