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The Lost Art of Negotiation in B2B Sales: Rediscovering the Magic of Constants and Variables

Once upon a time, in a bustling B2B market filled with savvy salespeople and skilled buyers, the art of negotiation was a key component in the toolkit of each.

Fast forward to today’s B2B sales landscape and we find ourselves in a world of commoditisation; where products and services have little differentiation and the word "negotiation" seems as ancient as bartering cows for magic beans.

But fear not, for the art of negotiation isn’t lost; it’s just hiding, waiting for a savvy salesperson like you to bring it back into the spotlight and here’s a few tips to help you to do so.

The Commoditisation Conundrum

In the current B2B market, everything from office supplies to software solutions is commoditised. Companies looking to purchase are bombarded by suppliers with similar products at comparable prices, creating a buyer’s paradise but a salesperson’s nightmare.

In this sea of sameness, price can become the primary battleground; and when price is the only focus, true negotiation falls by the wayside, replaced by a race to the bottom. Here's where the ability to negotiate comes in; it has the power to save you from leaving all your margin on the purchaser’s desk.

Negotiation is not about price; it's about crafting mutually beneficial agreements that go beyond the £ sign. However, to master this lost art, we need to revisit the fundamentals and understand the interplay of constants and variables in every deal.

Identifying Constants and Variables

Think of constants as the non-negotiable elements in a deal; the aspects that remain fixed no matter what. Variables, on the other hand, are the flexible components that can be adjusted to create value for both parties. The key to a successful negotiation is to clearly identify these elements before stepping into the negotiation arena.


Constants might include aspects like product quality, compliance with industry standards and core service offerings. For example, if you're selling enterprise software, the constant could be the robust security features that all your clients receive. These are your deal's foundation, strong and immovable. For capital goods, constants could be the specification, size, colour make of your product.


Variables are where the magic happens. They can include delivery timelines, volume, payment terms, additional support services, or customisation options. By playing with these variables, you can craft offers that appeal to your client's unique needs without simply slashing prices.

Imagine offering extended payment terms to a cash-strapped startup or additional training sessions to a client seeking to up-skill their team or higher price for an expedited delivery process. These variables allow you to add value in ways that resonate deeply with your client’s specific situation.

The next time you’re in an Airport take a look at the people paying for excess baggage or accessing a V.I.P lane, that’s the airlines maximising their margin by selling their variables.

Beyond Price: The True Value of Negotiation

While price is undoubtedly important, focusing solely on it is a dangerous trap.

Effective negotiation involves understanding your customer’s underlying needs and interests. It's about asking the right questions and listening actively to uncover what is of value to them.

Maybe it’s not the price that’s the sticking point but the delivery timeline or the level of after-sales support; the better your have qualified the opportunity the more you will know. Negotiation, at its core, is about building relationships and fostering trust.

When you demonstrate that you understand and care about your customer’s unique challenges and goals, you position yourself as a partner rather than just a seller. This partnership mindset opens the door to creative solutions that benefit both parties.

Bringing Back the Art

To revive the art of negotiation in the commoditised B2B world, we need to shift our focus from price to value. By identifying constants and variables, understanding the true needs of our customer and approaching negotiations with a partnership mindset, we can transform a mundane transaction into a masterpiece of mutual benefit.

So, dust off your negotiation skills, bring back the charm, and turn every deal into a win-win situation. After all, in a world of endless commodities, it's the artful negotiators who stand out and succeed.

Happy Negotiating


About johnpc ltd

johnpc ltd helps B2B organisations improve their sales processes, capabilities and results.

Our services are individually tailored to the needs of our customers, with a core focus centred on,

• Sales Transformation Projects

• Sales Skills Training

• Everything DiSC Profiles and Workshops.

The work we do enables our customers to,

• Increase profitability - by improving effectiveness and conversion rates

• Reduce cost - by improving sales processes and productivity

• Enhance reputation - by increasing the professionalism of their sales activity

Please get in touch if you think we can help

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