All posts by NTI

Always Be Closing: The Art of the Grand Finale

The three most important words for any business are: sell, sell, sell.  Good salespeople are constantly looking at situations as opportunities to complete a sale.  They never forget to bring contracts with them, never forget to ask for the deal, and never forget to get the client to sign on the dotted line. Just like the iconic line from Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, good salespeople understand the art of ABC: Always Be Closing.   If they want to survive in the industry, salespeople need to understand what it takes to get to “yes!”  There are dozens of techniques in the world of sales, but these are just a few things to keep in mind in order to close deals.

Know Your Prospect

Everyone wants to feel unique and important and good salespeople understand that selling is all about building trust and rapport with the client.  Take time to talk to the client and find out what is motivating them.  What are their concerns? What are they trying to achieve? Taking a genuine interest in your client and their needs will go a long way towards closing the deal.  After all, people like to buy from people they like and trust.

Be Authentic

People can smell a greedy salesperson from a mile away.  Clients can sense if you really care about them or you are just trying to get their money. Therefore, it’s important to convey to the client that you have their best interest in mind.  Avoid coming on too strong, as this is likely to backfire.

Define the Problem

Let’s face it…client’s don’t look to make purchases because they enjoy spending money.  They come to you because they have a problem that needs a solution.  It’s up to the salesperson to determine what that problem is and play to that by offering a solution.  For example, people don’t’ stop by car lots because they want to enjoy the afternoon outdoors.  They come to a car lot because they need a new car.  Maybe their car is too small or has too many miles on it.  Whatever the reason, the salesman will try to determine their motivation for buying and select a car that provides everything the person is looking for.  The fact is, even if someone wasn’t planning on making a purchase that day, they are enticed to commit when they feel like they have found a solution for their problem. 

Know Your Competition

No matter what you are selling, there will always be someone else selling the very same thing.  What is it that sets you apart from the competition?  Familiarize yourself with your competitors and be prepared to explain what makes you different.  You need to be able to convince the client that even if your price might be a little higher, they are getting better quality and service when they choose you.  This doesn’t mean you should insult the competition, as this could cost you the sale.  Rather, praise the competition for their strengths and point out where you can outshine them.

Create a Sense of Urgency

You should always attach a deadline to the deal to push the client to commit.  You might do this by offering a discount or special if they sign up now.  The goal is not to rush the customer, but rather give them a little extra incentive to move forward and commit. 

Does Your Business Need a New Vehicle? Sharpen Your Negotiation Skills

In order for any business to succeed, its employees must have goals and drive.  In business, employees want to succeed and companies want to boost sales.  However, is drive and ambition alone enough to reach these goals?  The fact is it takes more than just ambition to see measurable results and growth in a company.  If your employees seem to be struggling to produce and sales have hit a lull, it might be time to try a new tactic: strengthening your team’s negotiation skills.  While sales techniques, trends, and technology are always changing and evolving, the benefits of good negotiation have remained the same.  Strong negotiation skills can be the difference between a beneficial compromise and a loss.  There will always be conflicts in the business world, but the ability to solve them is a critical component in creating success.  Here are a few ways in which sharpening your team’s negation skills can contribute significantly to your business’s success. 

Build Better Relationships

A negotiation involves two parties trying to come to an agreement when both sides might want different things.  Experienced negotiators understand the importance of listening to the needs of their counterpart, communicating effectively with them, and building trust in the relationship.  When you focus on strengthening the negotiation skills of your team, you are teaching them how to build these personal relationships with clients.  When both parties share a personal relationship it is easier to employ the give and take tactic in order to reach a solution.  If the other party believes that you are genuinely looking for mutual benefit, he or she is far more likely to make a concession.  By strengthening your negotiation skills, you are in turn build better relationships with clients that will be long lasting.  

Deliver Lasting, Quality Solutions

A successful negotiation does not mean “winning” the argument.  Great negotiators understand that a successful negotiation involves reaching an agreement that is mutually beneficial for both parties.  When you teach your team how to negotiate properly, they learn that it is better to negotiate for long-lasting quality solutions as opposed to short-term solutions that will not benefit each party in the long run. A good negotiation leaves both parties satisfied and ready to do business again.

Helps to Avoid Conflict

Conflict is an inevitable part of business, but employees who have strong negotiation skills know how to avoid conflict or quickly appease it with a peaceful solution. If a salesperson sees themselves as an adversary of the client, both sides are more likely to get defensive and reactive with each other.  However, experienced negotiators know how to work toward mutual agreement by building personal relationships with their clients.  They view their client as a teammate rather than an opponent.

