Thursday, October 31, 2013

What Will You Do After You Get Punched in the Mouth?

The Deal Whisperer posted its 50th article in September, all based on my ongoing experiences leading sales teams in pursuit of outsourcing, BPO, SI and consulting engagements. My goal is to help business people drive greater value and stronger relationships in their deal-making. For the next 10 weeks I am offering a retrospective, posting the 10 "Most Widely Read" pieces from the last several years. Here is "What Will You Do After You Get Punched in the Mouth?". As always, your questions and comments are welcome and appreciated.

What Will You Do After You Get Punched in the Mouth?

"Everybody has a plan 'til they get punched in the mouth." Mike Tyson

Hard to believe a Mike Tyson quote would have relevance to a discussion of negotiation. Yet we often have moments in negotiations when we get "punched" or hit by a sudden act of the other party and we don't know what to do. All the planning and strategy goes out of our heads and we reel about, trying to figure out how to respond.

When we look back on the events that occurred, though, we discover that they should not have come as a shock; we just weren’t ready for it when it happened. Think of it in Mike Tyson’s context: shouldn’t a boxer have a plan that includes getting hit in the mouth? It is likely to happen! So when you prepare for your own meetings and negotiations, make a plan that includes what you will do after you get punched in the mouth.

A Deal Whisperer thinks of this as planning for surprises. Sounds counter-intuitive because a surprise, by its nature, is something we can’t plan for. With a few exceptions, however, there are not a lot of things that happen in negotiations that are real “surprises.” Walking into your house and having 50 people yell “Happy Birthday” is a surprise. You don’t usually expect to find 50 people in your house when you come home. You should expect in the course of trying to close a deal that the other party might say, “I’m withdrawing”; “Your price is too high”; “Your offer is too low”; or “I chose another supplier”.

So how do you plan for surprises? Walk through the “what if”s. After a milestone in your negotiation, take time to consider all the possible ways the other party might respond and what you will do next. If you just submitted a bid, the customer could 1. Reject the bid, 2. Offer a counter-proposal, 3. Not respond, 4. Accept the bid. There are variations on those possibilities but those are, in essence, the broad categories of outcomes to consider.

Make a plan for each. Write the plan down. And then discuss that plan with your team so everyone knows what the next steps will be. To become a Deal Whisperer, you always have to be so well prepared that a punch in the mouth is part of your plan.

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