Why is Finding the Right Negotiation Training Program Critical?
Negotiating is the most important skill a business person can possess. Having or not having this skill can make or break a career, and it can make or break a company. Yet, few companies offer their people strong, current, and proven negotiation training. With so much at stake, every company should invest in training their people to be strong negotiators. Every person in your company is negotiating on a regular basis and every negotiation has an impact on the company’s bottom line. In fact, companies that focus on this skill have consistently better financial results and experience more growth…which shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Many Choices for Negotiation Training so How Do You Choose?
The challenge then becomes finding the right negotiation training curriculum. There really aren’t that many effective alternatives. You can send your people to a major university for several weeks or months and get an academic approach to negotiations. But, you are sure to be disappointed with the results. With time away from work, extensive travel expense, not to mention the cost of the program, you will have difficulty achieving any return on your extensive investment. To further the problem, your people will come away with an academic knowledge of negotiating which is not easy to implement when they get back to work.
Many training programs are either based on the wrong approaches such as learning negotiating tactics and counter tactics or negotiating gambits and counter-gambits. They drive dialog and not a proven process. They provide suggestions on what to say if the other side says this or that but don’t provide tools for managing and controlling the process from end to end. Some are just completely outdated and teach methods used decades ago when the business environment was completely different. So much has changed in our working world, so much has been recently discovered about how to negotiate and get great outcomes. So much is required to really be a successful negotiator. You need to find the best program possible considering all these variables.
To help you make your decision, we have provided 5 critical criteria for selecting a negotiation training company. These criteria will make it clear what to look for and how to make your best selection.
1. Don’t Hire a Sales Training Company to Teach Negotiation Skills
…Selling and negotiating are two separate and distinct disciplines that require unique training…
Many companies make the mistake of hiring a sales training organization to teach negotiation skills. This is a common mistake as most people tend to lump the two together which makes sense as negotiation is a part of the sales process. However, selling and negotiating are two separate and distinct disciplines that require unique training and experience. Here’s why this is the case.
First, consider what selling really is…it is prospecting to look for opportunities. It involves qualifying your prospects to determine if there is the possibility of doing business with them. Once you find a prospect, you then need to identify the right people to talk to. This includes the decision maker(s) and influencers. And, here’s the thing, you need to get to as many of these individuals as possible because the decision maker does not make the decision alone. They depend on the influencers to help them, and each influencer has their own set of criteria that need to be addressed. For example, finance has their set of deal parameters that need to be met, as does legal and senior management. Each one has their own set of key performance indicators that must be addressed if you are going to be successful.
Now that you have found the right people to talk to, you need to have a dialog with each of them to determine what they are trying to accomplish, identify their requirements, find out if there is anything standing between them and success, and what constitutes success. With that information in hand, you can now take a moment to assess if you or your company can help them be successful. Let’s assume you can.
The next step is to share with the prospect your unique value proposition…your distinctive competency…the thing that separates you from everyone else in the industry…the reason you are in the industry in the first place. The real challenge here is that you must be able to clearly articulate your value proposition…and it had better be compelling!
Let’s assume you’ve clearly articulated your unique value proposition in a compelling way…you have to take it one step further…you need to translate that value proposition into a financial benefit to the other side. If you can’t do this, you are going to have a rough go at the negotiating table. If you are successful at clearly articulating your value proposition in a compelling way, and have translated it into a financial benefit to the other side, and the other side says “yes, we believe you are the best company to meet our needs”, then you have done some really great selling.
But that’s just it…you have completed the selling. So, what’s negotiating? Negotiating is now defining the terms and conditions by which you will do business. Can you see the difference? Selling is convincing the prospect to do business with you while negotiating is determining HOW you will do business with each other. Here is the rub…if you start negotiating before the selling is done, guess what happens? Based on years of research on actual sales and negotiations, it turns out that if you start negotiating before the selling is done…it becomes all about price and price only!
Here’s why: if I’ve not had the opportunity to differentiate myself from everyone else in the industry then what am I? A commodity, right? And, if I’m considered a commodity, then what is the only way you have to differentiate me? PRICE! It’s automatic! If you start negotiating with another party before you have an agreement that you want to do business with each other, then you should plan on playing the price only game where all your value and competency gets pushed aside and all they want to discuss is your lowest price.
As you can probably see, just because you are a great sales professional does not mean you are a great negotiator. There are specialized skills and tools that are required to get the right terms and conditions for your deal. If you don’t get this right, all your selling effort has gone to waste.
These are the Skills of a Good Negotiator
- Negotiators need to know how to determine boundaries for themselves, so they don’t go off the tracks and lose control of the deal.
- They need to know when to walk away, and how to establish proper targets for outcomes.
- They need to know who should make the first offer and how that is a major determining factor in whether or not you will get a great outcome or not.
