Humankind has always been a hurting race. We are a race in which individuals and groups hurt and get hurt by others. Sometimes, we are unaware that we are hurting others, and sometimes we are quite aware that we are doing so. Sometimes we are culpable of the hurt we cause, and sometimes, we are not. In this regards, I have come across two sayings which capture the situation very expressively: “Hurt people hurt people” and “We often do unto others what was done unto us”.
When one party hurts another, a vicious cycle may be born which then flows across time, space, and generations. This might involve an individual family or an entire population. To an outsider who is not personally (and emotionally) involved, it can easily appear as though the parties to the conflict are trapped in an “emotional bubble” that defies reason, logic, clear thinking, or effective decision.
In such a world, merely existing side by side with a certain person or group can be a deeply emotionally trying process. Interacting is much harder. Negotiating is almost impossible.
It is hard to negotiate when I don’t even see the other as being fully human. I am of the opinion (and I may well be wrong in this) that nothing tests a person or group’s willingness to negotiate, or their mastery of negotiation as much as negotiating with those who have harmed, hurt, or humiliated them or those they know or love. These negotiations reveal our deepest own insecurities, vulnerabilities, and antipathies. Often, each side is fully – logically and rationally – convinced they are right and the other is wrong. They perceive their respective actions and behaviors as being benign and innocent and perceive the other’s as being filled with malice and dripping with guilt. Far too often, right and wrong don’t even figure too much. The focus and effort to hurt the other takes over and overwhelms every other consideration.
Hurt people who hurt others can manifest in the most diverse of ways: war, genocide, family feuds, demagoguery, gossip, organizational politics, mob justice and mob violence, emotional (or verbal, physical, or psychological) abuse, sibling rivalry, love triangles, close relationships that disintegrate into acrimony and blame, marriages that end up in court, class warfare and class struggle, and more. To all this, when we add the consideration that we humans are capable and willing to pervert every good and noble human reality into a means and cause for strife, division, and dissension – education, knowledge, wealth, power, fame, position, physical strength or beauty, gender, religion, age, history, access to resources, human rights, economic or military strength, ideology etc. – the picture that emerges is one that is monstrous and ugly.
How does all this arise?
I don’t know! Tracing the roots of all these are deep waters into which I dare not step. It’s easy to come up with simplistic answers of humans being bad and rotten through and through, or good who have chosen to go bad. It’s easy to trace the effects to a traumatic childhood, or to mental ill health, or to emotional damage. It’s easy to mention the impact of ideas that reduce the human person to a “thing”. We might locate a traumatic event that affected a person deeply and caused some physiological damage which spilled over to behavior. All these have their place. But none of them, singly, can capture the full complexity of the human person.
Complex questions often have complex answers. The simple answers that might be put forward are the fruit of engaging complexity, not running away from, or minimizing it. I cannot adequately understand, much less explain how some people end up as psychopaths and sociopaths; how siblings end up as sworn mortal enemies consumed by desires of revenge; why adults harm, maim, and deform children; or why people kill in the name of God. The more I study, reflect, and observe these things, the more I come to the conviction that no single explanation suffices – regardless of who proffers it.
Many wake up to, and live in, a very hostile world, daily
Innumerable people are under tremendous psychological pressure from the moment they wake up till the moment they fall into an uneasy and fitful sleep, daily. Too many lives are totally devoid of peace, serenity, or harmony. It is not surprising at all that this spills over in many ways into the lives of others. Every mob is composed of people who are venting their frustration – regardless of whether who or what they vent their frustrations on are actually responsible for such frustration. It is also not surprising that people seek and use numerous ways to compensate for this lack of joy, peace, meaning, happiness, fulfillment, or harmony. If you have a boss, peer, subordinate, client, vendor, business partner, or family member who is living such a life, you will be exposed to the effects of these raging storms. If you are a person who experiences such inner turmoil, those who live, work, and interact with you are not shielded from its effects.
The perception of a hostile world is something that all of us can easily fall prey to. Such a perception can profoundly affect your decision making and judgment, and mine. A hostile world is filled with threats. Survival becomes paramount.
Such a world is one in which
- Power gives us a sense of worth, security, or emotional/psychological comfort
- Our self-image gets a boost only at the expense of others
- We must wear masks to hide our vulnerabilities, project a certain image, or hide our deficiencies or insufficiencies
- Forgiveness is seen as a sign of weakness
- The wounds left on us by those we love (or the wounds we leave on them) create thick and impregnable walls to develop between us and them
- “Winning” is all that counts. If “winning” is not possible, the least acceptable is “not losing”.
- “Adversary” means “adversary/threat/enemy/rival/opponent”
- The concept of a “respected opponent” who remains both respected and an opponent without being seen as a threat seems to be an oxymoron
- The best of us easily fall into the WIIFM mindset and exhibit WIIFM behaviors
- Differences are unsettling and threatening
- Fear of others, their motives, their intentions, their basic goodness etc. is a dominant force
- Individuals and entire populations live trapped in and by the past – and all this means in terms of suspicion and baggage that is faithfully transmitted from one generation to the next
Time, willingness, and openness to healing and growth
When people harm us, it is normal for us to experience an emotional reaction. Such emotional reactions alert us to danger, and help us protect ourselves. It takes time to heal, for emotions to rage and then become calm, for us to grieve our losses, and then accept and embrace them, and for the memory to perceive the same reality differently. We cannot force or hasten the process.
We must never underestimate the power of habit and conditioning. We must also never use habit and conditioning as a crutch, a trap, or an excuse. It takes time to heal but it also takes personal responsibility, openness and willingness. It’s easy to get trapped in and by the past. But we must leave it, and progressively let go of it. This leaving and letting go can only occur at our own pace. It cannot happen until we actually begin to perceive and interpret it differently. When we are able to do that, our emotional reactions begin to change.
Few of us will have as dramatic a life as Nelson Mandela. I have often be fascinated by his words – which I also found quoted in this article titled “Ubuntu and Forgiveness: Keys to Living an Abundant Life”:
“As I walked out the door toward my freedom I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred and bitterness behind I would still be in prison.”
Mandela’s autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” makes for gripping reading and introduces us to a normal human being who underwent a transformative experience over time until he stopped seeing his oppressors as the enemy. Without compromising and without giving in, he slowly humanized himself in their eyes and came to see them as fully human, in his own. Then, he was able to see them as equals and treat them as his “respected opponents”.
What can you and I do?
In certain situations or for a certain period of time of strife and conflict, there’s not much we can do. Sometimes, the most we can do is to absorb the effects of the brokenness and dysfunction of others. Just as often, we must learn to be patient with our own brokenness and dysfunction. It takes time to stop perceiving those who have harmed, hurt, or humiliated us as “threats” to our peace, happiness, and well-being. No amount of preaching, teaching, or intellectualizing can do this for us. We can’t force or hasten the process. But we can stop impeding the process. The less we feel “threatened” by the events, circumstances, experiences, or people, the more we can engage them. It must be done gradually and compassionately. We must extend such compassion to ourselves and to others. In this way, we will be open to humanizing the other. As we see the extent of our feebleness, foibles, blindness or ignorance, we will see that the other is also not immune to such things. They may or may not accept the damage they have done to us. The more we do it, the less their behaviors and responses will matter. We will learn that our happiness cannot be held hostage to the behavior or reciprocation of others.
The necessity of compassion towards self becomes important when we see the hurt we have caused others. Often, there’s little or nothing we can say or do that will reverse or undo the hurt. Of course we must satisfy – in whatever way we can and is appropriate – the demands of justice and truth. But we will encounter the human limits that cannot be crossed on the basis of our willingness or desire to set things right.
A crucial decision: Should I negotiate or not?
Very often, we must continue living, working, or interacting with those who have hurt us, or with those we have hurt. Other times, in order to move on with life, we might have to have one last negotiation – before setting out on our respective journeys. At such moments, the question “Should I negotiate or not” becomes acute. There’s no easy answer and it is always a question of exercising sound judgment.
I of course have a professional bias towards choosing negotiation as the first, second, and third course of action. And yet, I recognize that there are some situations in which negotiation is not feasible, or even advisable. Some people must experience the pain and the cost of not negotiating in order to feel drawn to the negotiation table. Some people are so deeply conditioned by their decisions, habits, perceptions, and interpretations that building vision becomes possible only after they and their near and dear ones experience the pain they inflict on others. But these situations are few and far between.
It is also important to recognize that there are situations in which a person may feel that the decision of whether or not to negotiate is out of his/her hands. This is an illusion. The fact that others are unwilling to negotiate must not lead us to thinking that we are constrained to either negotiate or stay away from negotiation. We might choose to build their vision of pain in order to bring them to the negotiation table. But we must never believe that certain problems are of such a nature that their very nature precludes negotiation.
The problems that come between people or that are created on the basis of the behaviors, activities, and decisions of one or both of them must be identified, engaged, negotiated, and solved. In such situations, the ability to negotiate a valid 5-point agenda is indispensable.
When our emotions are raging
In many situations of (protracted) conflict, it is a lie to say or believe that one party was or is wholly responsible for what has gone wrong or is going wrong.
We must be honest with ourselves. In situations and circumstances of hurt and pain, is building a valid M&P an attempt to square a circle? Is it possible to build a valid M&P that is set in the world of those who have hurt or harmed us, and set to their benefit? I know it is not impossible. I also know that you and I will often need help to do so, and to be held accountable to such a valid M&P.
Given that we might be in a state of emotional turmoil and find it hard to commit to a valid M&P, it might help to:
1) Get support from another person who will help you, unflinchingly, to be faithful to your valid M&P.
2) Take it in small steps – one decision at a time.
3) Envision what is a threat and what is not, and distinguish between both.
4) Recognize your own contribution to the problem.
5) Negotiate baggage unflinchingly.
6) Negotiate an agenda.
7) Negotiate on the basis of a valid M&P. (More on this, below.)
We can use the help of a third party to negotiate for a bit more time – until we are able to start making effective decisions. Building a valid M&P that is set in the adversary’ world and to the adversary’s benefit, and seeing the adversary as our “respected opponent” is, perhaps, the initial hill that must be climbed. We can’t do it by gritting our teeth and forcing ourselves on the basis of will power alone.