Boost Sales and Increase Productivity

When employees are giving opportunities to strengthen and enhance their negotiation skills, they become more confident in their ability.  In turn, they are more likely to close deals and increase sales.  It is in the best interest of any company to invest in negotiation training.  It will give employees the tools needed to reach success and will lead to increased productivity for the company as a whole.

Instant Product Placement

Product placement is nothing new.  It is an advertising technique that has been around for years.  The mechanics involve using a celebrity endorsement or some other form of popular influence to promote a brand.  The idea is to drive sales and gain popularity with the help of these influences. The brand pays for their product or service to be mentioned by the celebrity or featured on a commercial or in a movie.  For examples of product placement, simply refer to movies or commercials where you will see celebrities using beauty products, drinking sodas, wearing specific clothing, and name-dropping their favorite brands and designers.  These days, however, product placement takes on a whole new meaning.  With new forms of communication and advertising via the online and mobile arenas, there are new opportunities for product placement.  Social media is one such arena.  Today, celebrities and social influencers have the ability to reach millions of fans and followers through their social media accounts.  For example, when Kim Kardashian wears a new outfit and posts a picture on Instagram, nearly 100 million followers will see it.  Instagram has nearly 700 million monthly active users and 400 million daily active users.  This can be a big draw for companies looking for new ways to reach consumers. 

Influencers can be paid to sponsor a product or service through their social media account.  The benefit is that many of their followers will consider them a trusted source and therefore be more motivated to check out the brand.  Similarly, you can purchase social media followers; whereas your brand appears to be popular and well-liked by thousands or even millions of other followers.  As with anything, however, there are risks involved.  There is the chance that you invest on renting or purchasing followers but actual engagement is very low.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when negotiating the purchase or rental of social media followers.

Know Your End Goal

If your goal is simply to have a large follower count, than you can use choose to rent or purchase followers at a reasonably cheap price.  However, these followers will likely be robots or inactive accounts.  If your goal is numbers alone, this might be a viable option for you.  Conversely, you might want to ensure that your followers are real people.  After all, you could end up losing a lot of credibility if your customers find out that those followers aren’t real people.  In this instance, it would be worth it to pay more for real accounts. 

Determine a Length for Your Campaign

Most influencers want to know how long they are going to be in the game before they sign up for something.  Knowing the length of your campaign on the front end could end up saving you money.  If you are only planning to purchase or rent followers for a short period of time, the influencer might be willing to offer that at a lower price than if you wanted to borrow their followers for an entire year.

Consider Various Forms of Compensation

Most influencers will be willing to negotiate their compensation.  Depending on the campaign, you might have to be prepared to pay cash but in some cases the influencer might be willing to take other forms of compensation.  Be prepared to offer free services, swag, products, or discounts to the influencer as part of their compensation.

Get Affordable Health Care for Your Business

One challenge that faces many small business owners is the ever increasing costs associated with employee health care.  It can be quite a challenge just to keep health care costs flat, let along reducing them.  This leaves many small business owners worried about the constantly rising price tag.  That said there are some things small business can do to curve these hefty costs.  Here are a few options small firms might consider to try lowering their health care costs.

Negotiate Your Rates

One way business can lower healthcare costs is to negotiate their group insurance premium. Many businesses think that when their new annual premium arrives in the mail, that number is set in stone.  However, the truth is many of these firms have more leverage than they realize.  While health insurers will provide reasons for the increased rates, a good broker can point out factors that the insurer should take into account to lower the premium.  For example, if a claimant has since left the company or the health of the company is improving, these are factors that can give businesses some leverage to reduce costs. 

Check Out the SHOP Exchange

This is a viable option for businesses with 50 or fewer employees.  These small businesses can turn to the Small Business Health Options (SHOP) Exchange, which is a federal marketplace where businesses can shop for small-business plans.  It also provides access to small business health care tax credits.  Some states even offer “employee choice” plans where the employer can designate the amount of money they want to contribute to premiums and the employees can choose which health and dental plan best suits their needs.

Convert Your Group Plan into Individual Plans

Another option for small businesses that can help cut down on costs is to convert employees to individual plans as opposed to a group plan and then offer to reimburse employees for their premium. Individual insurance tends to be better and cheaper than group health insurance, and companies can have complete control over the cost of the health care plans. 

Consider Direct Primary Care

This type of health care is becoming increasingly popular as more and more primary-care physicians are partnering with employers to deliver affordable preventative and primary care at a fixed-monthly membership rate.  Instead of billing a patient’s insurance company, direct primary care providers charge users a monthly fee for unlimited access to their doctor.  While it can be a much more affordable option for basic health care, it does not cover catastrophic illness.  Therefore, it would need to be used in conjunction with a high-deductible health insurance plan.  This is still a more affordable option that many traditional group plans.

