What You Need to Know About Virtual Negotiations: Drop-the-Rope

It had been a slow sales quarter for me. I needed to close some business and I finally had an opportunity that looked very promising. I’d engaged all the right players, identified the key decision-makers, made sure the project could be funded, and discovered the gaps and objectives that needed to be addressed. 

I had clearly communicated the value of my solution, and had scheduled a conference call with the three key decision-makers to knock out the details… and essentially get the contract signed. They were ready to finalize the project, but then at the last minute they wanted me to take something out of the proposal to reduce the cost of the project.   


How to Handle the Push Back

We’ve all been there before… with everything seemingly a “go.” But then, you’re thrown a curve ball at the final hour.

To appreciate my story, you need to understand something about my business and the solutions that I sell. We charge a daily rate for our trainer’s time to deliver a training program in the classroom and then a licensing fee for the content. 

Much like a software company, the value of our solution is our experience and the years we have put into developing our programs. Remember the old days when you would pay $300 for Microsoft Office, but the disc that contained the content only costs pennies to produce?

The same thing is true for our content. It may only cost a few dollars to produce the actual training material used in a class, but the real value of our programs is found in both the uniqueness of the concepts and the way that they are communicated… all requiring many years of work and experience.

Why is this important? Well, when I was finalizing the deal with my customer, they said that everything looked good… except for the licensing fee. He wanted me to just give them the program that we had worked on for so many years. I wanted to say, 

“No, this is how much it costs to use our program and have it delivered by our training staff. It’s non-negotiable.”  

I really wanted the deal, but there was no way I was going to just give it away. 

Have you ever been in this situation? You know there is value in some part of your solution, but the customer has no clue? 

Here’s another way to think about that situation. 


Should I Fight?

Consider this… what would happen if I gave you the end of a rope and I started pulling? You’d pull back, of course. 

When you feel tension, you naturally dig in and hold your ground. This is the Tug-of-War Principle. People do not like to lose the freedom to choose. When the “rope” is being “pulled,” it feels like their right to choose is being taken away. 

This is a powerful principle that is critical to success in any communication. When my customer objected to paying the licensing fee, he “pulled on the rope.” At that point I had a choice – to pull the rope (i.e., fight) or drop-the-rope. My natural tendency was to fight; to let him know why I was right and he was wrong. But I didn’t… I made another choice. 

I fought every ounce of my being, and instead, I made the decision to drop-the-rope. 

I told the customer: 

“I totally understood. If you’d like to move forward without the licensing fee, I can do that.”

Then, making sure that my meta-message (i.e. the higher level message of the heart, my tone) was pure, I went on to say that if he had a program he wanted us to train, I would make sure that my trainers were brought up to speed on it and we would deliver that program for our daily rate. 

The customer said, “But we don’t have a program.” 

To which I again replied, 

“I understand…and that’s why we charge a licensing fee. We have spent the last 25 years developing a program that is strategically aimed at improving the necessary skills for your sales reps to be successful.”   

Notice that when I dropped the rope, I wasn’t giving up. Dropping the rope actually gave me the platform to be more aggressive in a way that the customer had the freedom to choose. With that and a bit more discussion we were able to move forward and I closed the deal.


Practice Battling Your Instinct to Pull the Rope

Look for opportunities to drop the rope. You need to make this principle a part of your everyday communications. The more you use it when dealing with your friends, children, spouse, etc., the more comfortable you will be fighting the desire to “pull” when there is tension on the other end of the rope. Especially when dealing with your prospects and customers. 

As you practice this principle: 

Write down the top three objections that you face as you finalize a deal. 

Then, write down a couple of drop-the-rope phrases you can use to give the customer the freedom to choose. 

The next time you have a conflict or argument with someone, try letting go. Say things like “You may be right…” or “You may or may not want to…”  

On your next sales calls, give it a try. You’ll be amazed at how powerful this small change can be in the way that you communicate. 


What’s Next?

If you are struggling with negotiation or any other part of selling virtually, you may want to visit our Virtual Selling Skills Program Page for more information on how we have been helping clients improve selling skills since 1996.


As VP of Solutions, Sean’s passion is developing and creating a learning experience that emotionally taps into each learner, matches ASLAN’s commitment to excellence, and exceeds our client’s wildest expectations. Find him on: LinkedIn.

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