The difference between selling and negotiating

Many people, especially sales people, often have the mistaken belief that negotiation forms part of every sale, which is not true.

We often hear “my people need to be able to negotiate” when upon further inspection they first need to learn how to sell. The reason many rely so much on negotiating is that their initial sales job was a poor effort.

They neglected to properly establish the client’s real priorities and needs and didn’t demonstrate how they could help the customer achieve results; financially as well as via their products, services, knowledge or intellectual property. Instead they find themselves in combative positions needing to negotiate over misunderstandings and limitations and the price rather than value.

So, before you and your team attend a negotiation skills course, first check if all you need to do is learn how to sell first.

Here are some tips that help you know when to sell and when to negotiate.

  • If the customer expresses needs – you should SELL – by addressing and satisfying these needs.
  • If the customer expresses objections – you should SELL – by correcting any misunderstandings, managing any limitations that outweigh the objection and providing documentation, if needed.
  • If the customer expresses interest – you should SELL – by closing the sale and taking the order.
  • If the customer rejects the deal and makes demands – you should NEGOTIATE – by buying time if needed; analysing the proposal from the perspective of the customer, competition and priorities; analysing the proposal based on your objective, the negotiable points and non-negotiable points; added or equivalent value.
  • If the customer considers your proposal – you should NEGOTIATE – by presenting the best two options given the client choice and correctly positioning your offering from a value and functional perspective.
  • If the customer accepts the best proposal option – you should SELL – by closing the sale.
  • If the customer rejects the best proposal – you should NEGOTIATE – by having a fall back position proposal offer.
  • If the customer accepts the second fall back proposal – you should SELL – by closing the sale.

Make sure that your sales people know the difference between selling and negotiating by initially training them in good consultative selling process. When they have that mastered, move to training in negotiation skills. Good selling should never need to be combative nor should good negotiations. If done well on every level, there should be a win for all.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett practices as a coach, advisor, speaker, facilitator, consultant and writer and works across all market segments with herskilful team at BARRETT. Sue and her team take the guess work out of selling and help people from many different careers become aware of their sales capabilities and enable them to take the steps to becoming effective and productive when it comes to selling, sales coaching or sales leadership.To hone your sales skills or learn how to sell go to


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