Part of the Six K&R Principles of Negotiations – Get M.O.R.E., Preparation is Key to a Winning Negotiation

negotiations agenda management

Agenda Management Can Be Your Difference Maker (or Game Changer) in Negotiations

In one of my previous articles, I wrote about the “time factor” — not only how you can manage it against other considerations but also how to use the high-level (or macro) agenda to help create agreements that have a significant impact on your success. You can read that article and case study here.

The perspectives espoused in that article are even more true today, despite events of the intervening six years. It seems that there are plenty of voices promoting the philosophy of controlling every part of the sales process, including the agenda. However, in my view, too much is made of “agenda control.” It may sound nice to control the agenda, but all sides in a negotiation have issues that need to be addressed, so control is not as important as managing the agenda.

The overall agenda is comprised of the “macro agenda” where you are focused on the actions and sequence over the timeline of an entire transaction, and the “micro agenda” where you are focused on each specific interaction and how you can leverage that action to move closer to closing the deal.

The opening and closing of meetings or interactions, whether in person, video conference or phone, are important elements of agenda managment. Opening begins before the meeting starts. It includes setting the anticipated subject matter to be discussed and listing the appropriate attendees. This is when we set expectations for both sides and most importantly, help identify the resources that are available to fulfill those expectations. Sending a simple agenda before the meeting is appropriate and will be appreciated by your counterpart(s).

There are two tendencies we must avoid when closing meetings. First, some people are reticent to summarize open items, particularly if the meeting was a good one, because they do not to want to close with issues on which there is disagreement. However, those issues do not go away on their own. Raising them at conclusion of meetings helps define a path, responsibilities, and timeline for resolution.

Tendency two occurs with salespeople or services professionals, who want to please the customer and solve problems. When open items are raised, they often take on the responsibility to solve them. Please don’t do this automatically. Be selective and give the other side (your customer) tasks to complete – in fact, see if they volunteer for tasks. This will tell you a lot about how vested they are in getting a deal done with you … or not.  Both parties should be spending time, money, and resources on the deal. Otherwise, it is only you who has the increasing psychological stake. Give them a chance to share the ownership with you for getting the deal completed.

Why Agenda Planning is Essential

There are sales managers and reps who believe they can rely on their skills and achieve a successful outcome by “winging it.” This is where agenda management comes into play. Even if you are strapped for time, you should invest adequate time to prepare. This is the sales version of the famous Abraham Lincoln quote: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

The time you take to prepare will not be lost on the customer, and will enhance your credibility, as most customers will understand that you have done so despite a shortage of time. The opposite is true if you attend calls unprepared. It’s the equivalent of a pilot flying a new plane without simulator training. While the consequences in a sales or business negotiation may not be life threatening, the result is damaged credibility and lost opportunity.

Since the Covid pandemic, many of our face-to-face (F2F) meeting have been replaced by video conference calls or phone meetings. There is a potential trap here because participants often underprepare for video or phone meetings. With remote meetings, personal pressure is minimized since participants feel they are less likely to face embarrassment. A smart negotiator reminds attendees to review materials and come prepared and this can be a difference maker in negotiation outcomes.

There are ways to use agenda management as a tactical tool to rescue negotiations that are off track. As an example, I received this question during  a guest appearance on the Wharton Business Daily podcast:

Caller’s question: How difficult is it when you get into a negotiation and one person monopolizes the conversation on their particular area? It’s not like you can break the meeting right in mid-stream and take those people outside and have that conversation with them.

My answer: It’s okay to take a time out but you need to gauge when the appropriate time is to take a strategic pause and have a discussion with the person who is leading the negotiation on the other side. If the person who is leading the negotiation is the one that’s pontificating, it becomes a little bit more challenging.

In those cases, it’s okay following a break, to ask for a few minutes to talk about the agenda and define it in such a way that it includes the amount of time spent on each subject. This is a non-confrontational way of moving the agenda along. However, this will not be effective if you did not bother to take time upfront to prepare that agenda in a way that gains agreement from the other side.

Successful agenda management is all about aligning each party’s activities and resources across a rational timeline to reach the desired result in a given timeframe. 

 

Want to see more examples of how we apply our negotiation methodology to solve challenges — from dealing with intimidation to making stronger value arguments? Click here!

Speaker Motivation

The Power of a Great Keynote: Inspiring and Focusing Your Audience

There are always three speeches for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave. Dale CarnegieKeynote speeches — like the ones that kick off a big sales drive or annual meeting — are fantastic opportunities…that aren’t always leveraged to their fullest.