The effort to build a valid M&P is a mark of the utmost realism. It also requires courage. Even if the negotiation involves each party going his or her separate way, a valid M&P gives us the strength, focus and resolution to make all the decisions required to do so.
The best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones
Lots of alternatives to negotiation exist. I hope you won’t be shocked if I state that killing, maiming, blackmailing, or hurting the other, are some such “options”. It goes on uninterruptedly, all around us. Other options include escalating the conflict with threats, counter-threats, ultimatums, displays of power, acts of intimidation and more. We can scream, shout, play to the gallery, or cast aspersions on their good names, or assassinate their characters. We can demonize the other. None of these requires any special skill or ability. Very ordinary people demonstrate a capacity to do all this and more. What does take skill, ability, maturity, insight, emotional calm and balance, and more is to build a valid M&P that helps us see the benefits we are bringing to the other side, during the negotiation. Thinking in terms of benefitting someone who has harmed us is something that only the truly courageous can embark upon.
Despite the words, deeds, and example of the Gandhis, Martin Luther King Jnrs, Mother Teresas, Dag Hammarskjolds, Nelson Mandelas, or John Paul IIs of this world, the state of our homes, organizations, and societies is what it is. We can celebrate their lives and feel attracted to their words, deeds, and example. But no other person can walk our own road for us, or make the decisions that we alone can make. This is why the best gift we can give ourselves and our loved ones is to master negotiation.
Negotiation mastery enables us to engage the most difficult problems that arise in human interactions and relationships. It gives us the confidence to engage those problems and to confront our own mistakes as well as our own contributions to those problems. We can learn to gradually overcome our conditioning and not to perceive the other as a threat to our happiness, joy, and well-being. Whether we choose to let go of a dysfunctional relationship or to try and fix the problems that are causing such dysfunction, we won’t simply be resorting to flight, fright, or fight reactions. Gradually, we will be able to remove the labels we stick on the foreheads of others. Negotiation mastery – and the effort to negotiate – will be a unique stage in our personal growth and evolution.
Nelson Mandela famously said: “Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.” Recognizing the prisons we build for ourselves or for others, and then unlocking the doors and stepping out and allowing others to step out is the first step to negotiating. It is the first of many steps to freedom, and though the walk may be long, it always leads to a better place.
(The protection and guidance of the Camp Negotiation Management System – Part 5)
In my previous piece of this series, I wrote about how the System enables you experience genuine control by learning to distinguish what is under your control and what is not. For the system user, the ability to distinguish what is and is not under one’s control comes “built-in”. This is because the principles, rules, tools, and structure of the System provide the tracks on which effective decision making can run and be made. By mastering and using the System, the user experiences increasing levels of genuine control until mastery leads to the ability to participate, make decisions, and re-react, in the human performance event of negotiation, in a state of complete emotional calm.
One of the many ways in which the System does this is by providing the user with an level of unsurpassed focus. It enables the user
(i) Zero in on and develop an accurate picture of the realities surrounding the negotiation.
(ii) Zero in on the next decision required to move the negotiation forward.
This is the level of focus that is required to move a negotiation forward, at any and every stage.
To the untrained eye, a negotiation can be bewilderingly complex. It may also be naively simple to some, but experience is sufficient to “cure” that mistaken view. Sadly, by then, many people are too cynical and jaded to learn. Whatever a particular person’s view of negotiation, many still think of themselves are very good negotiators. When such people do not get the desired outcome, or reach an agreement that disintegrates after it has been reached, it becomes easy to blame the other person of being a bully, a liar, a well-trained manipulator, or some such thing. Predators of all sorts do exist. I acknowledged this in Part 2. However, to blame someone else for one’s own mistakes and ineffective decisions prevents learning and growth. It also prolongs and deepens ineffectiveness – while the person remains blissfully unaware of his/her own contributions to what eventually happens.
Gaining an accurate picture in the midst of everything that’s going on
Every decision made during a negotiation is born in your world or in your adversary’s world. External events or actors can only influence a negotiation if their actions, decisions or external events impact the negotiation through your world or the adversary’s world. Of course no moat exists to prevent the external world from impacting either party’s world. This makes an intimate and deep insight into the adversary’s world something that is of supreme importance. The adversary’s decisions will always be born in his world. Every “yes”, “no” or “maybe” (which you must NEVER accept) is born in that world.
Your adversary certainly knows a lot about his/her world – as you do about yours. But he/she may just as often also be blind to many of the realities in his/her world. You and I are often just as blind and unaware of many of the realities in our world. Here, every negotiator is faced with these questions:
(i) How do I see the realities that the adversary is aware of?
(ii) How do I see the realities that the adversary is unaware of?
(iii) How do I get the adversary to see the realities he/she is aware of?
(iv) How do I get the adversary to see the realities that the adversary is unaware of?
(v) How do I do this for all adversaries – whether or not they are at the table, now?
It is only when you and your adversary see the same realities and the consequences and manifestations of those realities in the same way, that effective decisions can be born. If you don’t see and help the adversary see, you are doing a tremendous disservice to the adversary. You also don’t deserve to get an agreement.
The hard-head realism that the Camp Negotiation Management System enables you develop
If you and your adversary (for complex negotiations, this will also involve your respective negotiation teams) don’t have a common picture of reality, you cannot influence the decision required to move the negotiation forward. But it’s not only your adversary’s decisions that you ought to be concerned about. If you make decisions without clear insight into the adversary’s world, you are flying blind. Adversaries who make decisions in tandem with your blindness become a perfect example of the blind being led (or leading) the blind. Without an accurate perception and interpretation of the realities in your adversary’s world, you will often make decisions that are detached from reality. And yet, how many people continue to negotiate on the basis of assumptions, expectations, hunches, gut feelings, and more? Quite a lot. Not only do they do it often, many believe that this is a sign of negotiation effectiveness. Is it any wonder that so many negotiations go south?
The person who has mastered negotiation has developed the ability to surface submerged realities. He/she has also mastered the ability to unveil hidden ones – including those that the adversary is actively hiding from himself/herself. This hard-headed realism is essential if you wish to reach stable, profitable, and ethical deals. Otherwise, you will be run over by realities that weigh on the agreement and cause a lot of havoc at a later stage. When you don’t have an accurate picture of the realities that make up the past, the here and now, and the future of the adversary’s world, all your efforts must be focused on discovering those realities – and simultaneously helping the adversary see those realities for himself/herself as he/she shows it to you. The final picture of reality that emerges must be clear to both of you.
Without this hard-headed realism, you will simply be wishing, hoping, praying, or gambling. Hard-headed realism has nothing to do with telling, convincing, arguing, demanding, threatening, or making “take it or leave it offers”. There’s nothing that equates boorishness or obnoxious behavior with such realism. What it actually requires is learning how to get invited into the adversary’s world and building a picture of that world through the adversary’s own efforts to see. Hard-headed realism also demands that you don’t insert yourself in between them and the vision that is developing. That is why so many aspects of the Camp System – nurturing, being unokay, asking vision-building interrogative-led questions, using connecting statements, nurturing and reversing their questions, listening deeply, blankslating, respecting their right to veto, painting a clear picture of pain, not saving the adversary from that clear picture of pain, not taking advantage/leveraging that pain – all work together to help you accurately perceive and interpret the realities of the adversary’s world – while doing the same, simultaneously, for the adversary.
The next decision
Seeing a negotiation as a string of decisions is an excellent way to simplify negotiations. However, this has little value if one does not see the specific problem(s) holding the negotiation back at each moment or see the specific decision that will move the negotiation forward. This level of focus must be joined to an accurate perception and interpretation of the realities in the other person’s world, and the ability to help him/her also see those realities. The user of the Camp System is able to towards agreement when he/she also helps the adversary see
(i) The problems that are standing in the way of agreement
(ii) The next decision that will solve those problems
(iii) What is required to make that next decision in terms of people, process, and budget.
In this way, the user of System has tracks for his/her own decision making and builds tracks for the adversary to make effective decisions.
Guidance and protection in the face of much well-intentioned but misguided advice
In a world where trust, relationships, emotional intelligence, social intelligence, win-win, and various shades of compromise are encouraged and perhaps even enthroned as dogma, the Camp Negotiation Management system offers unparalleled guidance and protection by getting rid of all that is superfluous or nebulous. All these conflicting bits of advice often leave the untrained negotiator disorientated. It also leaves him or her vulnerable to predators or those driven by a WIIFM mindset. People easily fall into the habit of thinking that a particular decision is effective because he/she seeks to “build trust”, “build a relationship”, “behave in an emotionally intelligent manner”, or “seek win-win”. These are undoubtedly noble desires born in a noble heart. They also feed ineffective decisions.
Trust, win-win, building relationships, or compromise, are not essential for reaching a stable, profitable, and ethical agreement. You and I must engage adversaries as psychological beings and we must develop the ability to habitually put people at emotional ease. This does not mean that a negotiator ought to take responsibility for the adversary’s decisions, nor save the adversary from his/her vision of pain, nor try to save the relationship. Negotiations often require very tough decisions. This is not facilitated by building trust, relationships, going for win-win etc. All these can easily end up as so much baggage. They also imply that negotiations in which people are deeply suspicious or hostile of each other have little or no chance of reaching a stable, profitable, and ethical agreement. I shall address this in the next post of this series.
Please share your thoughts and add a comment below.
In many negotiation situations, we humans act on the basis of what can best be described as an intuitive sense regarding who wields decision making rights in a group setting. After identifying such people, we often initiate the negotiation with that person through an intermediary. This implies that we identify those (we believe) wield influence with those who possess decision making rights with regards the decisions we seek. Examples abound:
Children learn at a young age to get mom to speak to dad about something that dad might not support, initially. (I’m certain that in certain situations it works the other way round too.)
Many subordinates speak to immediate superiors when when they wish to make a request to a superior’s superior.
Sales people sometimes speak to lower level employees in a company who they hope may be able to give them insight into the mindset, character, behavior, or priorities of those they intend to negotiate with.
Informal diplomatic channels are sometimes opened up by one of two parties who are in a state conflict, to see if the other is interested in direct formal negotiations. Those who are approached for these “pre-negotiations” are often people who possess a certain degree of influence (and credibility) with actual decision makers.
When we attempt to negotiate with someone we don’t know, we seek out friends or acquaintances who know that person or know someone who knows that person.
