Episode OneHundredEightyTwo

Part 1: Transparency & Confidence Are Negotiation Partners

Guest: Todd Caponi, Founder and Speaker at Sales Melon

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About This Episode

It sounds counterintuitive to sell based on what’s not great about your product.

In a downmarket, though, it’s essential.

I was so encouraged by the confidence of my podcast guest and friend Todd Caponi, Founder and Speaker at Sales Melon. We talked about transparent negotiation and how to approach a downturn.

“I have always been a nerd for behavioral science,” Todd said. “Anytime I see something happen, I ask, Why did that person make that decision?”

Todd’s fascination with how our brains prioritize led him to quit his job as CRO and write The Transparency Sale, which brings sales and science together.

“It became a passion for me to keep finding doorways that I believe are making the sales profession not only more respected, but more effective too,” he said.

Lead with the negatives

The truth is that sales usually frames their products as perfect when everyone knows that nothing is truly perfect.

“When a website is acting as the salesperson, what makes buying easier? Having both pros and cons right next to the products,” Todd said.

When sellers only give positives, that erodes trust and makes buying cycles longer.

“82 to 85% of us look for the negative reviews first when we go online,” he said. “Our buyers are subconsciously desiring the negatives first so they can predict their experience.”

Todd suggests leading with the negatives.

“We’ve got to give buyers all the information to make more informed, confident decisions — and transparency is the way that it works,” he said.

We as humans feel relieved when we are prepared for and can predict the worst about something.

I mean, right now we’re in one of the most unpredictable time periods that most of us have ever experienced.

People are craving and prioritizing predictability.

Transparent negotiation

In a downmarket, buyers are not spending on discretionary. They’re looking at their essentials.

  1. How do I extend my runway on essentials?
  2. How do I remove cost from essentials to extend my runway on discretionary?

“They’re removing risk in every way possible,” Todd said.

So… why is it that the top negotiating tactics are trust killers?

Now more than ever, buyers want to trust what they’re buying (and who they’re buying from).

“I stumbled upon this idea of transparent negotiating in 2008, and the results were magic,” Todd said.

You as a company care about four things:

  1. Volume (how much buyers buy)
  2. Timing of cash (how fast buyers pay)
  3. Commitment length (how long buyers commit)
  4. Predictability (when buyers sign)

So a buyer asks for a 20% discount. This should be your answer:

“For everything that you give me in the form of one of those 4 things, I’ll pay you in the form of a discount,” Todd said.

  • Sign a longer contract? Discount.
  • Pay faster? Discount.
  • Sign today? Discount.
  • Purchase a greater volume? Discount for that, too.

It’s a negotiation class that takes 20 minutes to teach, but it’s insanely valuable.

It builds trust throughout the whole journey. And it offers discounting while maintaining pricing integrity.

“There are opportunities at every stage of the sales process to not only use transparency to build a stronger relationship, but to speed sales cycles and get more valuable, more predictable deals at the goal line that your customers feel great about,” Todd said.

Sales strategy in a downmarket

Todd shared 3 tips for sales that worked amazingly in our last recession and are timely again today.

1. Optimize the message

Whatever messaging you had before, Todd said to throw it out. 

“Start over. Who are you today given the current environment?” he said.

2. Optimize the buying journey

Search relentlessly for anything you can do to make engagement easier.

Hint: Transparency across the buyer journey reduces the friction of engagement.

Initial engagement by sharing negatives, the way you discuss price in negotiation by not crushing trust, and laying out what the post-purchase journey will look like — all are great techniques.

Oh, and completely remove all the auto renewal language from your contracts.

3. Use extreme firmographic focus

Find a customer set that is still using what you’re selling.

“What’s your positioning? What is it about those companies?” Todd said.

Firmographics means verticals, geos, company sizes, all the data you can find.

Then have your reps prioritize those types of companies on their account list. “That’s all they’re going to call on for the next two to three weeks,” Todd said.

Reps will become proficient in those spaces very quickly, with two results.

  • First, reps will be confident.
  • Second, customers will catch the confidence message and also become confident.

“That’s a behavioral science thing,” Todd explained. “When we sense that somebody is confident, we also become confident. It lights up that part of our brain.”

Extreme firmographic focus in a downturn does more than just focus the organization. “That confidence becomes contagious and that speeds buying journeys measurably,” he said.

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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