What Makes a Successful Business Negotiator?

GETTING TO YES…

Two people are engaged in a negotiation – one achieves his/her objective(s) and is pleased, whilst the other walks away disappointed with the outcome.

How often have you felt dissatisfied with an agreement that you have reached? Have you ever entered into an agreement only to feel remorse soon after sealing the deal?

SUCCESS VS FAILURE

What then distinguishes success vs failure in business negotiations? Do we ascribe our business negotiation success to the characteristics & personality traits that we were born with, or are there conscious developmental actions that we can take to improve our negotiated outcomes? Many of us find ourselves in positions where we have to negotiate professionally on a daily basis. Most of us recognise the importance of preparation to achieve success in almost anything we do.

It is therefore quite interesting to note that the majority of business negotiators do not spend adequate time preparing for negotiations. It is a well established fact that professional sports people spend significantly more time preparing for competition than they spend in competition. Should it be any different for business negotiators?

THE EVIDENCE

Research conducted by The Negotiation Academy has found that from a group of 430 business negotiators surveyed, the average time spent in preparation as a ratio against time spent in actual negotiations amounts to an average of 35%. In other words, business negotiators only spend approximately 1/3 as much time preparing for negotiation as they actually spend in negotiation.

Let us add some perspective to this startling statistic. If you were a professional sports person, this would mean that you spent only 1/3 as much time training & preparing as you do competing. Small wonder then that so many people are disappointed with their negotiated outcomes. It follows that the number 1 contributor to successful business negotiation outcomes is the quality of our preparation for the negotiation.

The Top 5 Components of Preparation:

1. Understand Yourself

Before we even begin to understand and apply best- and leading practice negotiation, it is imperative that we first invest in understanding ourselves. Any professional sports person will tell you that the cornerstone of improvement is gaining an understanding of your own strengths & weaknesses. The idea is to optimise your strengths and find ways to minimise the impact of weaknesses. In negotiation, it is important that we make use of personal profiling tools, such as the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument, to highlight our areas of preference within the context of negotiations. This is like the golfer being videotaped with a view to having his or her swing analysed. It enables us to have a reference point from which to plot our skills development.

2. Vision

What is the vision or ultimate goal behind the negotiation? Is your negotiation really about price or is it about the value that can be derived/added? What are the main motivating factors behind your counterparty’s position in the negotiation? What common ground, if any, exists between your vision and your counterparty’s vision? It is important to understand the drivers or silent motivations behind the positions of all parties to the negotiation. It is only by asking questions that we will uncover the real motivations behind these positions assumed by our counterparties.

3. Value

What are the key deal objectives being pursued in this negotiation? What are the facts and figures supporting the negotiation environment? What alternatives does each party have, if any? Once again we should try to identify, prioritise & weigh the objectives of all parties to the negotiation. Once this has been achieved, we are in a position to highlight those objectives that are shared and at the same time, we can prepare ourselves to deal with those objectives that are likely to cause conflict.

4. Process

Have you spent time thinking about an agenda for your upcoming negotiation? Will you note all the concessions that you will give & receive? Will you ensure that the negotiation is minuted? Do you have tools/templates at your disposal to support the effectiveness and efficiency of the negotiation cycle in its entirety? It is important to ensure that you are well organised for your upcoming negotiation. Write down the key questions that you need to ask during the negotiation, lest you get sidetracked and forget to extract critical information.

5. Relationship

Never forget that we all negotiate with people. It is easy to forget that we deal with individuals who have goals & aspirations not unlike our own goals & aspirations. It is not always just about the facts & figures. The research is clear that people are more likely to deal with those whom they trust & like, than those with whom they have no rapport or share no similarities with. Try to focus on those elements that you share with your negotiation counterparties, and do not forget to focus on the human elements – all of which constitute the Climate of the negotiation.

The clear answer to what makes a successful business negotiator is…..preparation, preparation, preparation.

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Seeing is Believing – Using Visuals in Your Sales Presentation

Humans are incredibly visual creatures. If you think about which sense you use most often to physically navigate through the world, it’s your sight. When an attractive person walks down the street, it’s fun watching the heads swivel, because everyone wants to see person. This has some interesting and powerful implications on interpersonal communication, even though we primarily think of communication as being sound driven (i.e. talking and listening). By incorporating the sense of sight into your communicating, you engage with the other person much more completely, and they are able to really grasp what you are conveying

Here are three ways that you can use sight in your interpersonal communication, especially when you are in a selling situation. This is just the beginning of bringing other senses into your communication and it’s is a big part of improving your ability to influence other people:

1.Be aware of body language and facial expressions

I’ve read different reports that all give a different weight to the importance of body language and facial expression in communication. They all agree, though, that they are really important. Some studies suggest that over 50% of interpersonal communication could be based on just your posture, movements, and expressions. Most of physical expression is so subtle and unconscious that we don’t even notice that we are giving out these clues when talking to others.

