“Please just send me a better proposal, and when you do, give me your bottom line. I don’t have time to go back and forth. Just get me your best number.”
Have you ever gotten a text or an email like that from a prospective buyer? If so, you were on the receiving end of the “Best and Final Offer” gambit. Experienced negotiators use it all the time.
The best response to this gambit is to simply pull back and hit pause on the negotiating process. Think of the message you received as a roadblock. You’re going to hang back until you identify a route around the roadblock. You’re not going to give in to the demand to make concessions, but you’re not going to raise the temperature in the relationship, either.
Some weak negotiators will capitulate to this gambit instantly, granting major concessions right away because they feel they must either respond obediently to the command they’ve just read—or lose the deal. There is another option: Acknowledge what the person has just said to you, reassure them that your product/service/solution is going to resolve their problem, and ask a question that moves the conversation back to them.
Let me share a story that illustrates exactly how this works. One of my training engagements began with me dealing with a senior director of sales training and enablement with an international hospitality media company. I’ll call him Rickie. Over a 90-day sales cycle, Rickie and I co-created a proposal. As I went over an advanced draft of it with him, I knew he still had to have our proposal approved by Lynne, the EVP of Sales, with whom I’d previously had several conversations. Rickie told me everything looked good on the proposal. We were scheduled to speak with Lynne a few days later.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, I received an email from Rickie asking me to resubmit the proposal with a lower price. This was the first “poke” at my proposal, and it came via email. My response was simple: “Sounds like we need to talk. Let’s chat today at 3:00 p.m.” His response? Simple as well: “No need to talk. Please resubmit your revised proposal.”
I typed out this message: “I appreciate you asking for a revised proposal, and I am glad you are sharing all this with me. I can assure you that based upon our discussions and the deliverables you and I created to train your teams, the investment we discussed is necessary to provide the training to develop your teams. Can we schedule a phone meeting?”
Then I hit “send,” but I was really hitting “pause.” I waited to see what happened next. I did not simply cut my price by 10%, or any percentage, nor did I continue the negotiation process via email message.
I eventually got that voice-to-voice call, and I got it because I followed a process. If I hadn’t scheduled and held that call, I don’t believe I would have ever won that opportunity. Oh, and by the way, once I started training their sales team, Rickie would repeatedly reference our negotiation’s email and verbal conversations to make a point to his team that they needed to know and implement the Sandler negotiating process.
The key to crafting an effective immediate response to a “Best and Final Offer” gambit is to understand that it is a gambit. It’s a chess move designed to provoke a weaker move from an opponent. Although this gambit is usually presented as the end of a conversation, experienced negotiators know that it usually signals the beginning of one.
From Negotiating from the Inside Out: A Playbook for Business Success by Clint Babcock. Copyright © 2020 Sandler Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.