A client recently asked me for ideas on negotiating to win. My thoughts turned to this clients natural style and the strengths & also challenges that this would bring her in a negotiating situation. The client is a ‘high I’ in DISC terms and if you’ve been on our ’communication in style’ programme you will know that high I’s tend to influence through charm, charisma and persuasion. But I’s don’t tend to do detail and I thought “how do I talk to her about one of the keys to negotiation?
I like to tell stories and share real examples so I was going to tell her about another client of mine and her recent success in contract negotiation. That client is a D/C in DISC terms and her high drive is coupled with a high need to get things right. So she is really big on preparation, putting a lot of time in to it to make sure she has all the facts, knows all the data and really understands the levers to pull (and when I say all I do mean all). She had to go in to a negotiation with a client who had been a little difficult the year before (a combination of sexism, power games and some rudeness thrown in; I am sure you’ve met the type). This year she dealt with all that by knowing exactly what she wanted from the negotiation and what she wasn’t prepared to negotiate on. She fully analysed the contract, the clients needs and past requirements and had all the facts and data at her fingertips. Needless to say, she got everything she wanted and there was no room for any games because of all her prep.
But before I launched in to this tale, I realised that my client had used words that you don’t seem to hear so often any more; “Negotiate to win”. Over the last decade or so we have got used to the concept of “win-win” so much that I wonder if it affects how sales people think before they go in to a sale. Do we bother too much about ensuring that the customer wins that we sometimes dilute our win?
Let me say now that I am a firm believer that if you want a long term relationship with a customer you cant have a win-lose or win at all costs mindset. The term relationship implies mutuality and you cant have that if anyone loses. So if your market is relationship based then win-win is a necessity. But does this mean you have to go in to sale to give the customer a win? How do you know what a win is for your client before you go in to the negotiation? If this is your first meet or you’ve not exchanged much information beforehand or spent a lot of non negotiating time with client to get to know what drives them, then you wont know until you get there. If you are in a wholesale commodity market and volume is king then you are unlikely to have all that information to hand (unless the previous sales-person kept notes!)
So if you cant know what the client wants as a win, then there is only one side of the equation that you will know and that’s yours.
So do you spend time being sure of what a win means for you and your business? After all not all sales are good sales! Are you a margin driven or volume driven business? Where are your breakpoints and advantages in your supply chain? Do you reward your sales people the right way to match the levers in the business? Do you give them enough slack to conduct a negotiation the way your customers will be looking for?
So we come back round to where I started. To good old fashioned prep. Do you know what you want from the sale? What would constitute a win for you? What do you have to negotiate with? Know your facts! and then the bits that I think really give the sales-person their advantage. Do you know yourself? Your style; your good and bad behaviours and your motivation? so that you can manage yourself in the sale.
Maybe I should give my ‘High I’ client a call and tell her that story after all!
p.s I look forward to comments from my sales focused clients. What would you add to these thoughts? Lets grow this topic!
I recently spent some time with a group of managers who were challenged with changing their business direction. Their new leader had realised that what they had inherited was in a little worse shape than they thought, so some key players were gathered to strategise. It was interesting to see how that went and how they behaved.
Teamwork is always fascinating, especially at the senior level. In their own environment, leaders who are powerful and capable are often suddenly different when they are in a room with their boss. You might recognise the situation yourself e.g. where the boss has a particular way of thinking and therefore we must all follow that process, or when the boss says something we all know is “inaccurate” and no-one tells them or how about the situation where the boss is telling you all what to do in your areas even if that view is dated or counter-strategic. I’m sure you have more examples of your own.
I wonder if most leaders understand that this happens, and if so whether they are happy with this or whether they struggle to find ways of making sure that their team “shares their views” and is “open to discussion” and” empowered” in reality.
A long time ago I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The further up an organisation you get the more likely it is that people will do what you say just because of the position you hold. This amazed me as (at that time) we were in the 20th century and I thought that we had actually thrown of the concept of serfdom centuries before. But, out there in the corporate world we can sometime still adhere to concepts redolent of baronial structure.
I began to see this as very dangerous, because no-one can know everything and therefore the risks to the business were greater if a leader thinks they do, even when they are far from the coal-face. I also think thought that there was little point in having a team if you do it all yourself! What’s the point of hiring someone to spend day after day analysing the marketplace if you know you can assess it in twenty seconds and make a major decision!!
Sometimes a leader will say to me “ how do I empower my team to take ownership of their division while…….” and I listen for what comes after the word while.
Those words are my clue.
Not a clue to how the team can improve their performance, but to the behaviour of the leader I am talking to. The “while” is often behavioural. It is sometimes something like “while ensuring urgency” or “making sure that they don’t take too many risks”. There in from of me will be a fast pace, driven individual who has a high sense of urgency or a deeply analytical and reflective person who needs to know all the facts before they decide.
If the time and situation is right and the leader is reasonably self aware we will have a conversation about “empowerment” and whether it means “be like me” or “do it the way I would”, because that’s what those words really mean. “How can I empower my team to do things the way I would?”
At that recent meeting with the new team, the leader was obviously very process driven and struggled with the approach that some of his team were taking when thinking about the strategy we were creating. This caused some tense discussions as the leader started to impose their structure on the session. Eventually the leader began to see that their desire to manage the “way” that we were strategising was impacting on how well the team were able to think. When the leader realised this they had the guts to stop managing the “how” of the process and not impose their way of being on the team. They chose to manage their needs for themself by asking questions to gain the understanding that they needed to suit their way of thinking.
In recognising that not everyone thinks the way they do, they chose to let their team do what they are good at. The leader chose to step back and see if all the different ideas that were coming up satisfied the strategic “what” that they had set them. They chose leadership, not boss-dom.
The start point for leaders to empower their managers is to focus on the “what” and not the “how”. Let your behavioural style choice be that (just yours) and to accept that the power of your team is that they don’t think the same way you do, so the process needs to be flexible and not just your way.
So when you find yourself looking at your direct reports and thinking that you would like them to be “more” something or “less” something else, take a step back and check-in as to whether those things are attributes of your behaviour that you value (and if you are not clear on your own behavioural style, you need to be; self awareness is key to leadership )
If you find that what you are asking for is part of your own style then take a look at what the individual is or isn’t doing and consider it from a different perspective. Try asking yourself “what do I need from them that I am not getting?” followed by “if that is the case, what am I not giving them that they need?”.
Is their lack of urgency really because you did not agree delivery timelines with them? Is their risk taking a result of lack of data that you have? You might find, like the leader I mentioned, that what you really need is to ask questions to satisfy your thinking needs and that in the process you may value the difference in theirs.
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