Fable Friday: A quick tip on negotiation skills

Today on Fable Friday I’ll share a quick story about something I learned this week while conducting negotiation skills workshops for corporate bankers. 

Negotiation is one of my favorite workshops because I put most of the emphasis on communication skills, rather than on the mechanics of negotiating items of like value during a deal. I figure the bankers already know how to do that, but they often struggle with language issues.

Here’s the basic premise.  Every time you speak to someone, you make choices about the words you use. This suggests that you can raise or subdue the emotional level of the conversation through those choices, and since emotions can often run high during a negotiation, it’s good practice to choose your words carefully. I have written about this subject in the past.

This week I spent a fair amount of time discussing the best ways to deal with objections during a negotiation, such as “You have plenty of protection with the inventory reliance percentage,” (in dealing with loan advance rates). The class agreed that the best approach was to empathize, “I understand” and then probe around the client’s concerns before addressing the issue.  We even role played this scenario.

But at the end of the workshop I gave them a case study in which the client objected to the advance rate using the same language.  One of the case study questions asked, “What should the banker say when the client objected about the advance rate?”  In every instance, the participants replied that the banker should say something like, “I understand this is a concern for you, but this is not sufficient protection for us and here’s why.”  This is a very poor way to address a client objection, and worse, it indicates that the learners totally forgot the earlier rationale and practice of this important skill.  Maybe I’m not as good a trainer as I thought I was.

What happened is that when the learners knew they were practicing “Handling Difficult Objections” they remained focused on listening for them and responding carefully, but when an objection was thrown at them outside that context, they reacted as they would in everyday conversation with a friend.  In other words, we automatically bring our everyday communication habits into business discussions, and they often don’t serve us well.

Example:  Your spouse says to you, “You came home awfully late last night.”  You say, “No I didn’t,” rather than “I thought you might be concerned.  What time did you think I would be home? I probably didn’t tell you.”

So I’m going to make adjustments to this part of the workshop and incorporate more spontaneous practice in which objections surface unexpectedly, so the participants learn to spot them and practice in context again and again.  It takes a lot of effort to do this skill well and even more to incorporate it into your pattern of speech.

If you’re a trainer, try incorporating a few objections into various role play scenarios within your programs and see if the learners pick up on them and respond professionally.

Think Like Your Customer

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About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

One Response to Fable Friday: A quick tip on negotiation skills

  1. Dennis Maietta says:

    I’ll buy that. Good advice.

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