- Most important, a negotiator needs to know how to manage the concession process. Most negotiators have no plan or tools to manage this part of the negotiation. You can do a great job of getting to this point, but if you blow it here, in the concession portion of the negotiation, you will kill our deal. That’s why you need a strategy and tools to manage concessions. If you do, you can not only maintain value in your deals, you can expand them by multiples of what you originally thought the deal was worth!
- Finally, you need to know how to architect our deals for successful outcomes. You need a deal construct and tools to help you create it. They don’t teach you this is sales school, and it is probably one of the most critical elements of the negotiation process. How you architect your deals is another major determining factor in whether you get a great deal outcome or not.
Sales training, while critical and necessary, is only part of the process for getting great deals. So, for negotiation competency training, seek a company that focuses entirely on negotiation, and brings the right strategies, tools, and processes to help you and your organization master this specialized skill.
2. Get the Most Recent and Cutting-edge Negotiation Curriculum
Be very cautious about the curriculum you choose for your organization. There is a lot of dated material being taught, even in many of our universities today. It may be due to a lack of access to the more current information that is driving us to the same old and ineffective information. The reason this dated material does not apply anymore is due to the significant changes that have occurred in the business environment globally. We live in a connected world that provides us with more access to information and data than ever before. With this access to information, we are all now much more informed. When all parties are better informed, we need to make a fundamental shift in the way we approach and conduct negotiations.
Much of what is being taught today is based on material that was first presented in the 1980s. Some of the staples include the book Getting to Yes and Getting Past No. Both are terrific books and became the foundation upon which modern negotiation was built. But, in most cases, these pre-internet methods are not enough to help us through the complex business negotiations we all face today. So much has changed, so much more data is available to help us. So, we need to further our knowledge about the latest tools available. The real challenge now is determining what data we need and how to use it to ensure we get the very best outcomes in this fast-paced, highly informed era.
Other methods of teaching negotiations are based on tactics and counter tactics, gambits and counter-gambits, and other useless and time-wasting concepts. By the way, these concepts don’t really work today. If the premise of this kind of training is based on what to say if the other side says this or that, then your negotiation becomes a competition of who has the best rebuttal or argument. Unfortunately, this kind of teaching produces competitive negotiations that are uncomfortable, create distrust, and result in less than favorable outcomes for both parties. They rarely result in the so-called “Win-Win” outcome. Worse than that, these methods waste a lot of valuable time and just get in the way of getting a good deal done.
Some focus on the utilization of negative tactics that are supposed to give you the upper hand through intimidation or bullying. They teach tactics such as acting as if you don’t care as much about the deal as the other side, willingness to walk away, going silent to evoke a better offer, commoditizing by stating that you have multiple alternatives to consider with the goal of driving a price only negotiation, emoting like yelling, pounding on the table or using profanity. Some even promote threatening the other party with some myth that you will hurt their business in some way or preclude them for doing business with others based on sharing negative information about them.
Believe it or not, there is still a lot of this kind of behavior going on today. Many companies face these tactics daily and need a way to defuse them and get to the business of getting a deal done. Using these tactics does no good in either direction. They create distrust, destroy any relationship that might have driven future growth for both parties, and again waste valuable time…the time that could be used to get outstanding deals that can be implemented quickly and show fast impacts on top line growth, margin growth, market growth, and a partnership that is invested in the success of all parties.
Instead, look for negotiation training that provides a process, tools, and strategies that are aligned with the data-rich world in which we live. Pick a program that will show you how to prepare for these new era negotiations by helping you understand what data you need, and exactly how to use it. Select a program that uses the latest findings in the science of negotiation.
For example, understand the power of anchoring, establishing boundaries for yourself, determining your target position, developing a concession strategy, how to architect your deals, and how to present them in such a way that you encourage collaboration. Make sure they provide tools that show you how to determine what is most important to the other side, how to avoid the price only negotiation, and how to package and frame your offers to ensure the very best outcomes.
They should provide you with a way to assess your power or leverage position versus the other party, and how to shift power your way should you determine that your initial position is weak. And, make sure they show you how to neutralize the negative tactics that are being used on you as an effort to intimidate you and make you feel as though you are at a disadvantage instead of telling you to use them on the other party.
…look for a system that can become a part of your organization’s culture…a culture of competent negotiators…
Include your senior executive team, your middle managers, your sales professionals, your buyers, your HR department, and any other group that has an impact on revenue, margins, EBITDA, and growth. Become a company of competent negotiators because those that are, not only experience growth, but faster growth, and in larger increments. Finally, make sure they have a methodology for measuring your deal progress real-time, and your results for a clear picture of the ROI for the training. Make sure they can help you embed a common language in your company to navigate and coach your team through the negotiation process. And, look for a system that can become a part of your organization’s culture…a culture of competent negotiators because research shows that companies having a competency in negotiation show growth.
