Negotiating in B2B sales, escalation or factual level?

Yesterday, I had a presentation of an offer at a global manufacturer of electrical appliances based in Bern (Switzerland). At the table, I had the CEO and the sales manager. When I got to the topic “Negotiations in B2B”, the CEO asked me what I would do with a “super aggressive buyer” of a retail chain who wants an unrealistic discount under all circumstances, which would bring my sales price to him below my production costs. I would go for it. “The buyer,” the CEO said metaphorically, “takes out the hammer and hits me (the salesman) over the head with it. What do you do with a buyer like that, Mr. Maugeri?”

I started with “win-win” and preparation for negotiations. “The salesperson has to prepare and set goals and try to find out the motives for the buyer’s behaviour and has to try to stay on the factual level”, I said, ” making tough fronts won’t get us anywhere”. “The last resort is of course also available: To break off the negotiation in a friendly and reasonable manner and leave the meeting”, I said.

He found that much too “soft”.

“Returning to the same level, a verbal fist in the face”, the CEO told me, “is the only thing that helps in such a case”.

From my point of view, emotions should be left out of a business negotiation, which of course never succeeds 100%, and one should always try to stay on the factual level. This can be achieved through good preparation and the ability to put yourself in the position of the other party.

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