Most executive leaders will take to the podium assured that the top-line strategic messaging of the day, a sprinkling of humor and a few perfunctory rallying cries for the troops will be in their notes.

But is that good enough?

While attendance is sometimes mandatory, every leader has the responsibility to do more than “check the boxes” with a speech so he or she can get on with their day. The speech must deliver value. This is central to everything we do at K&R Negotiations: analyzing the audience and goals to determine what impact an activity will make.

The “warm fuzzies” generated by even a great keynote speech will quickly subside with the event, but here is a central consideration that will make the activity more powerful: “What value will I deliver outside of the messaging, humor and applause lines?”

Speeches that are measured by the hour will die with the hour. Thomas Jefferson

A few years ago a friend of mine, George Kohlreiser, gave a speech about the consequences of holding on to things that were comfortable because they were familiar; things that were always done a certain way. He likened it to holding yourself hostage, a condition that stifled creativity and prevented the “hostage” from dealing with difficult issues and people. The speech was so powerful that it inspired me to take steps to deal with some challenges in our business. Confronting these challenges resulted in one of our best years ever.

Two Critical Questions

Ask yourself two important questions as you vet speakers or work on a draft for yourself:

  1. What will my audience know that they didn’t know before? Corporate boilerplate does not count. Value is delivered when you make your audience feel as though they are discovering some new insight — maybe even a secret — that tells them they are receiving thoughtful analysis tailored just for them — that their view of the world has suddenly expanded because you have let them in on something. This is the kind of hook that made the Ted Talks series so successful — they offer surprising shifts in knowledge and perspective, having both intellectual and emotional components.Keeping this guidepost in mind will steer you away from the conventional “laundry list” of objectives, goals and milestones that are too often used as filler.
  2. Will my audience know how to do something that they couldn’t do before? One of our chief goals in business negotiation training and workshops is to make sure that every single person walks out the door ready to apply a few key principles. We know we have done our job when sales managers report back on their success. This is the key proposition for focusing any kind of communication: What do I want the person listening to actually do, and how? Supporting your talk with tactical takeaways gives your speech lasting power beyond the temporary fizz of applause.

The distinction between a good speech and an inspiring and action-producing speech was illustrated in classical times: After the Roman statesman Cicero spoke, the people said, “How well he had done!” but when Demosthenes had finished speaking against the oppression of Phillip of Macedon, they said, “Let us march.”

The greatest compliment I can receive is not for someone to say, “I loved your talk at the ABC conference,” but rather, “Your talk gave me great insight that I put to use. I just had my best year ever.” Giving your audience something new to know and something immediate to do (getting them to march) will help you deliver a keynote with lasting value.

Mladen is a powerful keynote speaker. Learn more about how he can help your organization. 

The Value of Role Playing in Negotiation

We have had the privilege of assisting major companies all over the world with our Win Wisely™ approach to negotiation. The principles we teach are far from theoretical: they were forged from practical experience gained in all kinds of negotiations involving all types of participants. This includes everything from basic buy-sell transactions to complex, high-stakes negotiations in business and technology conducted by lawyers, salespeople and executives. Each of them needed a methodical approach to forging better deals.

We routinely hear from our clients. They describe how the teams we have trained are able to put their learning to immediate effect. Read more

The Five Teamwork Principles to Follow for Winning Negotiations

Even with a well-crafted value argument and solid customer motivation to get a deal done, the whole process can unravel if negotiation leadership and teamwork are absent.  The most effective “tactic” in your arsenal is a unified team. Selecting your team, involving all key players in planning, and maintaining group discipline begin the teamwork  that will hold your important deal together.

In our decades of helping clients manage and win complex deals, we have seen five key teamwork principles that are critical to getting the win/win negotiation outcomes you desire.

1. Recognize Varied Motivations, Both Internally and Externally

Everyone has specific reasons for acting as they do. (For example, the other side may stall negotiations if they think you are in a revenue bind, hoping to extract price concessions.) Lay the necessary groundwork by considering both the organization-level and role-based motivations of the other side. Read more

Negotiation Lessons from Deadwood

Have you ever appeared at the negotiation table with a thoughtful list of offerings only to realize that your assumptions about those across the table were dead wrong? There’s a scene from HBO’s acclaimed Deadwood series (2004-2006) that illustrates just how uncomfortable it can be to misread or underestimate the other party.

