This post contains affiliate links. read our full disclosure here
Creating relationships is a vital part of business, and something that has allowed me to excel in all of the positions I have held. It’s good that I have this skill set as I was hit in the head many times in my 11 years playing football so don’t have too much else to offer (kidding of course)! I’m a big believer in creating what I call “trusted business advisor” relationships. There are many ways to do this but they all involve genuine care and sensitivity to others. This is typically more challenging for men than women as women tend to be more sensitized to other’s feelings and men sometimes have to go out of their comfort zones to accomplish.
Below are some of the specific activities I have employed (or have been employed for me) to help create these types of enhanced relationships:
These type of relationships have evolved into some very interesting things like job offers, use of vacation cabins for free and invites to significant sporting events. One of my customers taught at a local college and had me come in and teach a couple sessions for him each school quarter. When I was managing channel partners, I was asked several times to help put structure, on an “at risk” employee and determine if they were worth salvaging or not. I would walk into their businesses and new employees just assumed I worked there because of the open access and relationships I had within the company. Imagine how much easier this makes it when your competitor walks in the door or when it comes time to conduct some negotiations? I can tell you from experience that becoming a trusted business advisor can help “grease the skids” and make everything you are trying to accomplish much easier.
So, I would encourage you to be cognizant of these types of approaches during interactions going forward. When you boil it all down, it comes down to the golden rule and what activities could someone employ to make a significant impact for you? It involves actively looking for ways to pleasantly surprise others and fulfilling any commitments that are made. Do what you say and say what you’ll do is always a good mantra to live by. If a big oaf like myself can be successful utilizing these principles, I guarantee anyone can!
I feel like people have given the word “objection” a bad rap. You see it so much on the legal shows on TV when they object to what’s being said or when people talk about sales. I’ve always looked at objections positively; to me, it means that the other party is “playing ball”. When I was a younger man, and a woman might object to the way I look, I would think to myself “OK. Is that all I have to deal with? Maybe if I’m funny, I can overcome my objectionable looks!”. Also as a younger man, when I was in sales, I would relish getting objections from a customer as I knew the best way to counteract those objections. I had a Rolodex of responses that I would immediately deploy with fervor. “Oh, you don’t like the pricing? Compared to what? We are different than that competitor because….”.
Then I read a book that completely changed my view on objections. The book is called “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling” By Frank Bettger. It was published in 1949 and the first thing I noticed was that most of the concepts discussed were the exact same concepts taught in Sales Training today. There are no “new” concepts in sales, they are just marketed differently (what a rip!). The second thing I noticed was how he talked about objections. (It would be really cool if I could actually find my copy of this book as I have purchased it 10 separate times; it’s probably in my house somewhere buried under pounds of animal fur but I digress…). Frank was an insurance salesman who would track all of his customer interactions. Out of 1000 customer “interviews”, 60% of the time the objections he received WERE NOT THE REAL OBJECTIONS!!! They were a ruse! There are two types of objections; the real one and the one that sounds good. So, when you hit on that girl at the bar and she turns you down by saying that she has a boyfriend, what she really means is that you smell or you have a large piece of cabbage in your teeth or you are highly overweight and horizontal stripes are not flattering, etc… Imagine how that concept changes the life of a sales person. If you roll out “pre-canned” responses, you have a higher chance than not of wasting your breath because you are addressing a false objection!
Mr. Bettger’s went to a seminar held by Dale Carnegie and got the answer. He tells the story of a large client that was assigned to him but no longer purchased anything from his company. He would let Frank come and deliver his pitch but always declined to do business with him by saying they were OK for now or purchased services from someone else. After hearing Mr. Carnegie’s message, he asked for another meeting with this dormant client and was provided with the typical excuses. Then, he very simply asked (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Sir, is there anything else that might be causing you not to do business with us? If there is and I can address it, perhaps we might be able to work together again. If there is something else and I cannot address it, then I’ll feel better to have at least gotten the opportunity and can stop hassling you.” The client looked at him in silence for a very long time. Then he said “your company used to provide me with a discount and then, for no reason, ceased to credit my account without any notice. Once that occurred, I vowed never to utilize your organization again.” Frank checked on this issue, found out there was a mistake made, credited the customer’s account retroactively and earned back the business.
