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All great sales professionals look to their victories and stinging losses for inspiration for future bargaining engagements. A post-mortem of any business negotiation will always reveal a treasure trove of new and valuable information.
Successful sales professionals immediately prepare for the next negotiation with regular business partners by capturing every detail of the negotiation they have just finished. They make copious notes on all topics within the negotiation. Seasoned negotiators may take weeks to discreetly probe their prospects to garner even more information in order to prepare for and execute their next negotiation engagement. The short line is “learn from your mistakes.”
These professionals go to these great lengths because, like great chess masters, each opponent they engage has a specific line of thought as they lay out their negotiation plans. The opponent’s logic base may repeat itself. They may choose a specific time of day to meet to enhance their access to information; they may like to meet in the morning when they are most uncluttered mentally and most refreshed from a good sleep. They may also choose a specific style of venue to create a mood such as austerity, collaboration, conciliation or just a need for quick-fulfilling closure.
There is a lot to think about and process when big money negotiations are in play. As I often say to my large corporate clients…. “What if I could help you realize a 1% gain on every business negotiation you complete on an annualized basis…what would this mean to your business?” It is one of those client queries that makes a very small number grow into a very large and intriguing number.
Below are four topics to add to your next business negotiation post-mortem:
1) The Prospect’s Objectives
Did we do our best job unearthing the prospect’s true objectives? In my experience, most business negotiation partners are pretty forthcoming and transparent about what they want, simply because they are trying to foster an environment of trust. This mindset can often lead to collaboration in bargaining which is surely the gold standard in business negotiation. However, over the years, there have been a few negotiation partners that say one thing and play us to the hilt to get what they truly wanted in a manner that might be construed as feckless and reckless. We always have to ask ourselves: did we really guide them into the bargaining continuum (AKA zone of potential agreement), or were we duped?
2) Tactics they used
I love the game of tactics in a business negotiation because it is where some of the fine art in bargaining is displayed. Tactics are what we see, hear, smell, and feel. Can we identify each tactic and catalogue it for the next time with a frequent bargaining partner with an appropriate neutralizer from our side? What verbal expressions did they use? What body language did they recoil into? What did they do to move us off of our script in the heat of the moment? Was there a physical tell when they were getting close to their objectives?
3) Strategies they used
The difference between novice and seasoned negotiators is the strategies that they employ. A novice negotiator may only have a couple of go-to strategies that they use under a wide variety of situations with varied success. Whereas, a seasoned negotiator shifts gears with a catalogue of effective strategies, like a formula one racecar driver who adapts to the terrain of a high-speed environment. If you can identify your negotiation partner’s strategies you have a huge advantage in guiding the other side toward your business negotiation objectives.
4) Improvements we must make
The old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,”…applies. In order to become the best business negotiator you can you have to continually pull even your finest bargaining efforts apart to look for further improvement. Educate yourself to recognize when a trusted negotiation partner is offering you an opening to complete a great innovative deal. Think more about end-to-end negotiation strategies. Understand the importance of your negotiation partner’s business culture. Think collaboration. Look for the good in business partners, and conclude smart deals that stand the test of time. Remember, great skill sets take years of practice and refinement. Start your business negotiation post-mortem rituals today!
"Writing a post-mortem is hard, particularly when the result is failure: a failed deal; a failed investment; a failed concept. That said, without a post-mortem, without deep reflection, honesty, and introspection, how can we get better and do better the next time? Quite simply, we can’t." - Roger Ehrenberg
About the Author:
Patrick Tinney is a Certified Print Production Practitioner (CPPP). He is a double graduate of Sheridan College, a founding Director of the Flyer Distribution Standards Association of Canada and a member of the Canadian Society of Training and Development. Patrick is also an active Advisory Committee member for the Sheridan College, Advertising Program. Patrick is the founder of Centroid Training and Marketing. For more information or to comment, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.
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