Very often, the effort to initiate a negotiation through an intermediary is an expression of a lack of negotiation mastery. In other situations, it is actually an expression of negotiation mastery. In all such situations, we make our decisions based on what we “see” regarding the intermediary’s knowledge, influence, standing, or credibility with the decision maker. Sadly, in complex negotiation projects, our intuition can be wrong, and we can easily be led astray by our own assumptions, expectations, neediness, or invalid goals. They blind us to reality and prevent us from seeing the actual decision makers, and negotiating with them. A decision making process that is not built on reality necessarily leads us to waste our budget in negotiations with phantom adversaries.
The inadequacy of formal decision making processes
In many complex negotiations, the formal decision making process must be seen and understood. It must serve an important orienting function – to provide us with certain landmarks to assist us get our bearings with regards the lay of the land. It may serve as a guide, but that cannot be ascertained with any degree of certainty at the outset. This is simply because the formal decision making processes in business, politics, and in many other group settings cannot, by rule, be designed with a view of every conceivable situation that may arise. One such conceivable situation that was not foreseen might well be the negotiation you are involved in.
The organizational chart or a formal decision making process provides perfect cover for those with real influence to hide and exert their influence from behind the scenes. Meanwhile, the dutiful negotiator may be negotiating with a host of people, blissfully unaware of who is calling the shots. This is something that can be seen clearly after a complex negotiation project has ended in agreement. If you retrace your footsteps, you may be surprised to see how the actual decisions emerged, who made them, who influenced them, and how the decision making process diverged from whatever was on the organizational chart.
Finding the forces of influence and building the decision making process for an agreement is one of the most demanding challenges that negotiators face. Doing this in a conscious way requires negotiating mastery. It is also one at which most people fail. They then render their own efforts useless, and squander their own negotiation budgets. Given how taxing this can be physically, mentally, and emotionally, it’s a double waste – wasting your budget on a misguided/ignorant effort that was doomed to failure from the outset.
The failure to identify and negotiate with the real adversaries
One sees how regularly splinter groups seek to derail an agreement that is being negotiated by warring parties. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process; the current instability sweeping numerous parts of the Middle East; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the state of tension and conflict between India and Pakistan; the conflicts that wracked Northern Ireland; the conflict on the ground and the proxy wars being fought in Syria; the conflict raging in the Great Lakes region of Southern Africa, and many more, show, among other things, the reactions of those impacted by decisions taken at the negotiation table. They may then feel provoked to undermine or oppose those decisions.
In business/organizational settings, ignoring or excluding those who have a stake in the status quo, are impacted by a change to the status quo, or are feeling rattled by the prospect of a change to the status quo, will create tomorrow’s problems, today. The temporal aspect of negotiation – negotiations occur within the continuum of the past, present, and future – means that far more people than those at the table are impacting, and impacted by, the negotiation. The agreement reached today will be implemented tomorrow. Remember, too, that the pain that the adversary is facing may easily be the result of ineffective decisions taken yesterday. Nobody likes to be held responsible for such decisions. Even fewer will actually own up and accept responsibility. In an era where CEOs of multi-billion dollar concerns are replaced regularly as a result of the adverse consequences of the decisions they took or did not take, everybody else necessarily feels insecure and expendable. This can have very grave consequences for the agreement being negotiated.
The revengeful “no”
If a person or group has a stake in a negotiation and feels excluded from it, they can feel like their right to veto is being overridden. They will then express that right to veto how, where, and when they can. Count on it!
This “no” might be expressed in the negotiation you are currently involved in but might have its origin in another negotiation you are unaware of and which may not have had anything to do with you. Such business deals may never come to fruition because those who are saying “no” have not been identified or negotiated with. As a result, the vision driving their “no” remains unknown while simultaneously preventing this negotiation from moving forward.
Such a “no” might also be expressed during the implementation of the deal. An M&A that is announced with much fanfare might fail when those who live with the reality of conflicting work cultures express a very individual and collective “no” that undermines the rational justification for the deal in the first place. If you don’t welcome a “no” you will crash against it.
Once these emotional reactions kick in, every rational justification made by those who “created” that change will fall flat, and perhaps, even increase the intensity of the. This is regardless of whether that change is the fruit of a negotiation or not. It is often a reflex action that drips with emotion. Essentially, these reactions are a “no” that ought to have been engaged at the negotiation table, but were not. Every “no” that is not acknowledged will create emotional pressure that will manifest somewhere or the other. Such a “no” is driven by vision – a vision that inspires fear, uncertainty, stress, increased effort, a feeling of being controlled, a feeling of being excluded or devalued, a reaction against harm that may befall them etc. Many of these reactions may be the fruit of assumptions and expectations that have no basis in actual fact. But the fact that those at the negotiation table did not engage these adversaries means that they are left to negotiate with their own phantom adversaries. This in turn affects everybody else. Thus, if you end up negotiating with “phantom adversaries” your real adversaries may also end up, simultaneously, negotiating with “phantom” adversaries.
If you don’t fall prey to your neediness and your own expectations and assumptions, you will be able to discover and see “who” and “what” is standing in the way of each “yes” and “who” and “what” is driving each “no”. In the process, you will be both discovering (perhaps fractured) vision, and building unified vision.
The building of unified vision is mandatory if you wish to get an agreement that sticks. Many negotiation settings are complex. They may or may not be devoid of politicking and dysfunction. Even if they are not driven by the competing visions born of dysfunction, they will likely be composed of people working with the “partial vision” of their immediate situations, circumstances, and priorities. Many people therefore have their plates full. When you show up, they are not going to drop everything and give you their undivided attention and/support. How often does that happen when someone appears to negotiate with you, your organization, or a group you are a part of?
You must identify those who ought to say “yes”, those who can say “no”, and those whose “maybe” ought to be converted to a definite “no” or “yes”. If the “maybe” is converted to a “no”, it must subsequently be converted to a “yes”. If you don’t engage those who must say “yes”, those whose “no” must be converted to “yes”, and those whose “maybe” is holding things up, you cannot get to the agreement you seek.
Vision drives decisions. In complex negotiation settings, you must think: “Unified and harmonized vision drives decisions”. This is what will lead you to seek and find answers to “Whose vision?” side by side with answers to “What vision?” As you seek to build unified and harmonized vision, you ought to constantly ask yourself:
1) Who is responsible for a particular decision?
2) Who is impacted by a particular decision?
3) Who may be attempting to influence a particular decision?
4) Who is living with the pain of the status quo?
5) Who is benefiting from, responsible for, or defensive about the status quo?
6) What am I missing?
7) Who am I missing?
Reality dictates what the decision making process ought to be
We must base and build our efforts on reality or crash against it. The nature and extent of the problems that bring parties to the negotiation table; negotiating with those who are actually responsible for decisions; involving those who have influence over decisions or who are impacted by decisions – all these are what defines the reality that comprise and compose the answers to “Whose vision?” and “What vision?”.
Ultimately, reality dictates who your real adversaries are. If you are attentive, it will point them out to you. If you are not, both you and your real adversaries may end up negotiating with phantom ones.
Please share your thoughts with us and comment below.
The link between individual and team effort
When I started this piece, I deliberately did not plunge into a description of the difficulties and challenges encountered on a call. These are important – and I daresay most people will readily admit to the existence of those difficulties and challenges. I also suspect that many will agree that a number of the prescriptions out there simply don’t work as well as they claim to – or don’t work at all. This informed my decision to take the longer route of diagnosing the realities of the paradigms and mental maps at play which shape organizational life, and which directly or indirectly impact an organization’s cold calling efforts. It is also why I decided to emphasize that the efforts to fix an organization’s cold calling efforts cannot be done in isolation. Everything is indeed connected to everything else. When offering prescriptions, I try to constantly keep those words attributed to Einstein, in mind: “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” I have attempted to offer a holistic picture of the problems associated with cold calling. This also informed my decision to share thoughts, ideas, and prescriptions from guides whose judgment I trust. It is also why this series bears the title it does.
I have dedicated the last 5 posts listing out a number of problems that individuals engaged in cold calling encounter or cause. These are undoubtedly not the only problems that can be encountered. It’s more than a bit silly to learn a martial art, flying, or a team sport by listing out a catalogue of the problems that might be encountered and then creating a similar list of “If this, then that” solutions. The solution is to master a valid System related to whichever human performance event one wishes to master. For a System to be valid, it must, above all, be based on the principles that govern that human performance event.
I have repeatedly pointed out that cold calling is often a team effort. If the outcome you seek from cold calling depends on the efforts of more than one person, it is a team effort. The only situation in which it is not a team effort is if you are the only person responsible for placing the call and delivering the benefits that you are offering. By any stretch of the imagination, this is unlikely. Perhaps if you are looking for a job and decide to call up prospective employers, or you are a freelancer working from home without any other support staff to assist you, this may be the situation you are facing. Aside from that, cold calling is always part of a larger team effort.
A team composed of individuals who don’t accurately perceive, interpret, and re-react to the realities associated with that human performance event will necessarily devolve into a group of people working at cross purposes with each other. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. One or more untrained or poorly trained individuals can cause the entire effort to unravel. If the entire team is composed of untrained or poorly trained individuals, the consequences and results are what they are, and will remain what they have been. Unfortunately, untrained or poorly trained team members are not the only danger. Dangers also arise from exceptionally well trained individuals being driven by conflicting visions, don’t focus and coordinate their efforts, or who – to use the cliché that has gained currency in most team/group environments – are “not on the same page”. A group of exceptionally well trained negotiators can still make a mess of things as a result of miscommunication, a lack of communication, differing and conflicting visions, forgetfulness, and, above all, a valid System which enables them prepare, execute, and debrief each negotiation, as a team. Negotiation is a learned human performance event. But, very often, it is a learned human performance team event. Individual mastery is a necessary but insufficient condition for team and organizational negotiation mastery. That is why mastering negotiation management is indispensable.
Cold Calling and Negotiation Management
At CNI, we refer to a negotiation as the “negotiation project”. The number of people whose decisions, behaviors, activities, and efforts have to be coordinated – so that you can make and influence the decisions that move you towards agreement – makes this a very apt name. CNI’s students come across this statement during their training: “The word “project” is appropriate because the players, budgets, timelines, research, events etc. require orchestration and management.”
