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.
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