Thursday, October 20, 2011

Women in Negotiation

“Ty Gitou?”

A young woman stood in the doorway of Tyler’s office. Tyler came out from behind his desk to greet her.

“Yes, hello. I am Tyler Gitou. How can I help you?”

“My name is Janice Lumere. My friend Kevin Delclinchy is in sales with the company. He said you were the Deal Whisperer and you might be able to give me some advice on how to become a better negotiator.”

“I’d be delighted to speak with you,” Tyler said. “Please sit down. What are the issues you are dealing with?”

Janice sat in one of two chairs in front of Tyler’s desk. Tyler sat in the one next to her.

“Well, nothing just yet. I just got a job in the sales group and wondered if you had any advice on how to talk with potential clients. Most of the people I am working with are older and usually they are…”

“Male.” Tyler said. He smiled. “Let me compliment you on two points. First, your ability to recognize the fact that there is a difference between men and women in how they sell and negotiate. As much as we try to convince ourselves that we are all equal, women truly do have more hurdles to overcome when negotiating with men and other women. Second, your desire to address and overcome the problem. For someone so early in her career you are showing great maturity in taking action to resolve issues that might limit your success. Many young professionals believe that when they ask for help it is a sign of weakness. In fact, it is a sign of strength when you leverage others’ skills and knowledge to make an organization more successful.”

“Thank you,” Janice said. “Kevin spoke highly of you and I can already see why. So what are the differences and what can I do to address them?”

“There are many and we can’t cover them all in one conversation. But let me give you a start. First, when I say the word ‘negotiation’ what adjectives pop into your head?”

Janice thought a moment. “Difficult; confrontational; demanding…”

“And why do you have that perception when you think about negotiation?”

“Because I need to win and the other side wants to win and I have to overcome some overly aggressive male in order to succeed.”

“And what if you can’t overcome this challenging man?”

“I guess I have to hold my ground as long as I can and then in the end give in for the relationship.”

Tyler laughed. “That’s perfect. You have articulated a universal perception many young women and men have about negotiation. The difference is in what women and men typically view as the ideal outcome of that ‘competition’. The studies I have read on this topic say that women are challenged by a cultural barrier that causes them to believe that negotiation is confrontational. Because women generally focus more on relationship they often won’t counter an offer or ask for more because it might create a negative perception of them as ‘difficult” or ‘pushy’ thereby hurting the relationship. Their negotiation style then often runs from ‘compete’ to ‘accommodate’. Make a demand to get some movement but stop and concede before it might hurt the relationship.”

“That all resonates with me. I feel like I have been through that scenario. So what do I do about it?”

“Come see me next week and we will discuss two elements a Deal Whisperer uses to build a collaborative sales and negotiation environment: legitimacy and perceptions. If we focus on those two first, you will soon find yourself a more confident salesperson and negotiator.”

(See "Women in Negotiation Part 2.")

Friday, October 7, 2011

Transactional Trust Part 2

Tyler Gitou drew three interlocking circles on a sheet of paper. In one he wrote “Credibility” in another he wrote “Reliability” and in the third he wrote “Mutuality”. Where the three circles overlapped in the center he wrote “Trust.”

“You may recall from an earlier conversation that a Deal Whisperer builds a trusting relationship on these three elements: Credibility, Reliability and Mutuality.“ (See “How to Build a Trust Action Plan” “The key to a successful, collaborative business relationship is a strong bond of Trust which you have built over time.”

“That’s great,” Verdi said. “But I don’t have time. I am currently in negotiations and I need Trust now.”

“OK,” Tyler said. “The model is scalable.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean it is not absolute. You don’t go from zero Trust to full Trust. You can build a little bit of Trust in a short period of time. For example: Why does the client keep asking you to lower the price?”

“Because he thinks I have ‘room to move’,” Verdi said.

“Do you?”


“Have you told him that?” Tyler asked.

“Yes, several times.”

“So let me ask you again: the client keeps asking for price concessions and you keep saying you don’t have room to move. Why does the client keep asking?”

Verdi thought for a moment. “Maybe he thinks I’m not telling the truth?”

“Exactly!” Tyler said. “He doesn’t believe you when you say you don’t have room to move! You lack Credibility and therefore you have no Trust. And is there any reason why he should believe you? Haven’t you said in the past ‘I can’t do any better’ and then you lowered the price when he threatened to walk away?”

“I guess I did.”

“So you have trained the client that you are not Credible; that he is in a game where he needs to keep asking until he believes you are done. You need to move that point of belief further up in the discussion so he stops asking.”

“How do I do that?”

“Transparency,” Tyler said. “Show, don’t tell. If your back is up against the wall, show the client the wall. Open up the ‘black box’ of your proposal and share with him the cost elements and effort involved in delivering the project successfully. If he can see your problem, he will believe you when you say, ‘I have a problem meeting that request.’ In fact, he may have a potential solution. You may have put something into the proposal that he doesn’t need. Maybe you misunderstood a business requirement or maybe he didn’t realize how much cost a certain request would drive. Invite the client into your deal shape. If the client can help solve the problem, he becomes more engaged because he has ownership in the solution. He helped build it.”

“Is that all I need to build Trust?”

“No,” Tyler said. “It’s what you need to build Credibility, one of the three elements of Trust. Presumably you have Reliability. He would not still be talking to you if he did not think you capable of doing the work. But by having Credibility and Reliability, you can also communicate Mutuality. When you have the discussion around transparency, make sure you communicate to the client that you are trying to find the option that will make him successful, as well as yourself. As long as he can see the elements of the deal, he will start to feel that you really do care as much about his interests as your own. Remember that self-interest is the silver bullet of Trust: it will kill Trust in an instant. But you can start building some Mutuality, even in a single conversation, and that’s what you need to generate Transactional Trust to negotiate a good deal for both of you right now.”