It’s guest post Monday, and we are fortunate today to have a post from Jonathan Farrington, a globally-recognized business coach, mentor, author and sales strategist.  He is the CEO of Top Sales Associates, chairman of The if Corporation and creator of Top Sales World and the Top Sales Awards.

It is true that during the earliest part of my sales career, I was fortunate enough to work for companies who took sales team development very seriously. They understood that if I were to develop into the valuable asset they expected me to become, they would need to invest in me, and polish me, rather like a diamond producer cultivates their gem.

It will, therefore, not surprise you to learn that one of the first guiding principles I was taught, was the absolute necessity to always work to “win-win” principles, not only within the sometimes hostile negotiating environment, but also in any commercial interaction with which I may be involved.

That first principle has stayed with me throughout my career, and I have even adopted it into my whole life, not just my commercial practices — I also taught my children to truly understand its value at a very early age!

But in order to fully comprehend the significance of “win-win” we must also appreciate why “lose-win” and “win-lose” are rarely, if ever, acceptable outcomes. Here is my interpretation.

“Lose-win” means we have accepted terms or reached an agreement that has insufficient value for us; it has produced an inappropriate level of profit, and it may have no strategic value — that is to say, there is no long-term value either. No matter how much ground bait you throw in, it is not going create a proper return on your investment.

With “win-lose” we appear to gain a financial advantage at the expense of the buyer. This approach may be acceptable in some commodity sales environments, where you are totally driven by top-line revenue, and the opportunity for repeat business is negligible, but even then, most companies are waking up to the value of repeat business — even your local restaurant.

You see, your customer will find out that they have paid over the odds, or they have been treated unfairly, and they will vote with their feet, and may never return.

That leaves us with just one final possible outcome, “lose-lose.”

I suspect that as many as 80% of frontline sales professionals will shudder at the thought of “lose-lose.” No deal, no commission, angry boss for losing the order. This is a very short-sighted and commercially naive viewpoint.

The scenario often plays out something like this: We work conscientiously throughout the sales/buying cycle; we understand the rules; we are totally aware of the steps our prospective buyer intends to take, and we accept them. Then at the death, the rules are changed. Typically price becomes a far more critical issue, and we discover that we are being rapidly pushed towards a “lose-win” outcome.

So now we have two choices. We can agree to the revised terms; drop our pants and cave in just to save the order, and earn a reduced commission — and of course much less profit for our company. Alternatively, we can accept “lose-lose.” There are, you may be surprised to learn, benefits from opting for “lose-lose.”

You walk away with dignity. You send out a message that you fully appreciate the value of your products/solutions, your company and yourself. You are letting your prospective purchaser know that your company is also in business to make a profit. By standing your ground, you will, in all probability, gain an even higher level of respect from the other side. And you will have the opportunity to do business together in the future. “No” does not mean “never.”

Jonathan Farrington has guided hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals around the world towards optimum performance levels. He is based in London and Paris.

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