Negotiations are rarely issue free but don't let the red flags become a sending off! Here are my seven techniques for diffusing and moving forward.
How you manage objections can be the make or break of any negotiation.
1. Get the right people at the table
In highly stress situations (thinking transformation, acquisitions, refinancing, operational transformations) it is the calm head that will need to take over. As a Career Interim I have been in many situations where those negotiating are too close, too invested in the situation. Being able to hang back and put in an experience lead when objections are raised can have the twofold effect of removing the emotion but also showing that you are serious about the issue that has been raised.
2. Keep calm and pause
Data shows that in a typical negotiation/sales conversation the average talking speed is 163 words per minute. But when flustered by an objection, an inexperienced person will speed up to 188 words per minute. If you maintain a calm demeanour, let them finish talking and consider your response, you’ll not only build trust you will retain your composure and control. Deep breaths.
3. Clarify don't assume
Often referred to as ‘pouncing’ the interrupt to close down an objection quickly is not the way to go. Jumping into solution mode, or worse addressing the wrong issue, objection handling scenarios are rife with potential misunderstandings. Use ‘mirroring’ and ask a question back to the client to clarify their issue. They may well elaborate and give you more to work with.
4. Provide validation
Humans go through 95% of their lives feeling misunderstood. Now is your chance to show that you do. Once you have a better understanding of the issue, use it to show you understand the impact and even the emotion that it raises.
Make sure you don’t marginalise, often there can be real people impact and your client may well know these people, but giving context to the problem makes it more tangible and will make it easier to ‘fix’.
5. Get permission
This isn’t hitting them with a solution straight off it is about looking at how you can help them to find the right path passed the issue that is currently blocking progress. The best therapists don’t offer solutions they help their patients to find them. Is the issue financial, technical, time driven or are these the smoke screen for something else.
It’s still not time to jump in with solutions - saying “I suggest” being a big red flag at this point. But you can start to work with them to consider options and see how they respond. Luke warm and you need to try another tact but even less acceptable options still means you are knocking these off the list and getting closer to understanding what the real motivations are.
6. Take timeout
Negotiations at the best of times aren't over quickly - they are hard work, often meaning you have to be 'on' for long periods of time. Dont hope that the other side will just cave from being ground down. Stopping the conversation is a valid option, suggesting all parties take a break is another. It allows for thinking time outside of the pressured environment but more importantly it allows both sides to take a break and recalibrate.
Once you have a good understanding of the issue it is time ‘reframe’ and open up the opportunity to see things through a new “lens.” This could be replacing a problem with an opportunity, a weakness with a strength or how bad timing for reason x can be seen as good timing for reason y. It is important to capture not just the issue and resolution but the reasons why it was accepted during the process as it may well be raised again and you can then have it to refer back to.