Negotiation Skills Speaker and Breakout Speaker
All That Stinks Here Isn’t Cheese
As a negotiation skills keynote speaker and breakout speaker who speaks nationwide on negotiation, I will admit two things upfront: I actually used the expression “all that stinks here isn’t cheese,” with a cheese-making ingredient client, and that I don’t know anything about cheesemaking.
Well, Excuuuse Me
As to the expression, it led to me helping the sales manager at the ingredient company land a multi-million-dollar deal, so excuuuse me (as comedian Steve Martin used to say), and as for not knowing about the cheesemaking industry, please remember I routinely teach negotiation skills to executives at companies as diverse as surgical equipment, software, foodservice and insurance. The principles of teaching negotiation are basically unchanging.
Getting serious for a while, the dynamics of how the territorial sales reps were working was typical and troubling. To their credit, they were great at networking, either in-person or online. They would get leads at trade show booths, associations, through industry materials, podcasts and such, and he was great at sitting down with people in production, but aside from a few smallish customers, they never sold a pound of ingredients to a major processor.
The national sales manager of the dairy conglomerate company called me shortly after I delivered a negotiation skills workshop for an allied industry. As a negotiation skills speaker, I’m always gratified to hear from a new customer.
“Mike, I’m not sure what’s going on with my sales staff. We’re doing great at all of the networking stuff, but we can never close a sale with prospective major customers.” He invited me to sit down with him (socially distanced, of course) and discuss what was going on with his company.
Time to Start with Basics
Negotiation skills are part knowledge (certainly), part “emotion” and part determination. Reviewing the sales staff and their sales materials, I could easily see they were knowledgeable. They were certainly determined and persistent in their approach, but they were falling down in the emotion department. I need to clarify. Negotiation has been compared to “art,” but that doesn’t take it far enough. Emotion, as in emotional intelligence is not simply asking questions, but asking the right questions. In any negotiation, we must ask the right questions; we must determine the needs and the triggers; we must develop a relationship and understanding.
In the case of the ingredient company, it was apparent that they were not always diligent enough in considering that the people with whom they included in preliminary purchasing discussions, were not the appropriate people. While the people they approached seemed to be the decision makers, in most cases they weren’t. They were production people, but not those who could influence a buying decision.
It took some work, but I worked with the sales team to hone the emotional intelligence part and to allow them to give themselves permission to ask the right questions of the right people; to find and pursue the right people.
Sometimes starting with the basics means erasing all of the old negotiation skills habits and starting anew. It is humbling, to be sure, but it sure feels wonderful to cash the check for that first major order.
I’m Mike Hourigan, and teaching negotiation skills is my passion. Call me.
Book Mike Hourigan, Negotiation Skills Keynote and Breakout Speaker, for a virtual or in-person presentation. Contact Mike today at (704) 875-3030 or fill out the form below.