"Shift Left" is a saying we often promote to our Value Negotiation customers.
What we mean by this saying is that your salespeople need to start the negotiation strategy early on in the sales process. It needs to be a part of the far left columns in your sales process, not just in the late stages of the opportunity (the sections to the right of the page).
When you begin your negotiation strategy earlier in the sales process, you ensure your team members have visibility on the deal. This step helps you build a strategy and an execution plan that will put you in a better position to deal with challenges in the final stages of the sales process. When you need the support and sign-off of your internal departments, you have to make sure you're enabling them effectively, in a way that preserves company interests and creates a great experience for the customer. This enablement is achieved by providing visibility on the deal earlier in the process. Put simply, it makes your life easier as a salesperson and creates a better customer experience because:
It is easier to quantify pain
Element of time is on your side
More access to key decision makers
It is easier to set expectations
The reason why so many organizations struggle with sales negotiation is that they have trouble getting their teams to "shift left". Both the selling and buying organizations traditionally think of negotiating as a step that starts too late in the process. Often at this point, there are too many factors already stacked against your achieving broader company interests. Those challenges are locked into the deal and, as you know, it's difficult to backtrack the buyer. The best sales negotiators understand that they need to start the negotiation process well in advance of when the actual negotiating begins. This process is carried through the entire sales cycle and into the way they manage the ongoing customer relationship (implementation, up-sell/cross-sell, renewal).
In the early stages, ensure your teams:
understand what the most likely alternatives are to your solution
are recognizing and anticipating anchors and setting them in early conversations
are considering negotiation strategies in pre-call planning and overall sales negotiation
In the mid-stages of the sales process, ensure your teams:
develop initial multiple options early
are working to refine the negotiation strategy, accounting for the internal process
"Deal" rules in our companies are often tied to how the approval needs to happen, not the negotiation strategy. If you don't let legal, finance or the deal desk into the workings of the deal until a certain point, the rules are not going to help you. For example, if I don't go to my legal team with issues early on as I'm baking items into the deal with the customer, the red line process may hurt the leverage I have in negotiations. Legal issues are not always cut and dry. For a large-sized opportunity, legal may say yes to deal components they typically wouldn't agree to because the deal is aligned to the broader company strategy (i.e., multi-year terms).