How to crack the art of negotiation
Corporate bestsellers are usually charged with stories of successful negotiations. They describe an emotionally fraught process, where a wrong approach can dramatically affect the chances of success, and cripple a company's business plans as quickly as a tanking stock market.
But some negotiations are a matter of life and death -the kind Richard Mullender has dealt with for the better part of his professional career as a hostage negotiator.
Mullender, who helped secure the release of three UN workers held hostage in Afghanistan in 2004 and the rescue of peace activist Norman Kember from Iraq in 2006, believes a successful negotiation has no place for emotions and luck; it needs patience, the ability to think on your toes and “to really listen“.
“Listening is the biggest skill needed to get what you want out of life. Don't be fooled into thinking that asking questions or watching [someone's] body language or keeping eye contact with a person has anything to do with listening,“ says the British national, who recently held a workshop in the city.
“Effective listening is the identification, selection and interpretation of key words that turn information into intelligence. Intelligence is information that can be used to your own advantage and will help build long-term relationships.“
It's not you, it's them
Mullender says the techniques used during hostage negotiation can easily be put to use in any corporate environment. “The two are intrinsically linked. All negotiation comes down to one thing -you have something I want and I have something you want,“ he says.“To sell, we must understand the person we are trying to sell to. And to do that, we must listen to the other person, identify his needs, fears, values, beliefs, values, beliefs, idiosyncrasies, etc, and then work out how to sell the product, idea or solution to them.“
While these strategies may seem like common sense to most, it's not uncommon for people to get caught up in a web of words.
“Too often, we sell the product to ourselves and act to ourselves and not the customer.
You tell the customer, client, opponent why they should buy something using the reasons that appeal to you.
But to get the deal, you need to sell your product by appealing to what they might find useful,“ says the 66-year-old former military and police professional.
No `I' in team
Mullender, who worked as the lead trainer at Scotland Yard's National Hostage and Crisis Negotiation Unit, has trained and assisted people at the FBI, the UN, and even the Indian secret services. He has been hired by businesses such as Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), BNP Paribas, Oracle, IBM, among oth ers to instruct their employees.
And in his experience, the big red flag he sees during negotiations is when “people are not working as a team“. He explains: “When I ask business negotiators what their roles are, they inevitably tell me their job profiles : `I'm finance; I'm technical and I'm sales'. These are three individuals desperate to speak and show their worth. In reality, a team of negotiators would answer `I am the talker and I negotiate'. The second and third person's job is to listen carefully.“
“I am amazed by how often negotiators become involved in talking so much that they often argue within themselves in front of others. If you aren't the talker, then don't talk unless you are asked to.“
Find a connect
The key to any good negotiation, says Mullender, is interpreting what the other person really means and the ability to influence another by the use of logic and carefully constructed arguments.“Negotiation is the craft of persuasion by presenting an argument that not only appeals to the logic, but also the emotions of the pe son you are trying to influence. That shows them you un shows them you understand them and that what you are doing is useful to them.“ .