“I’ll have to get back to you.” 

This statement has the ability to put an immediate halt to progress in a negotiation. It doesn’t really matter if you are hearing it or saying it — either way it foreshadows lost opportunity. 

There is a good reason why telemarketers and time share salespeople go to great lengths to close the sale right then and there. They know that the moment a potential customer walks away or hangs up the phone, regardless of how genuine their promise to get back was, that sale is likely lost forever. 

Although the consequences are not so dire when negotiating fresh produce, the principle is the same. Once the negotiation session ends without a deal, the probability that an agreement will eventually be reached drops substantially. 

Many things happen between negotiation sessions. If you are a buyer, your supplier could sell their crop, receive a directive to raise costs or decide not to pack a certain product. If you are a seller, your customer could buy elsewhere, decide on a new sales plan with a different product, or even move categories, leaving you with a new buyer with little knowledge of where past negotiations ended. 

In many of these situations the deal is either dead or greatly altered so that it is a mere shadow of its former self.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do to ensure you never hear “I’ll have to get back to you,” but you can put steps in place to ensure you never have to say those words during a negotiation.
It is one of the rules discussed during my negotiation workshops: “Have a complete understanding of what you can offer.”

Substantially more goes into an agreement than just a product and a cost. All the other extraneous bits are part of the overall offer.

For produce sellers, the bits can include volumes available, new product innovations, over and above funding, advertising support, logistics services, category expertise and much more. For a buyer, there are volumes required, ability to test new products, advertisement opportunities, backhaul availability and again, much more. 

Imagine a buyer asking a supplier “Can you reduce your cost for an ad?” or a supplier asking a buyer “Can you list our new products?” and the answer they hear back is “I’ll have to get back to you.” It would stop dead any progress and delay or possibly eliminate the chance of a successful negotiation.

The proper step to avoid these negotiation-killing words is have a complete understanding of what you can offer. One way to do this is to develop a playbook detailing your company’s total offer. This is best accomplished in conjunction with the whole team of buyers or salespeople so that there is no misunderstanding. 

By completing this step, you can comfortably enter a negotiation knowing that you are armed with everything your company has to offer to secure the deal.

Mike Mauti is the managing partner of Toronto-based Execulytics Consulting. E-mail him at mike@execulytics.ca.

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