Part 2 of my conversation with Kwame Christian, Director of the American Negotiation Institute, where we continue talking about confrontation and negotiating specifically in a sales role.
Some gems from Part 2:
“Try to always look at it from the positive”
“A lot of times when people think about negotiation, it’s not necessarily negotiation, it’s kind of losing with style.”
Connect with Kwame on LinkedIn
Kwame Christian, Esq., M.A. is the Director of the American Negotiation Institute where he conducts negotiation and conflict management workshops around the country. As an attorney and mediator with a bachelors of arts in Psychology, a Master of Public Policy, and a law degree, Kwame brings a unique multidisciplinary approach to making difficult conversations easier. In addition to his role with the American Negotiation Institute, Kwame also serves as a professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, the top ranked dispute resolution program in the country, and Otterbein University’s MBA program.
He is the author of the best selling book Nobody Will Play With Me: How to Use Compassionate Curiosity to Find Confidence in Conflict and his TEDx Talk, Finding Confidence in Conflict, was the most popular TED Talk on the topic of conflict of 2017. Kwame also hosts the top negotiation podcast in the world, Negotiate Anything. The show has been downloaded over 1,000,000 times and has listeners in 183 different countries.
E205 – Transcript
Jason: So excited that you’re here. Welcome to another part of my conversation with Kwame Christian. Here you go. Enjoy this part 2.
Kwame: They might be trying to adjust their position in a way that allows them to save face and feel good about themselves. And again, if we rescue them from that productive tension by saying something, we’re cutting off that cognitive process. So in a lot of times we need to sit there and wait, let this process work and it doesn’t feel good a lot of times, but you have to take the time and see what happens on the other side.
Jason: Yeah, cause what I have seen many times, and this is just life, right? This is our, again, the lizard part of our brain that we’ve discussed where something negative happens and then moving forward you want to avoid that negative thing cause there’s an association, right? So you touch a hot stove, you realize that sucked and so you just don’t want to do that again. You kind of have this fear, this hesitation, you’re around a hot stove. And so same thing happens with salespeople, right? As you can tell them to sit in that silence and wait during the attention and just see what happens. Well the first time they do that, if the other person comes back and then basically hits them with more objections or says no or walks away from the deal, then they associate that silence with that negative outcome. And so one of the biggest things for anyone listening to this, if you had that is just, reset it.
Jason: Try to always look at it from the positive. Optimistic. I mean that’s one experience you had. Not all of them. I mean if you do it every single time there’s something you’re doing wrong. Like if everyone says no after you do that silence. But it’s happened before. Just try not to be gun shy and try not to rush into it because of one negative experience. And I think it’s so great. I mean cause sometimes people are just processing. Sometimes people need a minute and then they think about and they go, okay this is good. And like you said, people want to buy, they don’t want to be sold to. So if some people, if they feel like you’re working your magic, you’re trying to manipulate them and then they actually do want it, they got to figure out, okay, how do I, how do I make it sound like this was my idea, which is one of the things I use a lot with people is helping them realize it was their idea because they’re really smart and so they must have come up with this idea and so I’m just here to facilitate.
Kwame: That’s a great way to think about it. That’s fantastic. And when I think about my mediations and my negotiations and just difficult conversations in general, the worst thing that happens with the use of the effective pause is somebody says what? They might just say, is there anything else? Or do you have a question? Or something like that. I’d be a little bit awkward, but I say, Oh no, I was just giving you time to think and then I just move on. That’s the worst thing that can happen because right when you think about the potential negative outcomes, silence has very few negative ramifications. The consequences are minimal. But if you care to compare that to the other alternative where you say something that you regret, you can’t really do much about that. I have a four year old and I always say you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Sometimes when things come out you kind of have to live with that new reality. So we’ll have all the potential mistakes you make. There are fewer negative consequences if the pause doesn’t work the way that you’d like it to.
Jason: So how much of that, I’m just picturing, right? So your background, mediation, negotiations, two parties in mediation, maybe they’re required to be there or they’ve agreed to be there, they’re trying to do some outcome versus let’s say a sales interaction where I would really like there to be an end result of our negotiation in the sales. You know, I’m a salesperson, you’re a prospect, but there’s no requirement. Right? Like they’re not required to sit there and go through this process versus like a mediation. What kind of difference do you see? And I’m just thinking about like how much different is it like mediating like in a legal sense versus sales, what translates well and what doesn’t translate well?