To set the scene: Alma Garret is a widow who has come into a lucrative, well-producing gold claim in the lawless, titular town of Deadwood. Mining tycoon, George Hearst, has come to the camp, slowly consolidating smaller, single-operator claims into one ruthlessly efficient operation. Only Garret’s mine stands in the way of his complete control of the area’s gold mining operations. Hoping to strike a mutually beneficial bargain after a bumpy first meeting, Garret visits Hearst with a list of proposals. This is what happens. Read more

Negotiation Examples: Knowing How the Other Team Approves a Deal

negotiation motivation

Knowing how people are measured for bonuses, rankings, commissions or promotions helps you determine the personal motivations that can be just as important as company position when it comes to closing the deal.

Simply making someone’s job easier can be a major motivation. Here’s a software negotiation story from the K&R files:

It was the middle of the fourth quarter and the software sales team of Company X was trying to sell a $650K software monitoring solution to a major financial institution, Company Y. The customer IT executive had been convinced a few months earlier that the solution would help them tackle certain technical issues in serving their international accounts. The Company X sales team was getting pretty frustrated with a sale that should have been easy. They couldn’t get Company Y’s procurement team to move with urgency. Read more

Six Principles Every International Negotiator Must Know: M.O.R.E.

This is the fourth post in a series entitled: The Principles of International Negotiation: Finding Universal Value in a Complex World

International Negotiation

In our two previous posts on international negotiation, we discussed the importance of P&L (Patience and Listening) and the dynamics of credibility and leverage. One is a practice, the second is a conceptual understanding. They are interlocking and dependent. Patience and listening yield trust and information. Trust and information help us generate credibility and leverage – the two things you must have if you want to negotiate successfully.

What are some other ways to generate credibility and leverage? Over decades of collective experience as international negotiators, K&R has formulated six principles that serve as a guide to the fundamentals of negotiating. Read more

We Have Stuff. Buy it!

In our negotiation sessions, we often get into the discussion of how being so busy saying what you can do it makes you not busy enough saying what your client needs. In an example brought to us for comment, there was a good executive summary (well, not that good, but let’s pretend it was)… on page 18 of a 200-page proposal. If executive summaries show up on page 18, what comes first? Generally speaking, it is stuff about the seller and the seller’s offerings, and not about the client or the client’s needs. An executive would never reach it.

To make it worse, the “seller stuff” is in the wrong form. For example, the seller makes statements which are in concept like these:
• “Our coffee is fair trade.”
• “We roast and deliver daily.”

Instead of statements like these:
• “Your policy is to support reasonable returns for your suppliers. To support that, we offer coffee which we buy under fair trade guidelines.”
• “You told us your clientele is very sensitive to coffee freshness. We roast and deliver daily.”

We just reviewed a client proposal sheet for a multi-multi-million dollar agreement, and every line was about the supplier, not about the client needs.

The shorthand for the first approach is “We have stuff, you should buy it.” For the second, “We understand your needs and our offerings support them.” The first requires the client to make the connection between what you offer and their needs and interests. The second puts the client’s interests first, and then makes the connection for them.

We used coffee in our example, but these errors are all too common in our primary client set, high technology hardware, software, and services providers.

In many cases, the client can make the connection. However, your odds of success will improve if you help them along the way. Don’t say, “We have stuff”. Say, “These are your needs, and our stuff supports them.” You’ll be more successful with your clients. (td)

Got a question? Email a K&R negotiator directly at ask@negotiators.com.

M.O.R.E. – Negotiations and the Australian & International Pilots Association

An August article in Aviation Online Magazine caught our eye with this headline – “Qantas Airline Pilots Negotiate Job Security Not Pay Increase”.  It concerns bargaining between the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) and Australia’s largest airline.  Included in the article is a quote from the AIPA negotiations spokesperson that states that the pilots’ leading issues are “job protection, career progression, and off-shoring of jobs”.  Not money.

First, it is an interesting matter that the AIPA negotiator took these issues public.  That can work for them or against them.  On one hand, the list makes clear what the AIPA wants, which is a plus.  On the other hand, this list implicitly makes some concessions.  Read more

Time Stamps in Negotiations

Negotiation and the News is brought to you this week from Cape Town South Africa, where rail travel has ceased. Google (or Bing) “South Africa Rail Strike”, and check out the news. In general two groups of rail employees have struck. First those transporting goods, followed by those transporting passengers. The normal management / union disagreements apply – a mismatch in positions and demands for wages and benefits. Your Negotiation and the News correspondent, being in Cape Town ready to travel (by rail) to Johannesburg, reported live on May 15th. The strike is a classic example of negotiation “time stamps” in action. Read more