When I started at TransLoc in 2008, I was the only business person on a team full of engineers. It remained that way for four more years as we continued to devote resources to the technical side of the house. And while I did my best to learn from others in similar positions, with few new ideas coming in, I felt a little like a fish in a pond without a freshwater source.
When we hired Daniel–and his 15 years of experience in sales–I received a constant stream of fresh ideas into my pond. The ideas I benefited the most from centered around negotiations. Here are three specific lessons about negotiations that he taught me.
Negotiations can often be tense, especially when trying to get a deal done or soothe a frustrated customer. In all situations, the reason you’re negotiating is that you and the other party want different things, perceive that you want different things, or don’t understand what the other party wants. This can make both sides ratchet up their defenses.
And that was stressful for me. Daniel helped me overcome this stress by often stating at the beginning of the call, in the most positive tone possible, “I’m really looking forward to this conversation so that we can find an agreement that makes sense for both of us.”
This simple line–which both parties want even if they don’t know it yet or are not as explicit about it–diffuses tension on both sides and sets the tone that you want to get a deal done.
This may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes it’s helpful to simply share your position. We had a conversation with a customer who was late paying their invoices. We didn’t want to turn off their service even though our contract allows us to do. We had never done it before and didn’t think we ever would because it is a nuclear option.
And yet it seems weird to just tell our client that we weren’t going to shut off their service. But we did. We didn’t want to play games and take a position far to the extreme and then retreat to our fallback position. Being vulnerable reduces the games that are often played during negotiations so we can focus on what we could do to remedy the situation.
Don’t keep score
I used to think that negotiations had to be equal. If I concede something of a certain value, you had to concede something of similar value. But, that’s almost impossible to do in practice. So, now I just try and get something in return so that the power dynamic is not off-kilter with one side giving in on every point. With the customer who was late on their bills, just getting them to pay something and acknowledge that they were late was a win. A win didn’t have to represent them sending in the whole amount. A win was both sides giving a little–even if they weren’t equal amounts–and feeling positive about the experience.
These lessons have changed my perspective on negotiations so much that I now look forward to them. What about you?