keep cool tense negotiations

How to Keep Your Cool – Even in Tense Negotiations

I have written quite a bit about how to sharpen you and your team’s professional negotiation skills to close larger deals, faster. However, there are many times professionals lose otherwise quality deals because the seller, the buyer or both, can’t keep their calm when the discussion becomes tense.  We have recently seen a client get so emotional in a discussion that the other side would have walked away had cooler heads not prevailed.

Rudyard Kipling talked about this as a virtue in his famous poem If: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.” Great aspiration, but how to accomplish this with rude, inflexible and humorless negotiators?  What if they are even downright nasty? Consider this scene:

The chief negotiator for Dewey, Cheatum and Howe is sarcastic and condescending. In the middle of a tense negotiation, he says: “Gee. Harvey, I’d make this offer if I thought you and your team could understand it.” He is a nasty piece of work. “Arrogant” and “obnoxious” come to mind. Plus, he fails at personal grooming. Add “offensive” to the mix.

Perhaps I’m exaggerting to make the point but what should you do if confronted by such a scenario? The natural inclination is to tell the person off. But being the smart negotiator that you are, you say to your team, “SO WHAT?” Yes, you would rather do business with people who are pleasant. Yes, you would rather do business with people who are not rude and arrogant. Who wouldn’t? But if you’re doing business with someone who is annoying or mean-spirited, stay cool and focus on the merits of the transaction.

Keep Your Focus

I am not advocating for avoiding minor conflict, as heathy disagreement is a necessary part of the negotiation process. Perhaps the individual in question is truly unreasonable or mean-spirited – such people exist. However, any worthy negotiator on the other side—although we like to refer to them as “business partners” or “customers”—will attempt to recognize and understand your strengths and weaknesses early in a negotiation. From that point on, they will try to take advantage of your weaknesses and get around your strengths.

The key point here is to always keep your emotions in check and strictly focus on the merits of the transaction. Ask yourself: “Does this deal make sense for both parties?” If the answer is “yes,” then go about your business and make the best deal for yourself and your company.  Remember, as long as the deal makes business sense for them also, they would look very bad to their peers and superiors if they didn’t get it done. Or, to put this a different way, concentrate on the merits of the deal, not on the behavior of the person on the other side. (Footnote:  Of course, there are limitation when the other side “crosses the line” by going beyond merely rude to clearly offensive, in which case you need to judge how and when to bring it to their and their management’s attention.)

It’s Both What You Say and How You Say It!

Often—in negotiations as in our personal lives—it is not what you say, but how you say it. Our interpretation of words in a specific situation and the way we respond to them depends on our experiences, values, and emotions. Sometimes people use different words to mean the same thing. However, many words carry loaded overtones, connotations that are different from their dictionary meanings.

For example, the words “cheap” and “thrifty” have the same denotation (dictionary meaning): frugal. But wouldn’t you rather be called thrifty than cheap during a negotiation? (Or at any time, for that matter!) Cheap has a negative connotation of “tight-fisted”, while thrifty has the positive connotation of “wisely economical”. Similarly, the words “stubborn” and “resolute” both mean persistent, but stubborn carries a negative connotation of “obstinate” and “pigheaded,” while resolute carries a positive connotation of “purposeful” or “resolved.”

As a negotiator, it’s important to be sensitive to the use of words, otherwise you run the risk of offending someone. More importantly, their behavior toward you may conform to the negative tone you’ve set and you won’t have a clue why! One of the best ways to not lose your cool is to never give the other person a reason to be upset in the first place.

Sometimes, personalities simply don’t mesh for a myriad of reasons.  Following the principles outlined in my book Negotiate Wisely in Business & Technology, you can reconfigure the negotiating team with compatible personalities. This alone can improve your odds of eventual success.

One final thought

When all else fails, it may be worthwhile to find a way to relieve the pressure during a tense negotiation. This can come in two forms: planning events during the negotiation and specfically, within a tough meeting to change the tone. Ways to relieve the pressure include social activities, informal meetings, off-hour activities, and humor. Changing the environment and getting away from the business conference room can be a very effective way to improve a situation that’s gotten testy under the pressure of getting the deal done.

Within a meeting, relieving the pressure may involve taking a break or the use of humor. Assuming you are one of those people who can deliver an amusing (non-offensive) line, this can be a great way to get everyone back to a more positive mindset. I agree with actor Ted Danson’s comment, “Humor can bring people under the tent. And a good joke can deflect some of the intensity surrounding a serious subject.”

I wish you great success in keeping your cool and succeeding in all your negotiation environments.

The Expanding Purchasing Power of the Non-IT Buyer in Technology Purchase Decisions

How to Adjust Your Sales Strategy for More Complex Terrain

In our recent executive brief, “Six Ways to Shorten the Sales Cycle,” one of the prime takeaways is the importance of tailoring your technology sales and negotiation process to the increasingly complex customer decision landscape. In great part, this is due to the expanding involvement of multiple people (and functions) in the decision process.

IDC underscored an important sub-trend to this reality in their Spring 2018 update to the Worldwide Semiannual IT Spending Guide: Line of Business: “Businesses are forecast to spend $1.67 trillion on technology (hardware, software, and services) in 2018. Roughly half of that spending (50.5%) will come from the IT budget while the other half (49.5%) will come from the budgets of technology buyers outside of IT. The former includes IT-funded purchases as well as joint projects funded by IT. The latter includes business-funded purchases as well as joint projects funded by line-of-business (LOB) buyers and “shadow IT” projects funded by the LOB without IT involvement. LOB technology spending has been growing at a faster rate than IT spending for a number of years. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for LOB spending over the 2016-2021 forecast period is predicted to be 6.9% compared to the 3.3% CAGR for IT spending.” Read more

BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) Woman tears agreement documents in front of agent who wants to get a signature

Why You Need Better than BATNA: Formulating a Defensible “Walk Away” Rationale in Negotiations

Either through becoming emotionally invested, getting pressure from leadership or being unable to analyze key factors that should indicate retreat, business negotiators often find themselves spending long amounts of time on deals of diminishing — or even illusory — value.