Without a Negotiation Management System to guide every aspect of the sales effort, the entire sales effort becomes a gamble. Everybody must know what the effort is focused on –in real time. Otherwise people begin sabotaging each other’s efforts. This more likely happens out of ignorance rather than malice. It also happens because of the effects of “Quota Land” which I have written about, extensively, in previous pieces.
The solution: The Camp Checklist and Log
The Camp Checklist is the tool that enables a disciplined, coordinated, focused and unified way to prepare and execute a negotiation, regardless of its complexity. It is built on a valid M&P which is directly derived from the valid M&P of that organization. Those who are engaged in the negotiation – a business unit, a business function, a cross-functional team, or multiple teams in multiple geographies who are separated by time, space, and culture – gain the means to work as a single cohesive unit during the preparation and execution stage. Each team member knows what their personal tasks and responsibilities are at each stage of the negotiation, see how their efforts help or hinder the efforts of others, and are aware of the efforts, tasks, and responsibilities of each of their other team members. The Checklist ensures that you negotiate an agenda for the next engagement before that engagement. It helps you build the (negotiated) “tracks” on which decisions can “run”.
The Camp Log offers a systematic way to debrief each negotiation. This Log is then used to build the next Checklist for the next negotiation engagement in the negotiation project. The cycle of Checklists and Logs then continues to guide the negotiation and aligns every person’s efforts, behaviors, activities, decisions, and re-reactions to whatever is encountered during the negotiation. It creates an excellent documented history of the negotiation. But that’s not all.
The Checklists and Logs are internally generated tools for learning that cannot be “created” by management, the learning and development function, external (training) consultants, or anyone else. It is self-generated by the team, during the event. It is a document that is custom-made and custom-built to the realities facing that organization at that point in time. Individuals, teams, and the organization as a whole get the opportunity to track and evaluate their performance, identify areas of strength and weakness, and set out on an ever upward spiral of learning and growth.
Checklists and Logs, Cold Calling, and the overall sales effort.
The Checklist that has been executed and the Log that is created after the Cold Call is the communication and collaboration tool that builds the same picture in the minds of each team member with regards where a particular negotiation is, at any one point in time. Checklists and Logs that are prepared together are an excellent way to get rid of blame games and dispersed efforts. They are also a tool to identify weaknesses and mistakes, acknowledge them in the next negotiation, and move the negotiation project forward. They are also the link between internal and external negotiations. If the internal negotiations are going badly, the external negotiations will go just as badly, and often, much worse. In such instances, it becomes a return to gambling.
When the entire sales effort is founded and becomes guided by one valid M&P and is aligned to the effort to influence the (clearly identified) decisions required to move the negotiation forward, guessing, wishing, hoping, praying, blaming, or winging it are not merely discarded. They are actually replaced with something that is much more superior and effective. Slowly, teamwork is “created”, and leadership is demonstrated, seen, observed, and learnt. Cohesion and engagement replaces dysfunction and disengagement. A sense of personal responsibility and mutual accountability are built into the entire effort. The roles and efforts of individuals become clearer: those who do what is required of them; how well they do it; and those who don’t. It is a good way of identifying every team member who is coasting along – including managers.
Performance improvement efforts can be targeted and delivered to those who stand in need of more training and coaching, and the kind of training and coaching they require. Mentoring becomes easier because you and your subordinates see each other in the thick of action. Finally, those who refuse to improve can be asked to leave. Not everyone is a right fit for every team. Others can be reassigned to other roles that might be more suited to their personality and/or interests. Performance at both individual and team levels rises. Organizational performance improves, sometimes in a very dramatic manner.
Seeing and treating Cold Calling as the professional (and professional’s) work that it is
The story of the three stonecutters is well known. Each of the three stone cutters is an apt description of the way in which individuals, teams, and organizations see cold calling. Some are cutting stones, others are building cathedrals, and some are in between.
Those who engage in cold calling are sometimes treated as those at the lowest end of the pecking order. It doesn’t help that those who engage in cold calling see themselves in such a light too. It’s also a severely distorted view of reality. When (and not until) cold calling is seen as part of the effort to put your best foot forward (as an individual and as an organization), will you begin to “see” how carefully it must be done. You also see that it must be done with the same degree of professionalism and deep expertise that you require of any or every other aspect of your organizational efforts. If your organization chooses to use cold calling, the effort to do it well costs a lot more than the effort to do it badly. The rewards are also far greater than whatever you gain by doing it in a haphazard, number-crunching, mind-numbing, and quota-driven manner.
When all is said and done, the decision to rely on cold calling as part of your sales effort is one that must be directly aligned to your valid M&P and fit in with your strategy to win in the market. It’s not a fit for many organizations. But if it is, what stops you from doing it well?
Please share your comments below. We’d love to know what’s on your mind.
22) You agree to a follow up call or secure a face to face meeting without negotiating an agenda
In the previous post I wrote for this series, I concluded with the point that your adversary asking for a presentation can actually be a problem that you encounter or cause. To conclude it is an “opportunity” or that it is bound to move you in the direction of a favorable outcome is a sign that a person doesn’t understand the dynamics at play. One must be exceedingly careful in in all situations whereby the cold call is followed by a face-to-face negotiation. Here, you encounter another problem that totally escapes the attention of many people: every face-to-face negotiation requires a negotiated agenda – and agenda that is negotiated before the face-to-face engagement and as part of the decision to meet.
Many of those engaged in cold calling pass on the appointment as a lead to their colleagues. Others who are engaged in both cold calling and meeting face-to-face with the prospect often get excited that they have at least been able to get a foot through the door not realizing that a negotiation without a prior negotiated agenda has no tracks for the decisions you and the adversary will make and ought to make. Everything becomes ad-hoc and chaotic. It is a good way of opening yourself up to manipulation: you provide them with the information which they use to beat your competition, and then use the concessions extracted from the competition to beat you on the head and in turn, extract concessions from you. Your meeting becomes a round of shadow boxing in which you and the competition slug it out without even being in the same room, while the adversary sits back and enjoys the show. Yes, during that time, he or she may be talking the language of “win-win”, “strategic partnership”, “long-term relationship”, “vendor of choice”, or may say they are “unhappy with their current vendor and/or are looking for a change (provided the price is right)”, and more.
Not negotiating an agenda – negotiating and agenda is a negotiation within the larger negotiation and you must demonstrate the same level of negotiation mastery while negotiating the agenda as while negotiating any other decision – is a much bigger problem than is apparent at first. It is not simply a question of whom you will talk to, what you will talk about, or in which order you will talk about them. It’s actually about building the decision making process for that negotiation. I doubt if any B2B negotiation has ready-made tracks. I find it exceptionally unlikely.
It is the “tracks” that you build with a negotiated agenda that help you discover what problems stand in the way of a negotiated agreement, the decisions that ought to be made to solve those problems, who will make those decisions, and how best to widen the negotiation to include those people – so that they become a part of the negotiation – and so that you can actually negotiate with them. By widening the net to include blockers, influencers, and decision-makers, you ensure that you fully engage the pain of the adversary. You introduce a degree of openness and transparency that might be genuinely surprising to the adversary. It may act as a brake and may slow down the negotiation. But that is because you are seeking to make and to influence effective decisions that stick.
It is by negotiating with all these people that you can gain insight into the real issues driving the negotiation, get a clear picture of the adversary’s world, and build unified vision. Without this, you will be negotiating blindly. The appointment you get will often be worthless. The negotiated agenda therefore also helps you surface the problems associated with the decision making process for that particular deal.
This point is important enough that I will repeat it here: the agenda must be negotiated, not imposed. Thus, the right to veto – to say “no” – must be respected. You must build vision, must nurture, be unokay, listen, ask good questions etc. as and when required.
I shall not show in detail what the agenda looks like. The agenda that is taught at CNI consists of 5 parts and is part of the Checklist prepared prior to each negotiation, and executed during each negotiation. You can read up a detailed explanation in either of Jim’s books – one of which is available on this website for free download.
23) Not knowing how to identify the real problems holding up this negotiation
I consider the most elementary rule of problem solving to be that of solving the right problem from its roots. Solving the wrong problem or the right problem in the wrong way or solving symptoms instead of root causes is a good way to waste everyone’s time and waste precious resources.
In every negotiation you are engaged in, you must learn to identify the real problems that are standing in the way/preventing this negotiation moving forward. These problems can be anything or everything. They will often – though not always – revolve around decisions, decision making, and decision makers. (Some negotiations can be held back as a result of events and circumstances that the parties at the table cannot solve.) Problems can also arise from lack of clarity about the adversary’s pain, lack of awareness of their budget, lack of a decision making process, not having access to the decision makers and to everyone who either has a say or has influence over the decision. The lack of unified vision may be a problem. Any dysfunction (turf wars, politicking, unresolved conflicts etc.) on their side can prove to be a problem that effectively prevents you from discovering and building unified vision. This is why the agenda you negotiate must include the real problems that are standing in your way, and the decisions that are required to solve them.
Not knowing this when you are negotiating an agenda is to set yourself (or your team member) up for failure.
25) Not knowing how to re-react to the adversary, and to the moment, in the moment
The inability to re-react calmly, confidently, and appropriately, is one of the biggest handicaps of a negotiator. Negotiations arise as a result of, or in order to bring about, change. And change provokes behaviors and decisions of every conceivable kind.
In point no. 8, I wrote about the ability to “the ability to remain fully in the moment and fully responsive to the moment”. I tied it to the ability to blankslate – to rid oneself of all assumptions and expectations. Without blankslating, one often ends up negotiating against oneself, or more accurately against the “phantom adversaries” of one’s own expectations and assumptions. Rare is the person engaged in cold calling who places the call with a completely blankslated mind. However, assumptions and expectations are not the only things that prevent you from re-reacting to the adversary and to every kind of change, in the moment.
I am not surprised that in the same article, the sales guru I quoted in point number 5 writes: “You have made a significant emotional investment in the sale. Your emotions rise and fall with the decisions of other people. Sometimes you score. Sometimes you don’t. Either way, there’s an overflow of emotional energy.” After all, the piece is titled “Fifty shades of sales. Putting Emotion First and Price Second”.
