How is negotiation a problem-solving process? What is the best way for a salesperson to approach a negotiation? Susan Borke emphasizes that negotiation is a problem-solving opportunity that arises anytime someone makes a request. And there are a lot of requests that come up in business—between vendors, suppliers, clients, and even internally within your organization. You have to learn how to handle those requests in a way that is beneficial to each party. Susan shares her thoughts on the problem-solving process that is negotiation in this episode of Sales Reinvented. Don’t miss it!
Susan Borke is the owner and Principal of BorkeWorks and has been teaching negotiating techniques for over 25 years. With a background in legal and financial administration, she has managed departments and divisions that included attorneys, paralegals, and other business professionals. She understands the needs of C-level executives and their employees as well as the pressures faced by creative professionals and entrepreneurs.
Susan embraces the mindset that negotiation is a problem-solving process. She points out that an effective resolution solves all or most of your problems and all or most of your counterparty’s problems too. To achieve the result that you want—which is maximizing what everyone gets out of it—Susan employees a two-phase problem-solving process that provides a roadmap that is effective in any negotiation:
If you’re in the midst of a negotiation you need to be able to regulate your emotions. If you’re surprised or caught off guard by what someone says, how do you regain your footing? How do you diffuse the situation when emotions get heated? You must know your buttons as well as strategies to address situations when they arise
Salespeople often get anxious when they get to the negotiation part of the sales process. They fear hearing the word “no” or failing to negotiate effectively for their interests. Susan points out that many of the skills that serve successful salespeople are useful in negotiating. It all comes down to your mindset. Salespeople need to modify their mindset about negotiation. They need to employ new tactics but realize things that they already do can also be effective when they negotiate. Susan points out that “It becomes a virtuous cycle of being able to be more effective when they negotiate, achieving success, and then doing the same thing again.”
She also emphasizes that anyone can learn the skills to be an effective salesperson and an effective negotiator. The skills ARE transferable. At the end of the day, it’s about doing your homework—and listening attentively. Once you interact with your counterparty, the key is to listen more than you talk. You want to genuinely seek to understand what your counterparty is saying they need. You also want to be alert to what is going unsaid and be comfortable with silence. It comes down to creating a relationship of integrity and trust.
One key element of preparation is to understand what each part will do if they fail to reach an agreement. You must calculate the best alternative to a negotiated agreement, AKA—your plan B. You must engage in this thought experiment for yourself AND the other party. Susan believes it gives you an incredible amount of leverage. Not only does it illustrate that you've been thinking about them, but it also gives you a chance to weaken their BATNA.
Perhaps a sales manager has a reputation for giving an extra discount to an unhappy prospective client just to make the deal happen. A sales team who knows about his situation can go to them in advance. They can share the parameters with the sales manager and make sure he or she is willing to back them up. Or they agree that the sales director WILL grant a discount but it’s a pre-agreed upon amount that is part of the strategy. You want to make sure you aren’t losing your commission and the organization doesn’t lose profit.
Susan asks you to imagine a situation where you have two children and one orange (the children are NOT siblings). They both want the orange. How do you resolve the problem? Most people say the answer is easy: “Cut the orange in half.” So one child takes her half, peels it, and eats the meat. The other takes the peel and uses the zest and throws away the meat.
Each child lost half of what they wanted.
Instead, you must start the problem-solving process by taking the time to ask, “What are you planning to do with the orange?” This allows you to gather the information that enables you to give each party 100% of what they want. Susan points out that you can get so fixed on where you want to end up that you fail to see the needs we're actually trying to satisfy.
To hear more of Susan’s sage advice o n the negotiation problem-solving process, listen to the whole episode of Sales Reinvented!
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