Negotiating is an important skill for salespeople. While it’s only one part of the sales process, it’s usually the point when things either come together or go completely off the rails. That’s why every salesperson should learn how to negotiate, especially if they’re selling a product that doesn’t have fixed pricing.
But there comes a point in every negotiation when it’s time to throw in the towel. We all want deals to close, but sometimes it’s just not going to work. It can feel terrible to walk away from a negotiation, especially if you’ve invested weeks or months to get the deal to that point. Still, sometimes the best option is to stop negotiating and walk away.
Here are five signs that you’re probably at the point where you might be better off walking away:
1. You’ve reached your “walk-away” point
Before you go into a negotiation, you should always have a “walk-away” point in mind, usually in the form of a number. As a seller, this number is the lowest you can go (discount) before the deal no longer makes sense. It’s critical that you know this number before you sit down to negotiate, and not try to come up with it in the heat of the moment. Once you’ve settled on the number, stick to it. It’s simple: when the person you’re negotiating isn’t willing to meet you at (at least) that number, walk away.
2. There are huge warning signs flashing
In sales (and in dating) we sometimes tend to ignore huge red flags, hoping that things ultimately work out. You ignore them at your own peril, because sooner or later things will go off the rails. When the person you’re negotiating with is telling you things that don’t add up, or you spot something along the way that seems questionable, you’re better off taking a step back or walking away completely until you have a better understanding of what’s actually happening. If not, when the deal falls through, you’ll probably find out that the warning signs were there the whole time.
3. Terms keep changing after an agreement
I once knew a guy whose negotiating tactic was to agree to an initial deal, and then keep changing the terms as the discussion progressed. He did this hoping that the other side was so invested that they’d go along with him, practically in perpetuity. More often than not, he was right. He’d usually end up getting himself a better deal than what was initially agreed upon. This is an absolutely terrible way to negotiate, and you shouldn’t feed into someone who’s playing this game. Sure, the deal might change as more information comes out. But, if someone is changing terms after you already shook on it, you should run away, and fast.
4. Your values are being compromised
This is one of the more difficult dealbreakers to quantify, since everyone has different values. However, it can often be the most important reason to walk away. If making the deal happen would compromise you or your company’s values, then it’s unlikely that it’s going to be worth it. This can take many forms, from putting your coworkers or other customers in a bad position, to asking you to do something unethical or dishonest. Whatever the case, if you’re being asked to deviate from conduct that you believe to be acceptable, then you should walk away. There’s no deal that’s worth losing your integrity over.
5. You can’t honor what’s being requested
This happens when someone wants a deal so badly that they’re willing to overcommit in order to get a signature. The problem with doing this is that you’re setting yourself up for failure. Even if you get the signature and the payment, you’re just going to have a disaster on your hands when you can’t deliver what you’ve promised. The customer will be upset and will want their money back, and will never do business with you again or recommend you to anyone else. If you know you can’t honor what’s being asked, you should do the right thing and walk away.
As an aside, if you do end up walking away, make sure you do it with courtesy and professionalism. Just because a deal didn’t work out this time around doesn’t mean it can’t at some point in the future.