I must admit that I agree, partially, to what the author states. The emotions of untrained negotiators or a team of untrained negotiators do rise and fall with the decisions, words, tone, and behaviors of their negotiation adversaries. It is because they are untrained that this happens. That’s why they don’t act or re-react in line with the principles, rules, and laws that make it possible to reach agreement, and that makes them to negotiate blindly. Just as such people might easily end up negotiating with the “phantom adversaries” of their own expectations and assumptions, they could also end up reacting to their own emotions – fear, neediness, anger, jadedness etc. – rather than negotiating with the adversary. Adversaries who are expert at manipulating emotions then have a field day. Such people are also totally unprepared to re-react to objections, brush offs, manipulation, threats, ultimatums, or any other thing thrown at them from the person or people on the other side of the call.
26) Look to yourself as the root of all problems
The second point I raised in this long list was titled “Baggage that arises at any point during a cold call”. At CNI, you are taught to start by taking a hard look at yourself as the source of all problems. This includes, but is certainly not limited to baggage.
The starting point is to assess whether or not you have mastered negotiation. Negotiation mastery is something that is not acquired even after years of repeated practice. After all, practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.
Negotiation and sales are learned human performance events that require mastery. To master any such human performance event, each person requires two things: a valid System, and a coach. Without a systematic way to effectively prepare, execute, and debrief each cold call, each call will end up being a gamble. There is simply no way around it. Mastery is not achieved through tactics, techniques, tricks, or gimmicks, or piecemeal approaches.
The lack of a System that helps you acquire mastery and develop the mindset associated with mastery robs you of the opportunity to learn from failure, replicate success, and set out on an upward spiral of learning and growth. Above all, it means you don’t know how to solve the problems you encounter and how to avoid causing or creating problems during the negotiation engagement.
The lack of mastery spawns a huge number of challenges at the level of the individual and wreaks havoc at the team level. Even if all individuals in the team are excellent negotiators, without mastery of negotiation management, that team’s performance will be way below what it could be. In my next and concluding post of this series, I will address this aspect of mastery.
Please share your comments below. We’d love to know your thoughts.
A rule of the Camp system is to never make assumptions. Actually, it instructs us to almost never make assumptions. When creating a checklist Camp negotiators will make some assumptions about baggage that our adversary has with us, so that we raise it when appropriate and find out if it is indeed a problem and solve it if necessary. But otherwise, the Camp rule is not to make assumptions.
The word we often has a lot of assumptions embedded in it. If I say to someone standing next to me, “We are standing here”, I am not making an assumption. I can verify it, so it is not an assumption. But if I say to that same person, “We are better off sitting down”, I am making an assumption that it is better for them to sit down. It seems harmless enough to insert we, but it really is no different than saying to them, “You are better off sitting down”. The assumption made is more obvious when you use you than when you use we, but it is there nonetheless.
Using precise language, and asking negotiation team members and adversaries to use precise language, helps eliminate dangerous assumptions.
For example, asking a client after they sit down in your office, “Why are we here?” muddies the waters. They will have to guess why you are there in addition to sorting through their own reasons for being there. But if you ask “Why are you here today?, you have framed an opportunity for them to share something that is actually within their grasp. It is a very important to your negotiation success to pay attention to these details.
Look at some examples of different levels of precision in language: “What problems are you facing?” vs. ‘What problems are you facing in your business? Vs. What marketing problems are you facing in your business?”
The habit of being precise in language is well worth forming. People often wonder what holds them back in their negotiations and personal interactions, and very often poor word choices are what create the sticking points. My good intentions mean little when they don’t reflect the world of my respected opponent and what they are able to see. The road to negotiation hell is paved with these good intentions. I tread most effectively in the world of my adversary with careful attention to my word selection, not just by having faith in what I intended my words to mean. Words that paint the clearest pictures in the world of the adversary are going to be most safe and effective. It starts by recognizing that you and I will be easier to define and more beneficial to focus on than we can ever be.
Please let me know what you think of this post and add your comments below. Thanks!
19) What is the next decision you seek?
A characteristic feature of the way untrained negotiators speak is to think in terms of a favorable outcome or event.
How many times have you heard these or similar things?
“I want to get that job”
“I want at least a 20% hike on my current salary”
“I want him/her to start/stop doing ______”
“I want him/her to leave me alone”
“I want to speak to the decision maker”
“I want to get _______”
“I want the bank to agree to give me the loan”
“I want to buy (sell) it from (to) him/her”
“I want him/her to do his/her homework”
“I want them to be a bit more punctual”
“I want them to take _______ with a bit more seriousness”
“I want him/her/them to make a serious offer”
In cold calling, one hears:
“I want to get past the gatekeeper”
“I want to talk to the decision maker”
“I want to make the sale”
“I want to set up a meeting”
“I want follow up with ______”
“I want to find out their timelines/budget/issues etc.”
“I want to find out their requirements”
(An “I want _______” mindset instead of an “I need ______” one is in itself a huge advance in not conditioning oneself into a habitual state of neediness. But even that “I want _______” will not provide you with the clarity about what the next decision is, who must make it, and how it will move the negotiation forward.)
For us human beings, it is just as easy to lose our focus as it is to focus on the wrong thing or to focus on the right thing in the wrong way.
The statements above are rife with a number of negotiation errors. Two stand out: these are your-world centered statements and they contain no reference to what you want in terms of a decision from the other side.
Clarity regarding what you really want
When I first encountered Jim’s teaching that I ought to think of “What I want” from a negotiation in terms of a decision from the other side, it made perfect sense. Of course what I want from a negotiation depends on a decision that the other party makes or ought to make. If I can influence that decision, the negotiation can move forward and I can either get what I want or move closer to getting what I want.
What I really want is something that I cannot get without a decision from my adversary. If I could, I wouldn’t be negotiating. I wouldn’t be calling this person if I can get what I want without making this call.
This is one more reason as to why a valid M&P is crucial. Since a valid M&P is built from the problems in the adversary’s world, it helps you see those problems and see clearly the benefits that your efforts are bringing to the adversary. Whether your efforts can help to turn a bad situation around; help the adversary profitably use an existing or emerging opportunity; solve a problem/challenge; or overcome a constraint that is hampering his/her efforts etc., a valid M&P ensures that “what I want” does not trap me in my own world. From that valid M&P, you can derive an M&P that focuses your efforts on discovering whether or not you can actually benefit the adversary. At the start of a cold call, you may only have a broad or vague idea (and sometimes, no idea at all) about the adversary’s exact issues and circumstances. A valid M&P that helps you discover that you cannot help a particular adversary ensures that you don’t spend your budget on this negotiation.
The more focused a person is on chasing invalid goals, the harder it is to develop the clarity of thinking of what one wants in terms of decision that the adversary ought to make. In such instances, the pull of “Quota Land” means that I think of what I want in terms of my world, my quota, my sale, my bonus, or my whatever.
When you see what you want in terms of a decision you want the other person to make – which you must always give the opportunity reject or accept – you gain tremendous focus with regards the reason you are placing this call, talking with this person, and want that person to agree to something or the other. This in itself is tremendous advantage in terms of clarity of thinking, but it is not the only resulting benefit. Simultaneously, thinking in terms of a decision that you want the other to make helps focus your efforts in building vision in terms of that vision, and then of focusing the adversary’s attention on that decision. In this way, you help reduce the clutter or muddle in the adversary’s world and help focus his/her attention on the implications of that decision. Hidden problems may emerge which you can then make the effort to solve. By respecting the right to veto (meaning you are not even thinking in terms of closing); speaking and behaving in a nurturing manner; by being willing to be unokay with respect the other person; and by being and remaining in a state of emotional calm, the person can see what you are asking for – and make a decision that he/she takes responsibility for.
In the Camp System, “what you want” forms part of the agenda you prepare for each negotiation, which in turn forms part of the ultimate tool at your disposal for perfect preparation – the Camp Checklist. I shall write about when I have finished addressing this list of problems that individuals encounter or cause, during cold calling.
20) Inability to calmly navigate those delicate moments when you ask a tough question
Every interaction can take a sudden turn when you feel an intense desire to ask a particular question of say some particular thing but are afraid to. You don’t know how the other person will react to it. (It is infinitely more difficult when using the written medium.) During a conversation in which you cannot see the other person and so cannot observe non-verbal cues, this can make such moments even more trying. You can’t just ask any question you want or say just about anything simply because the other person is sounding calm and relaxed, is listening deeply to what you are saying, or is providing thoughtful answers to your questions. However you slice and dice it, some questions or statements are like a magnifying glass that focuses the sunlight onto a piece of paper sufficiently to cause it to burst into flames. At such moments, even nurturing, being unokay, listening deeply, asking good questions, respecting and encouraging the other’s right to say “no” etc. may still fall short. This is the moment for the tool that you enables you negotiate and pass through those moments, and helps the adversary pass through them too without provoking emotional turmoil. It’s called the “mini-agenda” and it is negotiated in the moment.
Every mini-agenda is a “mini-negotiation”. Using it effectively demands everything that applies in the larger negotiation: nurturing, being unokay, respecting the right to veto, using the 3+ rule etc. Above all, you prepare the other person – emotionally, psychologically and intellectually. You ask if you may ask a tough question of say something that is hard, that may sound self-serving, or that may not be pleasant to hear. This preparing the other person actually cushions the blow. It’s then not something that comes out of nowhere. Only then do you ask that tough question or make that tough statement.
The very fact that you use the mini-agenda prevents emotional pressure from developing – at least as much as is humanly possible. It acknowledges the power and autonomy of the other person – to decide, freely and without compulsion. The person is free to answer or to make any decision that may be required.
The nature of such delicate moments will obviously vary from one situation to the other. But if you don’t get past them, that call is going nowhere, and that negotiation is as good as dead.
21) They want a presentation
In relation to cold calling, many people will consider it crazy that their “wanting a presentation” is a problem that is “encountered” or “caused” during cold calling. I can hear people “Hey, you know what? You really are crazy. If they agreed to a presentation, it implies the call went well.” (Of course if another person is going to make it, the implicit assumption is also that “I hope Joe/Pete/Jan/Jane doesn’t screw it up”.)