Kwame: Yeah. Well, when it comes to the context, you have to consider the context too. So let’s think about mediation. It’s two people who have been in litigation or they don’t like each other.
Jason: Yeah, true. True. They’re not starting off on a good foot, is that what you’re saying?
Kwame: But what’s interesting is that the way that I like to do mediations, at least to start off is I separate the parties. So even though they’re not there on the best of circumstances, I can still build a relationship of trust where we can talk freely. There might be laughter and some levity in there and it’s okay. But if you have the people there, then that tension can become unproductive. And so we don’t like that. So that’s a key difference. I think one of the main differences is that there is a situation with sales where there is a much, I think Glossier potential outcome. It’s either, okay, I stay where I am right now. The status quo, this is comfortable, or potentially I engage in uh, begin a relationship where I advanced my situation. And so I think the upside is greater in sales. It’s easier to have a positive orientation and there’s not that conflict where it’s like, Hey, I don’t like you personally and I think you’re wrong. I might disagree or am I just, I prefer the status quo right now, those types of things. And so it’s a different type of conflict. I prefer the sales one. It’s a little bit easier to deal with.
Kwame: But still it’s a blessing though, because as a mediator, there’s really nothing on the line. I get paid either way. I don’t get a commission if there’s a deal. But in sales, because for me, I’m selling negotiation trainings, there’s a big upside for me. And so I feel a little bit more pressure actually in the, uh, the sales type of difficult conversations because my lifestyle changes depending on how this deal goes.
Jason: Right. Well, and that’s, it’s interesting because that sounds like the difference between, let’s say a commission salesperson or someone who’s making commissions and bonuses versus a salaried employee, right? Like you show up and you do your job and you get paid whether you’re good or not. Like there’s some level of performance expectation, but still it’s like at the end of the day, based on whatever happened, you made your money versus sales where, well, if you have the right comp plan, it’s all about you and your, your success.
Jason: So let’s talk about negotiation and creating win-win situations. You know, I encounter a lot of salespeople that are worried about using manipulation, pushing people in the buy things. They feel like the industry of sales or the profession of sales has a bad wrap where it’s like the salesperson or the business has, is winning at the expense of the prospect. Right? So it’s a win lose, not necessarily a win-win, which obviously isn’t correct. There are some industries that work that way and some companies that do, but it’s not that way. So let’s talk about like negotiation and sales and win-win in your experience.
Kwame: Yeah. And so I think it’s important to recognize how to distinguish the two processes. And this is the way I think about it. And to make it easier for me. So for me, I think about sales as generating interest and negotiation is more about closing the deal. And so they’re cousins in my mind. I mean they’re right there, siblings almost twins, but they’re right there. And so for me, the reason I like to distinguish these two processes is because if it gets muddy then the persuasive processes are not as effective. So if I’m in a sales type of conversation and they started talking about lowering the price, the issue is at that point, I’m not even sure if you’re at the point where you have truly reached that level of commitment where I need to start negotiating price, are you even interested or are you just trying to lower my price in order to get a better deal with somebody else?
Kwame: That’s not clear to me. And so once I’m closer to the point in the sales funnel or the sale discussion where I believe I am the guy, then we can start talking about what the details of the deals are, what terms work better for you. But for me, when I’m generating interest, I want to just make sure, Hey, is this something you really want to buy just to make sure that things are productive? Because I’d used slightly different techniques in different parts of the conversation.
Jason: I love it because you’re right, when it comes to something like price, right? Are we negotiating price or still in the sales part where we’re talking about value, right? Is it a price issue because you don’t understand or appreciate the value or is there literally a constraint on the money and is this going to result in you being a good customer? Because a lot of times in my experience, I’m sure you’ve had the same thing, lower price or negotiate price and kind of give up some position on your side to get the deal done. Generally results in a client you may not want longterm.