Lower Your Health Care Cost- How to Negotiate with Local Pharmacies

The way it works in America, most employers give total control of health care costs to their health insurers, hospitals, pharmacies, and the companies that manage their benefits.  The costs are so dense that many employers don’t feel like they are equipped to sort through all of it, so they don’t.  This failure to negotiate lower costs can partially explain why Americans pay some of the highest health care costs in the world.  However, employers don’t have to be at the mercy of insurance companies and hospitals.  They actually have the power to negotiate these costs in order to lower health care rates for employees.  As drug costs rise, employees are left paying premium prices for their prescriptions.  Here’s how employers can help by negotiating these rising costs with local pharmacies.

Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM’s) are third-party administrators who manage prescription drug plans for employers.  These PBM’s negotiate with pharmaceutical manufacturers to set prices for drugs and they can also negotiate rebates for drugs.  What this means for employers is that they should contact their local pharmacy and discuss options for using various PBM’s in order to find the PBM that is willing to give them the best deal on drug prices.  Furthermore, employers should contact local pharmacies about rebate options.  If a pharmacy wants to get the business of a particular PBM, they will negotiate rebate offers and discounts on certain drugs for employers. 

Many PBM’s retain profits based on the drug prices they negotiate with the specific pharmacy.  If an employer wants to get lower drug pricing from the pharmacy, they need to ask the pharmacy to shop PBM’s to get the lowest drug costs.  Employers can also choose to exclude certain drugs from their health plan, unless the pharmacy can offer an acceptable price.  This is a great negotiating tactic for employers because if the pharmacy isn’t selling certain drugs, they will be losing money.  This is especially true with new drugs on the market.  There is exponential pressure for pharmacies to sell these new drugs, but employers can set a rule that certain drugs would be excluded if their price exceeded a specified cost per quality adjusted life year.  Therefore, it is in the best interest of the pharmacy to work a deal with employers so that employees continue purchasing these drugs from the pharmacy. 

5 Things to Remember When Negotiating with a Supervisor

Negotiating with your supervisor can be intimidating.  In fact, it can be one of the most challenging types of negotiation in the workplace.  It can be even more daunting when you are asking for something that is important to you such as a pay raise, time off, or flexible scheduling.  Unlike negotiating with clients, negotiating with your supervisor is different because your relationship with them can have an impact on your career.  Therefore, it is important to keep a few important things in mind when negotiating with a supervisor so you can achieve your objectives while also maintaining a good relationship with your boss. 

  1. You Have to Be Flexible

You obviously enter into a negotiation with your supervisor because there is something you want.  However, there might be times when your boss has real constraints and cannot give you what you want.  If the answer is “no,” it is important to remember that there might be a plausible reason.  It might be that your supervisor thinks you are worthy of a promotion but cannot do it right away.  In these instances, you should be flexible and try to come up with another solution for the time being.  For example, if your supervisor cannot promote you right away, perhaps he/she can give you a higher salary until the promotion is possible.  When you show that you are willing to be flexible, your supervisor will take notice and is more likely to present opportunities to you in the future. 

  • Control Your Emotions

Whenever you enter into a negotiation you must remember to leave your emotions at the door.  No matter how much you think you deserve a raise or how hard you have worked for that promotion, the fact is you will get ahead by being rational.  This means you need to lead with facts instead of emotions.  Back up your points with concrete data and examples.  If you are asking for a raise, for example, talk to your boss about your accomplishments and projects you have completed that make you worthy of a raise.  It is important to remain as neutral as possible and stick to the issues rather than your feelings.

  • Timing is Everything

When you are going to negotiate with your supervisor be strategic about your timing.  Approach your boss when you know the time is right.  For example, you wouldn’t want to walk into their office right after they got done dealing with a bad situation.  Likewise, you don’t want to approach them at the end of the day on a Friday.  Choose a time that is ideal and also try to choose a time that coincides with a successful project that you have just completed.

  • You Need to Listen

All too often we enter into a negotiation so determined to get what we want that we forget there are two sides to every situation.  Just as you want your supervisor to hear your perspective, you also have to listen to their thoughts with an open mind.  If your boss says something that you don’t agree with, don’t get defensive right away.  Instead, try putting yourself in their shoes in order to understand their opinion.  Active listening will build respect and foster mutual understanding. 