A number of training gurus are discovering that presentations are not the great ally or tool they were once thought to be. Of course a large number are still caught up in helping people to make increasingly better presentations. The number of people who earn a living from teaching people to make presentations that will knock the socks off their attendees is not insignificant. I run the risk of drawing their ire by reiterating what we teach at CNI:
(i) The greatest presentation you will ever make is the ones the adversary never sees. This of course happens only if you learn to build vision.
(ii) As much as is humanly possible, get them to present to you.
In cold calling, agreeing to a presentation just because the other person asks for one is a problem that is encountered or caused – and reveals as much naiveté as ignorance. It might even be a sign of underlying neediness.
How do you know that the presentation is not designed to get your side to divulge information which can be used to beat you and your competitors on the head? (If they ask you for a presentation, they are probably asking many others. Then, they can watch the unfolding death spiral – to get a deal and any deal regardless of what it costs you.)
How do you know that you are presenting to the right people – those whose vision must be built in order to drive the decisions required to move the negotiation forward? How do you know who these people are?
How sure are you that the presentation is set in, and tailored to, the adversary’s world, and addresses their real issues?
Above all, how sure are you that the presentation will build vision? If it doesn’t it’s a waste of time, effort, and probably lots more.
By definition, a presentation delivers intellectual information. Recall is poor. It also puts people in the intellectual mode. They are agreeing and disagreeing – as the presentation is made. It is a perfect tool to build objections and cause disagreement – which you then have to negotiate. It can easily set up a dysfunctional cycle.
On a cold call, you must negotiate and see if you can get them to present to you. Such a presentation will give you an insight into their challenges and priorities. It might not always be possible, but you must try. If you simply must make a presentation, you must negotiate what it will and won’t contain, to whom your side will be presenting, and what happens after the presentation. Thinking that their agreeing to a presentation has moved the negotiation forward betrays ignorance about how human beings make decisions, and how to discover and build vision. It’s a great tool to hide behind. Compared to making a presentation, building vision (the presentation you don’t make) is demanding.
Please share your thoughts and comment below.
Over the past few months, I have become fascinated by a reality I have come to term “dangling decisions”. I have noticed that this particular “variety” of decisions is a staple feature in our individual and collective lives.
By dangling decisions I am not referring to the mistaken decisions we make. We can’t avoid making mistakes and that is not necessarily a bad thing. I am also not merely referring to decisions made on the spur of the moment. Some decisions made on the spur of the moment end up being effective precisely because that decision is followed up and reinforced by other effective decisions in a “focused and coordinated” manner – a manner of description I picked up from Richard Rumelt’s book “Good Strategy Bad Strategy”.
By dangling decisions, I refer to decisions that give birth to an effort that is supposed to help a person or a group achieve something good, important, or worthwhile, but which doesn’t do so because they lack valid reference points and/or are not followed up in a “focused and coordinated” manner with subsequent effective decisions. When people make such decisions, they are like a ship or a plane whose navigation systems have shut down. They are not necessarily at a standstill. However, they are also not very clear (or sometimes are very muddled up!) regarding where they are, where they are headed to, and where they are coming from.
Personally, I have discovered that the distinguishing feature of such decisions is an inability to answer two questions: “Why am I doing ______ , _______ , and _________?” and the corollary “Why am I not doing ________, ________ and ________?”. The Toyota Production System asks “why” 5 times to determine the root cause of a problem. You can adapt it to determine why you are engaged in a particular effort. The inability to answer this is why I stated that such individuals or groups appear like ships or planes that are lost.
If you look closely, you will see dangling decisions are a staple feature of people’s lives. If you and I are honest, we will see those moments when we have made or continue to make such decisions. Ultimately, like all ineffective decisions, a dangling decision is one that is made on the basis of not perceiving or facing reality as reality is, or not responding to it as it is.
Safeguards against “dangling decisions”
To clarify to myself if I am making a dangling decision, I have come up with this set of questions. You can agree or disagree with any or all of them. I do hope that you will engage them before agreeing or disagreeing.
1) What sincere and committed efforts am I making to see, to the best of my ability, the realities connected to this decision? What is the link between this decision and previous, current, and future ones?
2) To ask the above question from a different perspective, it is useful to ask “How does this decision fit into a plan that helps me identify, understand, engage, and solve the real problem(s) that I, my team, my family, my organization, or my near and dear ones are facing? How does it help me implement this plan?
3) How does this plan move me towards a specific desirable, important, or worthwhile objective?
4) What is the link between that objective and my valid M&P?
5) What is the link between this decision and my valid M&P?
6) What negotiation – that I am engaged in – does this decision moves forward? OR What negotiation will I become engaged in as a result of this decision? How prepared am I to prepare, execute, and debrief those negotiations? How aware and centered am I if I have no time to prepare it? (This happens quite often so it’s good to become aware of the fact that one is involved in a negotiation even when one has not had the time to prepare it.)
7) Am I trying to, or attempting to try to control what I cannot control? Am I attempting to achieve something important to me by trying to control what I cannot control?
Question 5 is essential because our decisions are intrinsically connected to the decisions of others and to the realities in their lives. A person or group can make very few decisions which have no impact or influence on at least one other person or group of people. To make a decision and to be unprepared for, or unaware of, the negotiations that follow from it, is a good way to make dangling decisions.
What we sow is what we reap
Many times, we may not be able to see the full import of a carefully thought out and well-planned decision that is in line with a valid M&P, specific objectives, and is part of a plan. We may have to keep “readjusting” our efforts as we come to see reality better and better – especially as it unfolds. Every decision comes with one or more consequences – not all of which may be or even can be clear at the moment we make it. We may have to make decisions in the face of incomplete information, change, risk, uncertainty, insufficient resources, constraints of every conceivable kind, and more. That is not going to change. But how much are your efforts and mine worsened, diffused, hampered, or thrown off track on account of “dangling decisions?”
Of its own, making dangling decisions cause more than enough trouble. But it’s also important to be on your guard because the dangling decisions of others may drag you into negotiations with them. After all, if your dangling decisions impact others, theirs are just as likely to impact you too, right? Maybe that can be called “the democracy of dangling decisions”.
Please share your thoughts and comment below.
(Problems that individuals encounter and/or cause cont’d)
14) The fear of “no”
For many people, no implies the end of the conversation. In cold calling, often, a certain kind of “no” actually is the end of the conversation. The person you are calling is spending time on the call because he/she decides to do so. The moment the person decides otherwise, there’s little and often nothing you can do. For a person driven by a “yes”, a sale, a specific outcome or result, or a number etc. “yes” is the ultimate sign of success and a “no” is the ultimate enemy and the final mark of failure. People are trained, encouraged, “motivated”, and even threatened to think, perceive, act, and behave like that. It’s a powerful form of conditioning that can take months of very effort to undo. One young sales person told me “I started selling and I lost my soul”. He felt, in a vivid way, the extent to which he had been conditioned – in the fact that he was constantly gunning for a “yes” and the way he went after it.
The “no” you might encounter during cold calling has different consequences from that you might encounter during a face-to-face negotiation. The call can come to an abrupt end. So, a useful tactic is to encourage a “no” from the word go. (Very few people actually know or use this.) But such tactics are destructive because encouraging such a “no” is manipulative and insincere. The person who invites and encourages such a “no” does not really mean it. This is seen by the fact that when it actually appears on the horizon, panic, neediness, emotional turmoil, and the almost primitive instinct to go for “yes” kicks in. The truth is that immediately any person feels that he or she is being manipulated, barriers to communication go up and the manipulator will be shut out or thrown out of that person’s world, unceremoniously or ushered out firmly and perhaps, politely.
The trained negotiator encourages a “no” because he/she really means it. When you start speaking to the other person, you have no idea whether or not your solution, service, or product can solve the other person’s problems. You don’t even have accurate insight into the nature, extent, manifestations, and consequences of those problems. You have no idea whether or not the person even considers them to be problems worth solving. You also don’t know whether the person is ready and willing to build or spend a budget (time, effort, money, and emotions) on solving it. You don’t know the decisions required to solve them, who those decisions will impact, or who will also be required to make ancillary decisions in tandem with the person you are speaking with. Essentially, you have no insight into the current realities in his/her world. That is the truth and it’s better to wrap your head and heart around it. It also does not make your job harder – if you are willing to learn how to turn it into an ally.
To solve the other person’s problems, you must see the realities in his/her world. You must also help the other person see those realities and those problems, clearly. As you seek to gain insight into his/her world, you must simultaneously be engaged in helping him/her see, for himself/herself, the nature, extent, manifestations, and consequences of those problems, the importance and benefits of solving them, and a way in which they can be solved. The entire interaction must be characterized by a profound freedom from any sort of compulsion. This is the only way that emotions will remain calm. And when emotions are calm, people see better, and often, faster. People who are in the grip of emotion see badly and see less. Sometimes, the see nothing at all. They are merely driven by the desire to provide an outlet to the emotion they experience.
Encouraging a “no” sincerely opens up the possibility of having a pressure-free and open conversation. The person feels valued and respected rather than used. Instead of fearing “no”, you must see “no” as your ally when you engage anyone on the other side – beginning with the gatekeeper. If you speak in a calm and slow tone, and state the purpose of you call from the perspective of the other person’s world, you are more likely to engage the other person. Remember that the building blocks of a valid M&P are the problems in the other person’s world. You benefit the other person by solving those problems for him/her. Ari Galper teaches that you should actually start by asking the person if “they are grappling with” a particular problem. I find that to be very wise advice because problem statements build vision around the realities in that person’s world.
Combining problem statements with a sincere invitation to say “no” is the most pressure-free and non-manipulative way of getting invited into the other person’s world and engaging the person. Once you engage the person, you can ask for help. When you ask for help in a humane, non-manipulative, and sincere way, you are more likely to receive it. If the person says “no”, you can employ the 3+ rule by inviting that “no” more than once so that the person has the opportunity to see and think through the “no”. If you can’t get passed to the person who’s directly responsible, you can ask to be passed to someone else. At all times, you must maintain a calm, nurturing, and slightly unokay tone. You may finally discover that it’s impossible to talk to someone in that organization. That’s fine. Off you go. You may also get passed on to the person you wish to talk to – the one responsible for tackling those problems or someone who is actually facing them – or to someone who can serve as a liaison between you and this other person. It can only happen if the entire exchange, from the beginning to the end, is marked by a genuinely felt respect for the other person.