3. Make Sure it’s Based on Science, and Proven Success in the Field
It is critical that the curriculum you chose is based on a scientific approach and has been tested and proven in the field on real negotiations. Anything else is a gamble. Even if it is highly academic because the last thing you want is to be inundated with theories and concepts that should work based on recent research. Not that this kind of information is bad, in many cases it is very good. However, it leaves you and your team the burden of testing and adjusting for yourselves on your dime and wasting valuable time. You must insist that the negotiation methodology is proven to work in the real world.
…So many training programs focus on what you need to do but rarely provide the how…
Not only that, it should work consistently…not just occasionally, when the stars and the moon align. Most important, the training must include “how” to do it. So many training programs focus on what you need to do but rarely provide the how. Many of us have experienced a great training program only to find that when trying to use your new knowledge in the real world, the effort is too great, the translation too difficult, and we quickly lose interest in trying to figure out how to apply it in our own world. This destroys any hope of a return on your investment on the training and a waste of time, resource, and money.
It is the translation from what to do to how to do it that makes training very effective and allows for more immediate results. Also, if there are tools that help you use the new knowledge and measure your results, you can be assured the best return on your investment.
Negotiations for today’s environment involves understanding and planning for certain biases such as anchoring, framing, loss aversion, and reciprocity to name a few. Learning about these and other powerful psychological effects and their impacts on you and the other party during the negotiation process is a critical part of your strategy development and execution to ensure better outcomes. There are certain negotiation laws of nature that many people don’t know about or understand, but once informed about them will have dramatic effects on deal results, and therefore must be a major component of your negotiation curriculum.
Try to eliminate the dependence on luck. Negotiation is a science and as such should provide a set of rules that if followed, will provide predictable results. Science provides processes, tools, and certain known conditions that help to ensure that your outcomes are aligned with expectations.
There are strategies, data and actions that if properly executed can deliver outstanding deal results consistently. You and your team need to focus on the science of negotiation because nothing else can produce the level of consistency that drives significant corporate results. This has been proven again and again…you can’t get material results unless you can master certain abilities on a consistent basis. Remember, negotiation is not some mystical art. It can be taught and mastered.
4. The Training Program Should Provide Tools and a Process for Success
We have mentioned several times that the curriculum should provide a set of strong and easy to use tools to enable specific results. It’s difficult or even impossible to know how well you are doing if there is no way to measure success. It’s hard to prepare if you don’t know what data and information you need for preparation. It’s difficult to stay on track if you don’t have a way to determine when you are derailing. There should be means to define how far you can push the other side before they determine it’s not worth it, to let you know when you should walk away, to establish the proper target for your outcomes, to position your offers appropriately, to manage your concessions, to deal with difficult people or negative tactics, and to frame your discussion with the other party to drive collaboration.
One of the biggest negotiation challenges for negotiators is trying to understand what the other party is trying to accomplish. The reason for this is that most people enter a negotiation with the mindset of withholding information. It is believed that if you share too much information with the other side, you will be taken advantage of by them using that information against you. The point is that the other side is not likely to share with you their agenda for the outcome…not at the negotiating table. So how are you supposed to find out what the other side is trying to accomplish? You need a tool for that, and when constructed and used properly, it will reveal the interests of the other side right before your eyes.
Most importantly, you need help in maintaining control of the negotiation, you need help determining what deal elements to include in your offer, and you need help in architecting your entire deal construct. For this, you need tools. So, ensure that your curriculum provides them. In fact, if there is a software program or app that can be used to prepare and manage, measure, and track your negotiations and those of your employees, by all means…get it. It is the best way to ensure the skills are used, refined and embedded into the culture of your company. Companies that have a competency in negotiating grow!
5. Have a way to measure the ROI of the negotiation training program
One of the most difficult challenges is calculating a return on investment for your training investment. And, in the few instances where you can, it usually takes a significant amount of time before results can be seen. To add to the problem, there is little we can do to ensure that the results we are seeing are due to the training or some other factor(s). Look for a program that provides a means of measuring and tracking negotiating results. Even better, find a program that can track negotiations real-time so that coaching can be administered to ensure deals get better while progressing toward great outcomes. Make sure this information is easy to access, monitor, and measure.
Finally, you need a program that will be used by all your negotiators including sales professionals, buyers, business development, project management, estimators, legal team, HR team, and senior executives. In fact, any person that negotiates on behalf of the company should be competent at negotiation if you want to see a material impact on your business. It is obvious that people’s careers and businesses lively hoods depend on how well you negotiate. There is no more important skill as a business person to master as it can have the most profound impact of all the leadership skills combined. Pick your program wisely, as your business depends on it.