North American Association of Sales Engineers

North American Association of Sales Engineers

European Association of Sales Engineers

Interview with Ludovic Tendron about Negotiating.

NAASE sat down with Ludovic Tendron, author of The Master Key: Unlock Your Influence & Success in Negotiations and founder of his consulting firm Ludovic, to interview him about the art of negotiating. The interview is below. You can purchase at Barnes and Noble or from Amazon here.

  1. In a typical scenario, we (the seller/ product or service provider) have a given price of $100,000.  The buyer/prospect has said that their budget (??) is $80,000.  Both sides appear to want to work together on the project/offering.  From the seller side, how do we avoid just doing the typical “split the difference” tactic of price negotiation- which in this case would be a 2nd offer of $90,000?  In many cases, that price reduction will drastically effect our compensation/commission on the deal.

Assuming that the product or service is competitive and adds value to buyers. I would consider the following action plan:

First, I would have prepared well to address this type of issue. By preparation, I mean anticipating rather than reacting, building rapport, mapping the terrain, collecting information, identifying leverage, having negative emotions under control (including despair which can sometimes infect salespeople).   Many people limit negotiation to a verbal game and persuasion. This is a mistake. Gaining trust is key. Some people pitch a sale without making this effort. I like this quote from Zig Ziglar: “If people like you, they will listen to you, if they trust you, they will do business with you”. With trust, the counter-part can go the extra mile more easily.

I would then use empathic intelligence to solve this issue. Most of us like to think we are great listeners and fabulous empathizers. Rather we don’t listen enough and we often don’t ask the right questions. The seller should put himself in the shoes of the buyer and try to understand where their resistance is coming from. Very often, people resist because they see a risk for themselves or the corporation they represent. Your role as a seller is to clear the risk from the table of negotiation.

To transcend rejection and overcome obstacles, the seller must engage their creativity and generate ideas. Creative negotiators can best generate solutions when they are not singularly focused on their own needs and instead looking at mutually beneficial outcomes. Can comfort be provided to the buyer another way? What about terms of payment, free service or product, easy contract exit, etc.

The seller should also have a long-term approach and take a step back. Is the effort they are about to make worthwhile? Is it going to bring more opportunities and business in the future? Will making more money now prevent them from building worthwhile relationships? Rational people play the long-term game. Irrational people try to make quick money and let themselves be controlled by their emotions.

Finally, the seller has to avoid putting the buyer on the defensive making them feel they are not deciding for themselves, or that you know better than they do. Such attitude naturally raises defenses. People like to have a high opinion of themselves.

2. When and how and why should we be fully honest and transparent with a prospect/ client?  Where does honesty come into play with negotiation?

It is a dilemma for all negotiators.  

We have an ability to cooperate, but also to manipulate without using force. In human nature, the ability to manipulate developed after the use of language in order to compete for resources and mates without fighting. We are still wired the same way. Deception is in human nature.

We lie (sometimes without noticing it) on average one or two times a day and negotiation is not an exception. We do it most of the time by omission (e.g. hiding a piece of information). We find all kinds of excuses to justify it: “I didn’t know it was important”, “I don’t know this person enough”, etc. We try to keep a self-image of someone reasonable and respectable.

The lure of power, money, and benefits, as well as conflicts of interest, the need to protect our interests, lead us to lie.

At the same time, we cannot be an open book. If we had to tell everyone the complete truth all the time, we could hurt people or get hurt (imagine telling a counter-part they are not really smart). We have to be strategic about the information we disclose.

I personally think that there will always be a conflict in us at some point between protecting our interests and being 100% honest. Having said that, integrity pays off better.  As Francois de Caillieres, French diplomat said “what you obtain through deception rests on unsecure foundations. A lie will always leave a drop of poison behind”.

3. What key phrases are said by a client/prospect which all but proves that they have no intention of doing business with you?

Cues are not so much to find in words but in the person’s attitude and body language. People tend to hide behind words although they can occasionally be betrayed by some of them (what we call lapsus).

It is easier to fake it with words than with your body. It’s impossible to be conscious of all that our body is doing. That’s where the main key is in my opinion.

It is important to analyze a cluster of gestures and not one specifically, spot incongruences with the words spoken, and take the context into consideration.

Signs of rejections could be expressed with crossed arms (or legs), rolling eyes, lack of eye contact (shifty eyes), sighing, lip licking, head shaking, etc.

If you had to find cues in words, you would think that negative words or expressions would reveal rejection. However, research tell us that half of the words we produce are negative (whereas 30% are positive and 20% are neutral). I would suggest to focus more on positive words or expressions such as “yes”, “great”, “totally agree”, “absolutely” or “right” and their repetition.

4. How important is it to be willing and ready to literally walk away from the negotiating table/meeting?  When should that be done?  After doing so, what % of deals will still happen?

I never completely walk away from the negotiation table. I always leave the door open but I also clearly communicate my boundaries. I always play the long-term game. Circumstances can change. A counter-part may have overlooked something. A negotiator can be replaced. One may be able to improve a proposal, etc. I am a big believer in the fact that the frame in which you make an offer carries equal or greater weight than the offer itself.

Having boundaries means that you are prepared to make concessions up to a certain point and face the consequences of a no deal if these boundaries are crossed (or likely to be crossed). It means that beyond this point you are better off without a deal. You should try to set your boundaries ahead of negotiation. Negotiators often underestimate this aspect of preparation to negotiation.

It is difficult to come up with a percentage of deals still happening after breakdown of talks, but we can safely say that tactful, creative and patient negotiators are often the best achievers.

5. In an environment where there are typically 4+ decision makers, do we need to negotiate with each of the 4+ people with a say in the decision, or is it only crucial to negotiate with the highest ranking person on their team?

You don’t need to negotiate with all of them but you need to respect all of them (including listening to them when they are given a chance to talk).

Each group dynamic is different, and, when possible, it’s helpful to determine how tasks are divided, who makes the decisions, which members are most influential, and what rivalries might exist or arise. If you develop an eye for group dynamics, you may be able to influence some members of a group to serve your interests. Having a decision maker does not mean that they won’t be influenced by others. Some decision makers are incapable of making decisions alone

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