Since this is not a tactic, it requires a mindset shift, first. The way to ensure a mindset shift is a complete emotional and intellectual commitment to a valid M&P set in the other person’s world, and set to their benefit. This mindset shift will then naturally lead to a change in perception, action, and behaviors – your tone of voice, choice of words, delivery, and the emotional steadiness and calm you convey. With a valid M&P, you are not in a hurry and will not transmit any emotional turmoil – because you will not be experiencing any yourself. In this way, the other person also experiences emotional calm. They don’t feel they have to protect themselves from you. Encouraging a “no” in a polite and affirming way values the other person and gives them the feeling of being in control. It gives them a sense of power over their decisions and decision making. If they don’t see any benefit or use from what you do, they have the power to end the call. If they do see benefit and use, they have the power to continue the conversation. In either instance, they are making their decisions in a free and unconstrained manner. This is your best bet in engaging the other person.
The fear of “no” betrays that you are stuck in your world, are experiencing neediness, are driven by an invalid M&P and are still in the grip of what may be weeks, months, or even years of conditioning. No matter how you seek to disguise or camouflage it, it will show. The only way to get rid of it is to encourage the kind of “no” that flows directly from a valid M&P. The fear of “no” goes hand in hand with “closing”.
15) No closing, ever!
When you place a call to someone, that person, like you, wants to feel free to decide as he/she wishes, and wants to take any and all decisions, without compulsion. This is actually beneficial to the negotiator. When people take a decision freely, they own it. That is why they must be given every opportunity to see the decision, to take it, to change it, or to decide not to take it.
Every decision the other person makes – the decision to continue talking to you or not, to reveal details about the realities in his/her world or not, to introduce you to other affected parties or not, to buy what you are selling or not – is and remains theirs to make. This is the only way you will get decisions and agreements that stick. A Camp trained negotiator is equipped with numerous tools – the 3+ rule, the strip lines, the no closing rule, encouraging and respecting the right to say “no”, the building of vision (which I shall turn my attention to, shortly), the ability to see the negotiation as a string of decisions and to move the negotiation forward one decision after the other etc. – to influence these kinds of decisions. At no point must you make any decision for the other person. The rush or push to close (or to any decision whatsoever) is one of the many things that causes the negative stereotyping of those who engage in cold calling. Being pushy provokes resistance and push back.
When you are in a hurry, it will appear to the other person as an attempt to rush or push him/her into a decision. The same happens when
You don’t listen and the person does not feel that you are listening closely (which also means you’re the one doing all or most of the talking)
You try to seize control of the conversation or direct it along pre-determined tracks
You ask questions that have pre-determined answers or have only a select set of answers
You ask too many questions at once
The rule of “No closing, ever!” must be chiseled into your mindset if you wish to avoid creating problems during a call, and to solve the problems that you do encounter. Closing, after all, is not your job. It is and will remain the other person’s own.
16) Telling them things vs. Building vision
Vision drives people to make decisions freely. It is your biggest ally. The ability to build it is your most important skill. It’s often built slowly, patiently, and with painstaking attention to detail. Vision building is the most “delicate” skill that a master negotiator puts into practice. As you build it, it must simultaneously form in the adversary’s mind’s eye – they must see that vision, for and by themselves.
You are not transferring your vision to them. You are assisting them in generating their own vision. Essentially, this boils down to helping the adversary see for himself/herself an accurate picture of the realities he/she faces. From an accurate vision of those realities as they are will flow a vision of the consequences of not doing anything, a vision of the beneficial results of using your solution, and a vision of changed realities. Talking, telling, explaining, expounding, or reasoning never builds vision. These only destroy vision – provoke objections in the process. That’s why at CNI we teach that telling people things destroys vision.
Telling people to do something provokes resistance. Whether you intend to or not, whether you recognize it or not, whether you accept it or not, telling them takes away the right to say “no”. In the process, it almost always provokes a needless “no”. This kind of a “no” is often not born from underlying problems, constraints, challenges etc. Rather, it is primarily an emotional reaction – the kind of “noes” that you and I have said a million times over during the course of our lives. It is also a distracting “no” because the person may seek to justify or rationalize it to himself/herself and perhaps, to you too.
The more you go on and on about your solution, your track record, and what your solution has done for other people or organizations, the more you are stuck in the explaining and telling mode.
Build vision, and stop telling!
16) Getting vision building wrong and right
Most people don’t think in terms of building vision. They don’t see that they and those they interact or negotiate with are always driven by vision – regardless of the degree of clarity and accuracy of that vision. What you see is not what another sees. That’s why some say that no two people ever watch the same film, read the same book, or visit the same place.
The fundamental problem that an untrained negotiator causes during the vision building process is to insert or insinuate himself/herself between the person whose vision is being built, and the vision being built in his/her mind’s eye. Some may not come in between the person and the vision being formed. Rather, they may prefer to remain visibly in the background – perhaps to prevent it from tottering and collapsing. The master negotiator leaves the person and the vision well and truly alone, extricates himself/herself from the situation, and waits for the other person to bring him/her back into the picture. This can happen while you are actually on the call or sitting in the same room with the person.
The inability or unwillingness to extricate oneself is the result of a combination of many factors – primarily a lack of skill in building vision. It always reveals neediness, the presence of assumptions or expectations, the attempt to control results, and sometimes, a fear of “no”. Of course it may also reveal the presence of invalid goals or an invalid M&P.
During a cold call, this leads people to keep talking, constantly and quickly. It’s almost as though they are afraid the sale will slip away. They think that by speaking, they are better able to reinforce and strengthen the adversary’s decision to buy. If by chance they have asked a good question or two, the constant chatter will likely destroy it.
I have dealt extensively with the issue of helping the other person see for himself/herself the realities he is facing. In my next point, I shall turn my attention to the many ways in which a trained negotiator actually goes about building vision.
17) Not knowing how to build vision
Vision building is a delicate skill. It is also the well trained negotiator’s most important skill. It requires a mix of various individual abilities, employed at the right time, in the right way, and to the right degree. This includes the use of problem statements, interrogative led questions, silence, listening, being in a state of emotional calm, respecting and encouraging the right to veto, helping the adversary to feel emotionally safe and comfortable, helping the adversary feel more okay (or more powerful – if this helps him/her to feel okay) than you, and more. How you build vision at a particular moment in time depends on what is happening at that moment, on the call, and which problem you are trying to solve and which is standing in the way of the decision you seek.
I encourage you to download and listen to Jim’s book “Start with No”, for free, from this site or to buy and read either of his two books “Start with No” or “NO”. Of the nearly 3 dozen authorities in negotiation and sales that I have studied, not one acknowledges the importance of vision or of building it. The only person who comes close to it – and talks about the pictures in the other person’s head – is Stuart Diamond in his book “Getting More”. However, he does not explain how to build vision in a repeatable manner that can be mastered.
Cold calling does not dispense you from the responsibility of building vision. The fact that you are not engaged in a face-to-face interaction means you must master this ability. If you don’t without knowing it, you prevent vision from forming, destroy vision if it does form, and spend time dealing with objections, instinctive and emotional “noes”, and get trapped in the quicksand of explaining, telling, convincing, reasoning, expounding and much more. It’s a thankless and often sterile effort.
18) Managing budgets
Most people engaged in cold calling don’t have a clue that they have a budget for each day, and for each negotiation. If they have thought about it, they think in terms of the number of calls they ought to make, or the dollar value of the sales they ought to net. As a result of it, they open themselves to all kinds of manipulation. They also become very ineffective at building the vision that drives decisions. Remaining ignorant or oblivious to the budget you are spending on each call, and remaining oblivious to the budget the other person is spending or not spending, is a good way to burn out.
Samuel Johnson is reported to have said “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” A trained negotiator is not maltreat the other person, much less hang him/her. But you do need to “concentrate his mind”. This cannot happen if the person is not invested in the negotiation. If you wish the person to focus on the decision at hand, he/she has to see it. Investing a budget helps him/her see better.
As you build vision, you must also be engaged in building the person’s budget. If the adversary does not have, commit, or spend a budget for a particular negotiation, that negotiation is likely not very important to him or her. Of course building the other person’s budget must always respect the right of the other person to decide to not spend it. A well trained negotiator will also build vision around the consequences of not spending it.
Managing budgets will vary depending on the environment in which you are cold calling. Selling credit cards is very different from selling investment services which is equally different from selling data management solutions. Consequently, how you manage and build budgets will also vary and must be customized to your environment, and even more importantly, to the other person’s world.
The concept of budget in the Camp System is different from what is commonly understood as a budget. This too is something I encourage you to become familiar with by reading or listening to Jim’s books.
This entire post has been dedicated to showing you how, on a cold call, you ought to build vision in order to drive decisions. I shall start my next post by exploring how you ought to nail down the next decision, if the negotiation is to move forward. If you can’t do that, everything else – including building vision – would have been a waste of your own budget.
Please share your thoughts. We love your feedback!
(Problems that individuals encounter and/or cause cont’d)
5) The inability to make and conduct the call in a state of emotional calm
To many people, this might not seem like a problem. They may consider emotional calm to be a problem – and equate calmness with boredom or even ineffectiveness. Some equate a gung ho style of selling to effectiveness. Consider the words of this sales guru who states:
“It’s not that selling is particularly sexy or erotic – but it is definitely emotional. You, the salesperson, enter the sale full of emotion and do your best to transfer your emotion to the prospect – and even capture their emotion. Once there is emotional transfer and emotional agreement, the likelihood of a sale is much higher than a “professional” or “manipulative” approach or presentation.
This is not merely dangerous advice but it’s actually destructive advice. The best decisions are made in a state of emotional calm, not emotional excitement. The emotional pendulum swings in both directions and can easily reverse and swing back with astounding momentum. Isn’t that what buyer’s remorse is all about?
This lack of emotional calm can also be observed in one of the biggest fears in the world of cold calling – the fear of ‘rejection’. Only genuine mastery of negotiation – which confers a real mindset based on real skills and abilities rather than self-directed pop-psychology or pep talks – can help you see that it is impossible for the other person to reject you. Pop psychology and pep talks eventually crash on the unforgiving rocks and reefs of reality. Those who experience rejection and plod on in spite of it will have to rely on sheer grit to play according to the rules of “Quota Land”. Burnout is very common.
