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Negotiating On The First Tee (Part 1)

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Jun 16, 2020

In this blog post, we discuss the practice of negotiating with your prospect before you begin your presentation.  As is often said in golf, "All bets are won on the first tee," and you must be ready to negotiate price before you present to your client.

In order to increase sales and close more deals, you must understand the client's business strategy, build a strong foundation for negotiation, and cross off all the boxes for a killer Sales DNA.


I play golf. Not very well I might add and that is not something that I’m proud of, but it doesn’t bother me enough to do much about it, other than drop an “F” bomb when a shot goes awry.

Though I am a high handicapper, I do have the ability to put some pars up on the score card ever once in a while, and when I’m playing a low handicapper and I get a stroke or two, I sometimes manage to get a birdie. To you non-golfers, this means absolutely nothing. To those that play the game and occasionally have a friendly wager, you know how this can help you win a few bucks despite some average at best scores.

And so it is with my game and occasional winning of bets. The key however isn’t so much about what I do on the tee box, in the fairway, around the greens or on the putting surface; it has everything to do with what happens before the foursome steps up to the first tee. And that is the arranging, settling and negotiating "strokes" before we begin play.

“All bets are won on the first tee.”

The USGA GHIN helps with that: United States Golf Association Golf Handicap Index Number. I won’t go into the details on the math that creates a GHIN for golfers, I will just help you understand what the intention is. In layman’s terms, it helps level the playing field to end up with a competitive game based on "net" score rather than total score. You can find more information if you are bored and having nothing else to do here.

The theory that"all bets are won on the first tee" also holds true in selling. In other words, you will end up in a more favorable position when negotiating a sale if you do most of the negotiating before you start your presentation. If you have not fairly discussed and agreed to terms before you start then you are sure to lose. Negotiating at that time has cost:

  • Lost time
  • Lost money
  • Lost confidence
  • Lost reputation
Negotiating upfront helps create a better relationship with your new client, allows for a free-flowing discussion about the solutions you are presenting, and alleviates all the pressure of discussing and negotiating terms after you’ve presented. This is how it’s done.

  1. Understanding the business strategy. What we know is that roughly 54% of executives say that their business strategy is to pursue profit. With regard to dealing with the competition, 80% of them say that their goal is to hold firm on pricing. This is important to you as a manager or salesperson because, in order to get the "backing" of your company to approve or close a deal, they want to know if their margins are protected. If getting company approval is important, then you have to make sure your sales strategy is consistent with the corporate strategy – hold firm.
  2. Your own SALES DNA is critical for success. Using the Objective Management Group's Sales Force Evaluation we can predict with 92% certainty who will succeed in selling in your organization. If holding firm to price is critical they must reflect the top 10% of all salespeople in the areas of Need for Approval, Controls Emotions, Supportive Beliefs, Supportive Buy Cycle, Comfort discussing money and finally their ability to handle rejection. Think about those items and how important they would be in a negotiation setting.
  3. Sales Competencies also come into play. How well would a salesperson negotiate if they are desperate for the business because they are not a Hunter? Imagine if they don’t score well in relationship building, consultative selling, or qualifying. But perhaps the strongest competency required is value selling.
  4. Building a strong foundation for when negotiation does take place is a focus that takes place early on in the relationship and the sales process. There are certain strategies that are required in this foundation:
  5. Think It Over (TIO) is not an option.
  6. Confirm the decision-makers and decision-making processes.
  7. Identify the capacity to invest MONEY and TIME and RESOURCES to make changes or make a purchase. Whenever possible you MUST meet with the money person.
  8. The problem the prospect is talking to you about must be a ‘have to fix’ problem. Finally, you must discuss and have clarity on this question: “Who wins a tie?”

These may not take place in any particular order because the dialogue between buyer and seller must be "free-flowing." But when you get back into your car and you are mentally going over what just happened, you must be able to check each one of these areas as COMPLETED.

Failure to do so will lead to negotiating at the wrong time.

To be continued...


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    About our Blog

    Founder and CLO Tony Cole has been working with financial firms for more than 25 years to help them close their sales opportunity gap.  He is a master at using science based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss his weekly sales management blog insights.


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