A Leader’s Guide: Diagnosing Negotiations Skills Deficiency in Sales


This is a guest post from Mike Milich – founder of SwiftNegotia and the guy you want to know if you’re doing any serious (big dollar) negotiations.  Mike was generous enough to share the following post – and it’s a great way to quickly diagnose if there’s a lack of skills problem in your team. What would it mean to your organization if you could improve your margins by a minimum of 2% or 3%?  What about if you could close deals 10% to 20% faster and with less push back from the clients?  If that sounds like it would be helpful – let us know and we’ll get you an introduction to Mike…!


My grandfather use to say, “Sometimes you don’t know that you’re in the dark until someone turns the light on.” That’s often true when it comes to salespeople and negotiating.

A skilled negotiator (with the emphasis on “skilled”) will produce a good deal in tough circumstances and close business in situations where a highly skilled sales person will fail – unless, the salesperson gives away the farm. We see that far too often.

The truth is that a sales person who is also a skilled negotiator can “change gears on the fly” and convert a selling situation into a negotiation in order to get the business closed or move the sales cycle forward faster. Importantly, a skilled negotiator can do this without damaging the relationship.

Negotiating skills are not super selling skills.

As a leader, the ability to determine whether your sales organization has a negotiation skills deficiency is critical. To do this you need to know how to get past all the spin and unskilled analysis that creates enough fog to make diagnosing the problem nearly impossible.

Here are some of the most visible signs and symptoms to look for:



1. Our salespeople don’t get enough back for what we give away to our customers. In some instances, our customers have come to expect that we give things away to them without getting any real value in return.

2. Procurement is a real problem for us.

3. Our margins are shrinking.

4. Customers for whom we are “bending over backwards” to please, and meeting their demands, are becoming even more demanding and more difficult instead of showing their appreciation for what we’ve done.

5. When our salespeople get resistance from the customer, they attempt to persuade the customer. If their ability to persuade fails, they focus on price.

6. The arguments for lowering our price are typically: our “value proposition” isn’t strong enough, 2) the customer is only focused on price, 3) there’s a “difficult” personality on the other side that we need to “keep happy” and maintain a “good relationship”; 4) we’re in a weak position.

7. Generally, our salespeople believe that we are in a weak position with our customers.

8. I am asked more frequently than I would like to become involved in a negotiation, or I feel like I need to be involved in the negotiations. This takes up more time than I would like devote because I have other competing priorities.

9.  We don’t get access to the right influencers and stakeholders.

10. Our negotiations take a too long to conclude which lengthens the sales cycle.

11. We have a lot of salespeople that rely too heavily on “relationship selling” in a market that has moved away from relationship based selling.

12. It’s possible that our salespeople could do deals that were at least 5% more favorable to us.

If you find yourself agreeing with at least two of the indicators above, then it’s very likely that your sales organization does not have skilled negotiators and there’s a real opportunity to improve your results; in that case, we’d like to talk with you about trying a different approach that works.

Mike Milich and SwiftNegotia have a broad base of services (from direct negotiation support to skills development training and organizational competency). Our services are designed to align with our client’s situation and timing.

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” — Michael Jordan, six-time NBA champion and five-time MVP.