Emotional calm is when your emotions are truly in a state of calm, not when you are pretending to be calm. Any emotional turmoil you experience before or during the call will shine through – no matter how much you try to disguise it. If you are trapped in what I refer to as “Quota Land”, you cannot but experience the pressures associated with it, and the emotions it provokes. Invariably, you communicate those emotions and reap the disastrous consequences of trying to engage people who are not emotionally safe, calm, and comfortable.
Many people also don’t see that there’s a very thin line between emotional excitement and neediness. The latter can be used to try and mask the latter, but never successfully. Neediness always has a negative and debilitating impact on your perceptions, interpretations, reactions, behaviors, decisions, and decision-making. You can read more about this here, here, here, and here.
6) The inability to get engage each person you speak to and influence the decisions you require
Most cold callers dread dealing with gatekeepers. “How do I get past the gatekeeper” definitely ranks right up there as one of the most frequently asked questions by people engaged in cold calling. If you wish to engage the decision maker in a conversation, learning how to get them to lead you on to those decision makers is your best and safest option. At CNI, we refer to these individuals as blockers.
Very often, the blocker must make the decision to put you in touch with other people in the organization. If you cannot influence the blocker to pass you along to whomever you wish to speak with – and do so without devaluing, belittling, deceiving, or manipulating them which in any case is really hard today because they can often sense when you are lying or are being insincere – your call is going nowhere. It is a clear sign of a lack of negotiation mastery.
Related to this is the lack of awareness of the presence of influences that stand between you and the decision/agreement you seek, or if you are aware of their presence, the inability to identify, engage, and influence effective decisions in this person or group of people. These folks can put an end to all your efforts without ever hearing the sound of your voice. Keep in mind that some influencers – they might be individuals or a group – are people whose “no” carries a lot of weight and whose “yes” is the rate determining step to move your efforts forward. Though they might not be in a position to say “yes” by themselves to the final agreement, some decision makers would rather chew nails and swallow glass than impose a decision on them. I shall return to this point when I address the problem of building unified vision on the part of all the negotiation adversaries on the other side.
7) The tendency and rush to prescribe before/without diagnosing
If you believe you have perfect insight into the adversary’s pain for any reason – because your prospecting has been careful and diligent; you are responding to an inbound lead; you are calling a person who stated in some online public forum that he/she is looking for the services or product you are selling etc. – it may mean you are unwilling to look at the other person’s world through his/her eyes. Then, you have no option but to get stuck in selling what you are selling, hard. And, you are doing so with a mind loaded by assumptions and expectations of every kind. This tendency to prescribe before or without diagnosing is certainly not limited to those who are engaged in cold calling. You wouldn’t probably buy from a person who sold to you in that way, nor would you trust a doctor who attempted to treat you, in that way, for an illness.
8) The tendency to approach and engage in a conversation with assumptions and expectations
A person whose only point of reference is to “make the sale” loads the deck against himself/herself in many ways. Chief among them is the assumptions and expectations (both positive and negative) that influence the cold caller’s interest in the call, behavior, tone of voice, choice of words, ability and willingness to listen, ability to see and distinguish what is being said and what is being left unsaid, and generally, the ability to remain fully in the moment and fully responsive to the moment. Such a person perceives and interprets every word, behavior and decision of the adversary through the lens of the assumptions and expectations he carries within himself/herself. The distorting impact it has on decision making and sound judgment is incalculable.
9) The inability to influence one effective decision after another
Essentially, this is the heart of the matter. All the problems on this list, everything in this series, and all the blog posts I have written revolves around this (in)ability to influence effective decisions and the twin (in)ability of making effective decisions in the effort to reach agreement with another person or group – and which necessarily involves influencing them to take full responsibility for, and to freely make, informed decisions that help them solve the problems they face, achieve objectives important to them, and move their efforts forward in a focused and cohesive manner.
In cold calling, this inability can be seen on display from the first to the last moment and could arise or manifest in a thousand and one different ways – as this partial list shows.
Not dealing with the right person or not knowing who the right person is.
Not dealing with the person who is facing the real problem, and not knowing how to influence the decisions required so that people within the organization are willing to direct you to these other folks.
Getting bogged down by the wrong problem – for instance, the way you conduct the call causes the person or people you talk to direct you to someone in procurement whose only interest is price, price, and only price – because that is the problem he/she faces – while the real problem you solution/product solves is left unattended.
You don’t know how to identify the person who is responsible for particular decisions
You don’t see, clearly, at every stage, what decision you seek, and from whom.
You are dealing with a person who only provides disinterested, monosyllabic answers – which then makes you conclude that he/she cannot be influenced. (In truth, neither he/she nor any other human being on the planet can be influenced if you don’t build the person’s vision.)
You don’t realize that the biggest ally and enemy you face is the status quo and don’t know how to build vision around the realities that the status quo comprises of. If your adversary is facing a problem that you can solve, then that is the status quo. If an adversary is not facing such a problem, that too, equally, is the status quo. When you can’t or don’t enter the other person’s world and don’t situate the call in his/her world, you will end up fighting against the status quo. The vested interests and hidden motives who are deriving some benefit or the other from the status quo are making it impossible to negotiate – either because they are the ones you are negotiating with, they are at the negotiating table
The inability to influence effective decisions also has deeper roots. My next four points are addressed to such unseen roots.
10) The inability to build a unified and harmonized vision
It’s hard to build a unified and harmonized vision in a politicized environment and in a team of good people working at cross purposes with each other. (Your internal negotiations will reveal as much – especially in your efforts to prepare, execute, and debrief individual negotiations.)
When you get conflicting signals from different members of the other side. This could be the case of
(i) Genuine ignorance or a lack of team work on their part – as a result of their organization not being united and unified by a valid M&P, by dysfunction and politicization of every sort, by breakdowns in, or a lack of effective intra-organizational communication on their part, or by people in that organization being driven by competing agendas and invalid goals.
(ii) It could be the result of something more sinister the predatory behavior I referred to in the point above.
((iii) It could be the result of a lack of negotiation mastery on your part or on the part of your team. This is a case of simply not knowing how to build unified vision. Essentially, you’ll be gambling, or hoping and praying that something you say or do, or the manner in which you say or do it, will magically build that unified vision – and drive the decision(s) you seek.
11) Lack of understanding of, and ability to navigate complex and politicized bureaucracies
In a perfect world, every individual, team, and organization would have a valid M&P – which means that they would actually be who and what they try and appear to be. But this is not an ideal world. In this less than ideal world, complexity and politicization of decision-making are conjoined twins.
Many of those engaged in cold calling don’t realize this. They don’t know the adversary’s real decision making process which boils down to who makes the decision and whose input and acquiescence is essential if such a decision is to be made.
Very often, in complex B2B sales, there is no decision making process in place that perceives the complexity of the issues involved and the decisions that must be taken. This means that the person who places the cold call must often take the responsibility of “building” the decision making process for this particular sale of deal. To do this, the adversary must have a clear vision of the problems to be solved, must be willing to involve those whose agreement is vital to solving those problems, and must sometimes be willing to work closely with people on their side that they don’t have a good working relationship with. Negotiation mastery alone confers this ability.
However, since complex bureaucracies don’t often have a valid M&P, the individuals on the other side can be just as driven by invalid goals, performance objectives, or invalid M&Ps of any kind. This means that the ability to make and influence effective decisions must also involve the ability to recognize and neutralize predatory adversaries.
12) The inability to recognize and neutralize predatory adversaries
Dealing with a tough gatekeeper may be tough but dealing with a predator is much more demanding. Some can be crass and crude and ill-mannered enough to set off your hot buttons. The ability to nurture, use strip lines, use silence, ask good vision building interrogative led questions, respect the other’s right to veto, be unokay, and give them the power trip they may need might be essential to influencing effective decisions in them. But these are not the predators that can cause you the greatest harm. Their boorish behavior already puts you on alert.
The ones who can cause you the greatest harm are the quiet, friendly, or suave manipulators. Some of them have an excellent sense of humor. They make you feel so emotionally comfortable that it provides a soft cushion for any neediness that lurks below the surface. Be careful!
Many people are familiar with the predatory tactics: bait and switch; good cop/bad cop; playing you off the competition in order to drive compromise and extract concessions; using the language of “relationship”, “partnership”, “win-win” and the like. When what the adversary is saying doesn’t add up with what your research has uncovered, you must find out if there is genuine miscommunication within the other side, if the other person is sincerely mistaken, of if the person is a predator looking for prey.
The inability to recognize and neutralize any and every form of manipulation is something that many people are susceptible to – especially if their heads are filled with clichés like “Win-Win” or “Building relationships”. I have written previously that “Quota Land” has a similar blinding effect.
People who master negotiation are intensely focused on making and influencing effective decisions and don’t have any positive or negative assumptions or expectations. They are emotionally and intellectually committed to a valid M&P and do not genuinely feel need because they know and believe they don’t need this deal to be committed to their M&P. They know that neediness plays right into the hands of predators, and that predators use neediness to get what they want.
13) You have no idea about their real budget; they keep driving yours up; you don’t build theirs
Some naïve folks believe that asking “What timeline are you looking at?”; “What is your budget for this deal?”; or some such question will reveal the adversary’s real budget.
The real budget is deduced slowly by paying careful attention to how much time, energy, money, or emotional investment that the adversary is willing to commit to this deal. The person on the other side has every incentive to hide it from you, and to mislead you if required.
Neediness drives up your budget. Because it comes out loud and clear – in your tone of voice, choice of words, eagerness to compromise, willing to accept whatever is thrown your way, readiness to meet whenever they choose, or in a million and other different ways – a person engaged in cold calling is particularly vulnerable to predators who have mastered the art of driving up another person’s budget. It’s a bit comical to watch that while both sides are driven by invalid goals, only one side is controlling the budgets for both sides.
You must build their budgets while always respecting their right to say “no”. Very few people place much value to what they acquire with ease. Women who play “hard to get” don’t do it simply because they are trying to imitate others. They are earnestly trying to understand the motivations driving the man. And that is an excellent thing!
Learning to manage budgets is an essential part of negotiation mastery. In the world of cold calling, very few trainers make so much as a passing reference to this.
Please share your thoughts with us and comment below.