lisbiz strategies: Negotiation skills and sales training

Home Columns lisbiz strategies: Negotiation skills and sales training

by Lisbeth Calandrino

I recently completed some customer service training, and one of the modules was about negotiation. Many participants wanted to know why they need negotiation training. I clarified it will help explain how people make decisions.

In the book Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton suggest that to get what you want you must separate yourself from the problem.

We all know in order to negotiate, you must understand the problem or what’s at stake; determine what you’re after; know when to walk away, and determine what the other party may lose. All this makes sense. If you have a track record with the person, you also have some ideas as to how he will act when the chips are down.

Think about it: Your emotions play a huge part in your decision-making. Like negotiating with your child, things seem to be going smoothly, then someone just goes off and says the wrong thing, and all those logical arguments go out the window.

This is a key reason why family businesses are so difficult to maintain. Old resentments start to surface no matter how sophisticated the participants. The emotions aren’t connected to logic or even an incident; they’re connected to a feeling about the episode.

Since the release of the above-mentioned book, research has uncovered negotiation is more than winning or losing the argument. There are other things at stake, including identity, respect and power; they may even take precedence over the original problem. For instance, have you ever had the feeling there was something about another person you couldn’t stand but couldn’t put your finger on it?

Many things happen during a negotiation. Much of what goes on occurs on a non-verbal or a non-rational level. On a retail floor, negotiations are always taking place between salespeople and customers—they may involve ordering materials, booking an installation date or deciding on a mutually acceptable price. Who doesn’t feel a bit anxious during these situations? Understanding these feelings and spotting them in the other person can help you remain cool and somewhat detached.

The theory of emotional intelligence is now an important part of how we predict success. Psychologist Daniel Goleman talked about the value of emotional intelligence 15 years ago; these days it’s commonplace. His theory is people who understand others’ emotions as well as their own are often more successful than those who have little awareness. People with these skills understand what motivates others and are able to settle difficult situations. Rather than dismiss emotions, they tend to be more aware of how feelings are influencing their negotiations.

One difficult thing about negotiations is concern about the end result and wondering if you will win or lose or who has the upper hand. Instead of seeing it as a win-win, it’s seen as a win-lose.

Feeling out of control can make you feel defeated before you even start negotiating. Maybe you feel your price is too high or you have lost your bargaining edge—this won’t help you feel in control.

If the customer thinks the price is too high, the salesperson’s job is to understand why she feels that way. Once understood, he can help her understand the value of the purchase. Understanding the value is different than trying to convince her why she should pay the asking price.

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