  • You Need to Come Prepared

Taking the time to jot down your talking points is very important before a negotiation with your supervisor.  Chances are you are going to be nervous and your nerves can cause you to forget everything you planned to say.  Planning ahead will also make you appear more confident during the negotiation.  It can also be helpful to rehearse the negotiation with a friend to get their perspective on how your points come across.  Remember that you don’t want the negotiation to feel memorized, but planning and preparation can help you recall important facts when you are stressed.

4 Tips for Negotiating with a Subordinate

The relationship between a manager and subordinate plays a critical role in the success of the business.  Successful managers work to bring out the best in the people who work for them. While the relationship can be friendly, it is also the duty of the manager to make sure their subordinate is adequately performing the tasks assigned to them.  This means it is important for managers to handle negotiations with their subordinates in a professional and effective manner.  Here are a few tips for negotiating with a subordinate in a way that reflects mutual respect while also catering to the needs of the company. 

  1. Don’t Play the Power Card

It’s no secret that it can be very intimidating for a subordinate to negotiate with their boss.  However, this doesn’t mean that the manager gets a free pass to abuse their power.  It can be very easy for managers to use their authority to sway the negotiation.  After all, they are the ones with the power to accept or deny the request.  When managers abuse their power, it creates an unhealthy relationship with subordinates and will directly affect employee morale.  Therefore, managers need to respect their subordinates by listening to them with an open mind.

  • Clarify Expectations

If your subordinate comes to you with a negotiation such as a pay raise or promotion and you are not going to give them what they want, it is important to explain why.  Instead of just saying “no” managers should give a plausible reason for their answer.  This is an opportunity to clarify expectations for the employee and let them know exactly what they need to do to earn that pay raise or promotion.  It can be used as a teaching opportunity for the employee.

  • Listen

It has been said time and time again but listening is such an important part of any negotiation.  This is especially true with a manager/subordinate relationship.  When managers listen to their employees, it demonstrates mutual respect and understanding.  Instead of getting defensive or immediately telling the employee “no,” a manager should hear them out and give them an opportunity to explain their points.  Employees truly value a manager who is willing to listen to them and let their voices be heard.

  • Lead by Example

Negotiating is an important business skill and if you want your employees to become better negotiators, there is no better way to encourage that than leading them with a good example.  This means listening to what your employee has to say, backing up your points with credible facts, and offering a flexible solution.  Your subordinates will not only appreciate your willingness to hear them out, but they will be getting firsthand experience with how a proper negotiation should take place.

How to Negotiate a Better Benefits Package

There was once a time when new hires negotiated salary alone or even just accepted whatever was offered to them.  With today’s competitive job market, however, applicants are more confident about asking for what they want- including higher salaries and a better employee benefits package.  The fact is millennials are motivated by more than just money.  They understand the importance of negotiating for other benefits and they aren’t afraid to do it.  But how exactly do you negotiate for better benefits and how far can you push it?  Here are some tips to help you negotiate a better benefits package.

Health Coverage

It’s unlikely that you will be able to negotiate a better rate within the company health care plan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still negotiate health coverage.  If you already have health coverage through your spouse, for example, you could try to negotiate a higher salary if you choose to forego the insurance plan at work.  Hiring managers might actually be willing to negotiate with you because the cost of offering insurance to employees can be very expensive. 

Bonuses and Commission

You might not be able to increase your base salary but you can up the ante by asking your employer about the possibility of earning a bonus based on performance.   If the company offers a 401(k) plan, consider negotiating for matching funds or additional annual contributions.  No matter what you negotiate, be sure to get the details of the bonuses or commission in writing so you can be clear about the expectations.

Time Off

This is one part of the employee benefits package that might be more negotiable than other parts.  Most employees are given a standard 2 weeks of vacation but you could negotiate an extra week right from the start.  If your boss isn’t willing to give you extra time right away, you could negotiate for your time to accrue more quickly than they normally would.  A third option would be to request unpaid time off from time to time.

Flexible Work Hours

One of the best perks to have in any employee benefits package is the option to have a flexible work schedule.  Working from home once or twice a week or coming in an hour later each day might give you the flexibility you need to get kids to and from school. When you have a little more flexibility it can improve morale, save time on commuting to work, and allow you to be more productive. 

Continuing Education

Another option that can be negotiated into a benefits package is the option to enroll in continuing education classes.  You might ask if the employer is willing to provide financial support for obtaining certification or if they would be willing to provide training that would benefit you and the organization. 

The most important thing to remember when negotiating a benefits package is to make sure that any agreements or adjustments are clearly outlined in your contract or offer letter.  It is easy to forget the specifics of what was said in a meeting and miscommunication can also cause issues so be sure all details of your employee benefits package are in writing.  

