Startup sales: The pair negotiation tactic

Startup sales: The pair negotiation tactic

When you're negotiating a deal, there's always an invisible force working against you: time.

Getting emotionally invested—the negotiation kiss of death

The problem isn't just that you want to optimize for closing the deal as soon as possible but that the more time and effort you invest into a negotiation, the more emotionally "invested" you become in it's success.

A natural consequence is that it becomes harder and harder for you to not make more compromises and concessions as time progresses during the negotiation, in your desire to have a successful outcome.

Nobody is immune from this negotiation weakness

It doesn't matter if you're a rookie negotiator or a pro. As long as you have a pulse, you're likely fall victim to this phenomenon. As you lose your objectivity and willingness to walk away from the deal, you lose your ability to negotiate effectively.

The good news is that there is a very simple and effective solution to this problem: pair negotiations.

Get someone involved in the last stages of the deal

Present the terms of the deal to someone in your team who has not been involved in the negotiation and has no stake in it. Do that during the final stages of the deal to make sure your teammate has the proper distance to look at the deal with fresh eyes.

A peer negotiator to balance you out

You want to find someone who you fully trust and who has critical thinking abilities. In a startup, you might want to bring in an engineer to fill this role. (Engineers are super helpful in the final stages of negotiations. They are absolutely amazing at unemotionally pocking holes into deals.)

You present the current terms and demands from the other party and ask for feedback on the things you're willing to compromise on.

Almost always, the person will push back hard on you. They will question why your position is so weak and why you're willing to give in so much to the other side.

This will feel very uncomfortable. You will likely feel compelled to push back. It's funny, but often you'll find yourself defending the other side and taking their position in the negotiation.

If you're self-aware and you trust the person you're pair negotiating with, this will be a very healthy interaction highlighting opportunities as well as weaknesses in your current position.

It's a good quality and sanity check before you're ready to seal the deal. And more often than not, it will help you avoid costly mistakes and take advantage of big opportunities before closing a great deal.

Try this out next time you're negotiating and see for yourself what a difference it'll make.

Further reading:

How to negotiate like a pro
Highly practical negotiation tips for B2B SaaS sales reps, startup founders and tech hustlers who want to close better deals and create bigger wins.

Be willing to walk away
The very first thing before you engage in any negotiation is to know your price. At which point would you walk away from the negotiation because it’s no longer worth it?

Using silence in negotiations is a skill that has saved our startup $225,000 in one particular negotiation.

Ask for help
Ever been in a sales conversation that's been going nowhere? A negotiation that's been stuck? There's a magic four-word-sentence that can resolve these situations and help you get a real dialogue going. Just say the words: "Help me out here."

Aggressive, submissive and assertive negotiation styles
When we think of negotiators, we often picture Wolf of Wallstreet personalities—people who can bulldoze and outwit the other person and ruthlessly manipulate to get as much as they can. These aren't the best models to have in mind when negotiating—and neither is the opposite, the over-eagerly accommodating "soft" negotiator. What you want instead is to negotiate from a place of benevolent strength, like a good parent.