One of the cornerstones of negotiation theory is BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement), advanced by Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard Program on Negotiation (PON) in their book, Getting to YES. Read more

Using Your “Incumbency” to Create Positive Leverage in Negotiation

Some concepts are better expressed using an example. Our client was at a crucial juncture with their customer — a European bank. In just three months, the time frame was expiring on an agreement to provision identity access management. That project had been running for three years, and had progressed substantially as forecasted. So a renewal to continue with the work was being discussed, plus, our client wanted to extend the scope of services for 24/7 identity and access management, which they believed the customer could use.

This project was extremely complex, and it was incumbent on our client to express the value delivered to that point. This is extremely important: Nobody owes you recognition of your value. You have to make the case!

Being successful in this situation meant Read more

Further Thoughts on the “Master/Servant” Dynamic in Negotiation

In January I penned this post about the new plateaus of opportunity that open up for both buyers and sellers when we make the mindset shift to becoming a true strategic partner, rather than just a “run and fetch” vendor that recites features and delivers quotes.

There is a fundamental problem (one that is not necessarily limited to contract negotiators): Even people who build long, otherwise successful careers in demanding positions don’t consider themselves professional negotiators — even though they do it every day! They do it internally with their colleagues, externally with clients and vendors, and even at home. Read more

Negotiation Examples: How Avoiding Unprincipled Concessions Kept the Customer’s Respect (And Won More Revenue)

 

When competition starts putting the pressure on you, it’s natural to look at price-cutting as the primary way to keep the business. But in the long run, this is a mistaken impulse, unless accompanied by a sound business rationale such as a reduction in scope, change in terms or outcome from the deal. One of our engagements with a client that served a European industrial (the customer) with technology solutions definitely illustrated the value of avoiding such “unprincipled concessions!”

Unprincipled concessions are “giveaways” not tied to a credible business rationale. Our research shows that this simple business negotiation mistake costs companies between 9 and 18% of gross revenue and significant profit. (See our infographic on the topic for a more detailed discussion of this vital principle and how it can be applied.) Read more

Breaking the Master/Servant Sales Relationship

There is a world of difference between being a vendor that takes orders and being a valued peer or co-strategist. The former defaults to a defensive or reactive position, missing opportunities to help their client, increase the value of an account and build a more durable, mutually profitable relationship.

Moving from the master/servant paradigm isn’t about gaining the upper hand in a brute power scenario, but rather about moving to a peer-to-peer relationship where mutual benefit flows from mutual respect and acknowledgment of exchanged value. From our experience, the master/servant trap is an easy one to fall into, even with some of the world’s top-tier service organizations. After all, if the customer orders, the vendor sells and delivers. Read more

Negotiation Examples: The Power of Agenda Management

The “time factor” — how you manage it against other considerations and use the high-level (or macro) agenda to help create agreement has a huge impact on your success!

This was certainly the case during an engagement with one of our technology clients, whose customer was in the European auto segment. All of our client’s revenue with this automaker was in jeopardy when the automaker announced that a purchasing freeze would be in effect at the beginning of the coming year, due to deteriorating economic conditions and new IT management. Since it was October, these developments required immediate action and a clear agenda that would culminate in closure before end of year. Read more

Negotiation Mistakes: Own Them, Move on and Prosper

Have you found yourself exasperated by a colleague or partner who won’t own his or her mistakes? The minute an error is discovered, they offer excuses and deflections instead of responsibility and solutions. This is not only a time-waster because you have to take extra steps getting to the heart of the problem, but your whole team loses credibility and the value of your business relationship is undermined.

At K&R, we use the term Negotiation Capital™ to illustrate the goodwill that is created through credibility, good relationships and successful delivery. Negotiation Capital is like “currency.” It translates into the other side’s willingness to move closer to your way of thinking. If you lose credibility or have to backtrack due to mistakes, then you use Negotiation Capital as if you were “burning” currency. The other side’s willingness to deal with you and to compromise is reduced. Read more

K&R CEO Mladen Kresic Discusses Negotiation Know-it-Alls with Knowledge@Wharton Host Dan Loney

K&R CEO Mladen Kresic Discusses Negotiation Know-it-Alls with Knowledge@Wharton Host Dan Loney (Complete Transcript)

On Friday, May 20 K&R CEO Mladen Kresic joined Knowledge@Wharton (Sirius XM Channel 111) host Dan Loney to talk about how negotiators can keep “know-it-alls” from ruining their next big deal. (Kresic wrote on the subject in his 2016 white paper, “Dealing with Negotiation Know-It-Alls: How to Keep Instructors, Intimidators and Impostors from Derailing Your Deal.”

During this segment, Loney and Kresic discussed the three major types of know-it-all (The Instructor, The Intimidator and The Impostor), the threats they represent to successful negotiations, and strategies negotiators can use to mitigate their negative influence and keep their deal discussions on track.

This content reproduced courtesy of Sirius XM and Knowledge@Wharton.

Loney: Have you ever been part of a negotiation and feel like you’re hitting your head on a brick wall because the person on the other side is the “know-it-all”? It can be one of the most frustrating things to deal with, but there may be some hope. Mladen Kresic returns to the show. He’s the president and Chief Executive Officer of K&R Negotiations. He’s recently published a white paper on the problem and how you can handle the situation — and maybe even make it work for you. Mladen, the author of Negotiate Wisely in Business and Technology, is joining us on the show right now. Great to catch up with you, Mladen. How have you been? Read more