Even though many of these are unconscious, we can become aware of, and control, the visual signals we give others. One of the most common for example, is the sign that we give others when we cross our arms across our chest. It’s often an unconscious visual signal that we are “closing off” our mind and not listening to the other person. Just learning to open your arms when listening to a client can have a huge impact. This is just one example of the subconscious signals we are giving each other as we speak to one another.

2.Your visual presentation tools

Don’t forget the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. When you are talking to someone, what are they looking at? Are your sales materials clear and visually attractive? Do they get your point across? If you use a brochure, prospectus, or PowerPoint presentation, for example, use pictures and images that are emotionally evocative. Make sure that the pictures are telling the same story that your words are.

Also, remember that the condition of your visual images tells a story as well. Don’t use sloppy, dirty, or confusing materials. And make sure your most important visual presentation tool – your appearance – is also in alignment with your message. Make sure that you aren’t sloppy and unkempt. Also, match your appearance with the message that you are communicating. If you are selling insurance and attempting to sell respectability and trust, by all means put on a blue suit, white shirt, and power tie. If you are representing a young, new technology; a hipper appearance would make sense.

3. The talking pad

A very simple (and very powerful) tool in a sales call or any conversation where you’re trying to influence someone is to use a “talking pad”. This is basically a sheet of paper where you writing down the main points that you are trying to communicate. It can be as formal as a legal pad or notebook that you take on your sales calls, or it can be as informal as a napkin in a restaurant or the back of an envelope. The important component is that you are writing something down for the person to look at while they are listening to what you are saying.

This can be especially powerful when you are using numbers. For example, just saying, “If you take 100 widgets that would be a total of 2500 hundred dollars; with the 20% discount over 4 payments would be only five hundred a month” is a sure way to make sure the information goes in one ear and out the other. However, if you write on a piece of paper, “100 widgets = $2500 x 20% discount = $2000 over 4 payments = $500/payment, it’s a much stickier message and they process it much more quickly and much easier.

These are three simple ways to make sure that you use the power of sight when you talk with people. If you have any other ideas, please let me see them.

Bad Christmas Presents For Your Wife

Shopping is not an activity that most men enjoy. Especially when it involves a big crowd, long queues and expensive price tags. However, husbands cannot escape shopping for a Christmas present for their wife. It is a time for you to show how much you appreciate and love her. Getting the right gift is important. Get the wrong gift and you send the wrong message. If you don’t want to be an “insensitive” husband, avoid getting things in the list below which I deem to be bad Christmas presents for your wife.

Household appliances

Do not be tempted to buy household appliances such as juicers, breadmakers, vacuum cleaners, food processors or cappuccino makers as a Christmas gift. Yes, it will lighten her load and help out in her chores. However, gifts are not about making life easy for her. In my book, it shouldn’t even be considered a gift but rather a household necessity. Gifts are about making her feel good about herself. It’s a message saying how special she is to you and how much you love her. Don’t get me wrong. You can buy household appliances for her. In fact, you should. Just not as a Christmas present.

Clothes

Too many things can go wrong if you decide to buy clothes for her:

  • wrong size
  • she may not like the material
  • wrong color
  • don’t fit well.

If you believe this is the best gift, then take her with you or be 100% sure it is something she wants.

Self Improvement books or CDs

Women are very sensitive. Give a self improvement or CD for a gift and she will very likely interpret it wrongly. You may think you are doing her a favor but she will not see it that way. Gifts should not in any way point out her weaknesses. So, stay away from those recipe books and how-to guides.

Chocolates and Teddy bears

These gifts are too generic. It shows that you didn’t put much thought into it. They are not special enough for a Christmas present. Plus, if you have children, they would think it is silly for mommy to be playing with teddy bears. Gourmet chocolates is an okay gift but would be better as a random gift. For example, surprise her any time throughout the year as a way of saying “I appreciate you” or “I’m thinking of you”. If you want to give chocolates as a Christmas gift, make sure it comes with something more personal like jewelry.

Decorations

I’m talking about something that you would put on a wall, table or shelf just for display purposes. So, no ugly lamps, statues or paintings. The exception would be if you framed up a nice picture of her, the family or both of you together. If it’s meaningless or does not trigger an emotion (other than disgust and disappointment), don’t get it.

To get the right Christmas gift for your wife, take some time to ponder what she wants. Don’t think so much about what she needs. Here are some hints:

  • She wants a break. She wants some time away from chores, work and kids.
  • She wants to be pampered.
  • She wants to feel loved. Inject some romance into her life.
  • She wants to know she is special. Give her something personal that reflects your love for her.

Happy shopping!