You can ask the question that way or even just ask another probing question but I guess the main point is that you should assume that the initial objection may be a ruse. Too many times we get caught up in just responding instead of genuinely trying to understand someone. Steven Covey says that 90% of the time people disagree it’s not because they truly disagree but one or the other side doesn’t fully understand the other’s position. 90%!!! Try to be aware of this and just have a genuine conversation as it flows naturally instead of trying to exhibit staunch control.
Good negotiating skills are key to have in today’s environment. Whether we are negotiating with our kids, our bosses or customers, continuing to hone your negotiating tactics are an important endeavor. Many times, negotiating turns into a game of compromise where the outcome is so diluted that no one is satisfied. That is an unskilled negotiation. Not to get political here but Obamacare seems to be a prime example of this. To get the initiative pushed through, a ton of “pork” had to be included and too many compromises caused many unintended results and the thrust of the initiative to be ineffectual.
There is also what’s called a “win-win” negotiation. But many times that evolves into I win and you think you win but only realize later that you actually lost. I believe many go into negotiations with this strategy to try and “game” the negotiation and use tricks to mask the initial agreement as one that is positive for the other party. What happens when that other party realizes they have been bamboozled (rarely get to break out that .25 cent word outside of deploying my impression of Stephen A. Smith)? It causes hurt feelings, is a detriment to long-term relationships and may cause them to want to retaliate down the road.
When I negotiate, I like to think about long term results and how both sides can truly achieve what they want. This process will take longer but will result in both sides skipping away from the negotiating table (figuratively of course; seeing a 300-pound man skipping somewhere can be scary and the authorities might be called) and create a healthy long term relationship. To accomplish this, before I go into a negotiation what I do is break out a flip chart and draw three columns; the first it titled with my name, the second is the customer’s name and the third is titled “Options”. In the first column, I list what I want to achieve as a result of the negotiation and in the second, what I suspect the customer might want to achieve as a result.
I want to realize my margin
Wants boss to be happy with the deal I made.
I want referrals from this customer.
Wants good value from purchase.
I want my customer to be happy long term.
Solution to address business challenges.
The solution should be appropriate, long term.
Wants to pay under budget.
I want 30-day payment terms.
Want implemented in short timeline.
I want the deal to close today.
Ability to back out if not working.
Now, what we need to determine is, how can each side get EVERYTHING they have on the list? Not 50% of each item, not half of my items and half of theirs but each of us get a check mark next to every item listed. This is obviously easier said than done and that’s why it’s good to work on it ahead of time so you can come to the table with some good ideas. Now, here are some options to address both party’s needs:
These are just some examples of some shared options we could deploy that would allow both sides to get everything they wanted as a result of the negotiation. Now, what would happen if I did this on a flip chart in concert with the customer? We did it collaboratively with the customer listing some “out of the box” ways to allow them to look good to their organization (and hopefully strengthen their job security which is becoming more vital in today’s world). Even better, what if I put myself out there and listed everything I wanted first to be completely transparent about my wants and desires? Do you think the customer would appreciate this type of candor? Jack Welch said that candor is a greatly undervalued asset in our society and I believe a customer would find it very refreshing.
Now, would this work with every type of customer? Obviously not (I have a difficult time trying this with my kids as my son seems to be destined for a career as a lawyer and my daughter has me wrapped around her little finger) but I tend to believe that most customers are reasonable people and this exercise would allow you to be better off financially, as a result, create better relationships and help differentiate yourself from your competitors. What else could you ask for? So try out a version of this technique during your next negotiation and would love to hear some stories about how they turned out!