Kwame: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I know the ones for me, the, the clients that are the most cost-sensitive were the people who ended up being the most problematic and that might be for the reason that they don’t truly value the service or they don’t really appreciate the work. Whatever it is. I just know that that’s a rule of thumb that I followed and I heard it from my mentors. I was like, ah, no, they seem okay. And then a year later I’m like, oh it’s true.
Jason: It’s always, and it’s always true and I’m always having that conversation with new sales reps or people that are struggling, who are wanting to negotiate price with a manager, like with someone like me or consultant who’s trying to help and like, Hey, you know, what can we do on this deal? And they’re basically trying to, they’re now advocating for the customer to try to sell the business and the management on why the customer needs a better deal. And it’s just, it holds true all the time. I mean, those customers generally, they don’t value it. They don’t have as much skin in the game. I mean, there’s something to be said about when you’re paying for something and you value it, then you’re gonna use it. You’re gonna appreciate it.
Kwame: Exactly. One thing too about the, uh, the win-win methodology that I think can be problematic sometimes is that when we think about win-win as the only way to negotiate, then we kind of get locked into this idea that I need to compromise in order to get the deal done. A lot of times when people think about negotiation, it’s not necessarily negotiation, it’s kind of losing with style.
Kwame: The person said, Hey, can I have a discount? You said, yes, great. Close the deal. Okay, well let’s take a step back. The question that we need to ask ourselves is, number one, did they need a discount? Right? We ask them, I think we’ve all been in that situation where we’ve already committed in our minds to buying this thing and then we say, ah, why not? I’ll ask for a discount if I get it, great. If not, I’ll still buy. And so we need to challenge our assumptions that compromise needs to happen in that regard. And really when it comes to negotiation, I don’t think people should adopt a necessarily a win win methodology. They should have a flexible approach. It’s like, okay, what is the strategy best suited for this particular outcome? Usually I will say this, usually win-win does get it done right?
Kwame: You want to have that collaborative approach but sometimes the person might be trying to push you into doing something that doesn’t work for you and so in that situation you need to have a little bit more of an assertive style where compromise is inappropriate and so that’s something that’s really important especially on the sales side to pay attention to because we’re so focused on closing deals that sometimes we say to ourselves, I’m going to give up whatever it takes to close the deal as long as I have some kind of margin. But again, kind of going back to what it is that you said, what kind of clients are we attracting? Is this truly a good deal
Jason: And I can’t think of the phrases I would rather use instead of win-win but that’s making my brain think about like something else like around value and value instead of win-win. Right? So like making sure both sides are getting value instead of a feeling like this winning like, cause normally when you think of winning, someone has to lose. Right? And so when, when is this catchy great term, which you know, most people use. I use it all the time and it’s something better than win, lose or lose, lose, which a lot of reps do. You know, they’ll do lose win where the company’s losing in order to, you know, help the client. But it’s something to think about. Definitely have to come up with some term. Maybe we could chat about it afterwards. Something other than win-win. But it’s like value-based and success based. Right. So again, going back to what you said earlier, sales is about helping your prospects become clients and then be successful in getting from where they are now to a better place in their life or in their business, whatever that is. And so what’s a good phrase for that?
Kwame: I think the best way to think about it is using a collaborative approach. And so regardless, I’m working with you in some capacity, especially in a sales type of thing. There’s no true conflict in the sense that I am against you, which is great because ultimately if everything works out and there should be a long term relationship and so we want to orient it in this way, so instead of thinking it as them sitting across the table from us, we are coming to their side of the table and looking at the problem from a similar perspective to see what we can do. I think about it too. Also one of the things that people say is that negotiation is the art of deal making. I think about it more as the art of deal discovery. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to work with you to see if a deal exists. I need to learn more about you or more about your company, your perspective and see if there is a deal to be had. Because if I think about it as deal making, then I might feel unnecessary and inappropriate pressure to make a deal and force a deal when it’s not appropriate.
Jason: That’s it for part two. Make sure to subscribe so you can catch all of these episodes. Part 3 and part 4 coming up soon. cutterconsultinggroup.com you can find the transcripts, show notes, and Kwame’s links. As always, keep in mind everything in life is sales and people remember the experience you gave them.