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This deadly simple negotiation mistake is costing you deals. Here’s how to avoid it.

Gong Labs Devin Reed March 3, 2021

This article is part of the Gong Labs series, where I publish findings from our data research team. We analyze sales conversations and deals using AI, then share the results to help you win more deals. Follow me to read upcoming research.

Only a small number of sales pros become truly effective negotiators. 

That’s because most of us aren’t trained to handle these high-stakes conversations.

The result? We either lose winnable deals, or win the deal but give up way too much and leave money on the table.

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:

I was working a deal a couple of years ago that was getting close to the finish line. 

There was some back and forth over email about pricing and payment terms — the usual. 

After what felt like a hundred rounds of give and take, the buyer asked for my “best and final” to take to his CFO.

I squirmed. No sales rep likes giving a “take it or leave it offer,” let alone over email. 

I didn’t want to send it, but I needed the deal to hit quota.

End-of-quarter desperation was creeping in. I sent it. 

Then. Crickets. 

No response. Not that day, or the next. Not ever. 

I got ghosted at the finish line. 

I later found out that my prospect used my offer to negotiate against a competitor. They came in lower and he took their deal.

S%*&!

Blame me, blame the prospect, blame my lack of discipline for emailing that offer. 

But it got me thinking… maybe negotiating over email is a pitfall sales teams everywhere experience.

So I had the Gong Labs team analyze how emailing pricing affects your win rates.

And the answer will change how you sell.

Moneyball for sales

Before we dive into some eyebrow-raising insights, here’s a quick explanation of how we get our data at Gong Labs. 

We analyze customers’ sales interactions captured by Gong’s Revenue Intelligence Platform, including web-conference meetings, phone calls, and emails. Then we look at how seller and buyer actions impact success rates. 

For this report we analyzed 37,671 sales opportunities, specifically looking at how emailing price impacted deal success. We singled out emails that discussed “price”, “budget”, and other similar phrases.

Now that you’re up to speed, here’s what you came for…

(PS: Want to add some horsepower to your next closing call? Download the 10 Golden Rules of Pricing Conversations here for free.)

Share pricing via email, but DON’T negotiate!

We analyzed how emailing price affected win rates and found some interesting trends. 

Discussing price over email has a significant (and positive!) impact on win rates:

First, the good news, it’s safe to share price via email

In fact, it’s a good thing. Win rates spike once pricing is shared over email compared to when it’s never emailed, and it doesn’t matter if the buyer or seller brings it up first. 

There are mixed opinions on when to share price, but our data has shown time and again that getting it out of the way early is best.

That’s because at the end of the day, buyers need to know whether your solution is within their means. Why bother chatting otherwise? 

So share your price early on. It appears to have no negative repercussions (as long as you don’t say “list price.” Read more on that here.). 

But once pricing is shared, that’s when things get risky.

STOP negotiating price over email

Did you notice it? That clear point where win rates start to dip? That’s when negotiations begin:

It’s important to know that once you introduce pricing into the conversation, it will inevitably evolve into a negotiation.

It might be obvious, like your buyer asking for a lower price.

Or they might ask a (seemingly) innocent question like “Does your finance team allow net 60?”

It’s tempting to reply with a “Yeah no problem” to keep the deal moving. 

Here’s the thing: 

Once your buyer asks for anything, negotiation has begun. 

It’s important that you recognize this signal because it shifts the conversation dynamic. When it happens, you should immediately get proactive. 

It’s important that you have tactics that move the conversation to a place where you can win — like a phone call or web conference meeting. 

Why negotiating over email is a losing strategy

Having a prospect leverage your price to get a better deal from your competitor is just one of the many negative outcomes of negotiating by email.  

Here are two more:

Your meaning is lost.

50% of written communication is misunderstood by the recipient (Nick Morgan, Can you Hear Me?). Your messaging can easily come across as too aggressive, creating tension where there was none, or as too passive — and the more you give, the more they’ll take. 

Skip the part where your email unintentionally drives a deal sideways: don’t execute any of the actual negotiations over email. 

It gives buyers the upper hand: time.

When you email your offer when negotiating, your buyer can take as long as they want to think and counter. That’s going to really slow your sales cycle. 

But it’s especially dangerous if it’s near the end of month or quarter. Smart (and shrewd) buyers will purposely drag out negotiations to put you in a corner so you become desperate, knowing you’re more likely to accept anything to get the deal done. 

Emails are there to help you set up calls, confirm the contents of those calls afterwards, and send along any info you promised to deliver. In this virtual selling reality, email is best for sharing information but NOT for negotiating.

How to completely avoid this mistake

The system that works best in today’s virtual sales environment is using both email and the phone to finalize price. 

You just have to switch back and forth at the right times, moving negotiations to where you can win (the phone):

  • Email your price, then negotiate by phone
  • Negotiate by phone, then send an email to confirm the price you discussed

Win rates are significantly higher when pricing is covered over both channels instead of only one:

Here’s a quick email template I used all the time to move discussions to the phone:

Hi [Prospect Name],

Totally makes sense. Let’s hop on a quick call to align pricing with your budget plus answer any questions. I’m sure we can knock this out in 7-9 minutes tops. 

Does tomorrow at 4 PM PT work?

-[Sender name]

Why this works…

You validate their objection/concern, assert that it’s in their best interest to discuss this topic directly, and confirm the small time investment. Closing with a specific CTA makes it easy to say Yes.

It’s not an email about you, it’s about them. 

Now you’re completely ready to win… sort of. 

Avoid these 9 pricing pitfalls in your next call

I wish I could tell you that this post is enough to make you a masterful negotiator (move over, Chris Voss!).

Truth is, there are 9 more pricing pitfalls that great reps fall into all the time. 

That’s why, in an effort to save your deals, I created the 10 Golden Rules of Pricing Conversations.

It includes errors that we uncovered through data analysis (much like today’s post), and what to do instead. 

If you want to fast-track your earning potential and protect your pipeline, it’s a no-brainer. 

Download the 10 Golden Rules of Pricing Conversations for free

If you’ve been following me, you know I can’t keep a secret. 

I share everything I know when it comes to sales know-how. 

That’s because I believe in sharing what I’ve learned (often the hard way, other times through data) so you can learn faster than I did. 

It’s simple — I just think it’s good sales karma. 

If you’re also in the game of making the people next to you better, share this post with your team and fellow sales pros

And yes, it’s okay to share it over email.

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Devin Reed

Devin Reed is the Head of Content Strategy at Gong - the #1 Revenue Intelligence Platform for Sales.

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