When to Negotiate Your Vacation Schedule

Everybody wants more time off, but what most people don’t realize is that you can negotiate for more paid vacation just as you would a pay raise.  If you are reasonable with your request and you can prove your worth to the company it is likely that your boss will consider your request.  If you want to negotiate for more vacation, you need to be strategic about the timing of your request.  Here are a few times that are most ideal for negotiating additional vacation.

During the Hiring Process

While there is no wrong time to negotiate for more vacation days, it tends to get harder if you have been at your job for a while.  Your manager has been able to offer you this vacation package for a period of time with no problems and might be less likely to reconsider it.  On the other hand, if you negotiate for more vacation right from the start, you tend to have a little more power.  When a company has decided that they want to hire you and they are in the process of enticing you, they are more open to accommodating your requests.

During a Performance Review

If you are trying to negotiate more vacation time in your current job, it makes sense to do it during a performance review or evaluation.  This provides you with a natural opening to the conversation where you and your boss are already reflecting on and discussing your performance.  This is an ideal time to bring up any concerns you might have including your desire for more vacation time.  Use your performance review as an opportunity to show your value to the company and ask to be rewarded with a few extra vacation days.

Right After You Successfully Completed a Project

It might be that your annual performance review isn’t for another six months but you don’t want to wait to ask for more vacation time.  In this case, it is important to time the negotiation right.  Wait until right after you have successfully completed a big project and then go to your boss with the request.  Bring evidence to support your achievements and be prepared to prove your value to the company.  Your boss is likely to be pleased with the recent project you have completed and might be more open to negotiating extra vacation time as a reward for a job well done.  

Anytime You Have Leverage

The best time to negotiate anything is when you have leverage in the discussion.  You have the most leverage when your manager sees you as a valuable asset to the company.  This is one reason why it is always best to ask for more vacation time right from the start during the hiring process.  If the manager already sees you in the job, they are more likely to negotiate benefits to entice you.  Likewise, if you have been performing well and exceeding expectations at work, your manager will see just how much value you bring to the company and might be willing to show their appreciation and dedication to you by giving you more vacation time.    In any case, more vacation time will not just be given to you.  You have to ask for it.  Therefore, wait until the time as right and don’t hesitate to negotiate for additional time off.

How to Be the Best Negotiator- Knowing the Needs and Wants of Your Competitor

How to Be the Best Negotiator- Knowing the Needs and Wants of Your Competitor

In today’s competitive business climate, the ability to negotiate can mean the difference between success and failure. It can have a huge impact on your career and can help you earn more money and a higher title.  For this reason, negotiation skills are a must for anyone looking to achieve their professional goals.  While there is no denying the importance of negotiation, this begs the question, “Just how good are your negotiation skills?”  With the right techniques and plenty of practice, you too can become a successful negotiator.  Here are a few tips for strengthening your negotiation skills.

Stop Talking and Start Listening

Any experienced negotiator will tell you that listening is the key to closing the deal; however, many novice negotiators are terrible listeners.  Unfortunately they spend so much time talking about themselves and their product that they never give their counterpart a chance to talk.  Negotiation is all about doing some detective work.  You should ask a few probing questions and then close your mouth.  The other party will tell you everything you need to know-all you have to do is listen.  A good rule of thumb to follow is the 70/30 rule- listen 70% of the time and talk only 30% of the time.  Encourage the other party to talk by asking plenty of open-ended questions and listen carefully to their answers.  This will help you to find out exactly what they need and want.

Do Your Homework

A large part of the negotiation happens before you ever even step foot inside the meeting.  It is imperative that you gather as much pertinent information as possible prior to the negotiation.  This is vital to the success of the negotiation.  You need to find the answers to a few important questions: What are their needs?  What options do they have? What pressures do they feel?  The more information you have about the people you are dealing with, the stronger your negotiation will be.

Focus on Their Pressures and Not Your Own

Novice negotiators have a tendency to focus on their own pressure and the reasons they need to close the deal.  However, this puts them at a great disadvantage and makes the counterpart more powerful.  Instead, focus on the pressures of the other side.  When you understand their pressure points, you are able to offer solutions to meet their needs and they will be more likely to concede.  If you feel like the other party is under pressure, this is your chance to exploit that pressure in order to close the deal.

Show the Other Side How You Can Meet their Needs

The best negotiators look at the deal from the other side’s perspective.  Instead of trying to “win” the negotiation, seek to understand the needs and wants of the other party and offer solutions that will make the other side feel satisfied.  All too often negotiations get sidetracked because both parties are only looking out for themselves.  When you start focusing on the needs of your counterpart, you begin to earn their trust and make them feel as if you are working for them.