COGNIZANT: Spots and senses to seize opportunities

COGNIZANT: Spots and senses to seize opportunities

“This minute, if you ask me to tell my story, how would it begin? It will start with why I absolutely hate sales negotiations and how they got me into this big mess I’m in now.

I’m Saharsh, a 2015 mech engineering pass out with 8.5 CGPA, a passion for complex machines and a love for talking to people. And travel. And dressing. And food. When most 8 and 9 pointers in my batch happily took their placements that got them into coding, I headed into a less traveled road. I chose to come into sales. Accepted area sales responsibilities for a FMCG chain. I liked it so much, in 3 years flat, I was heading a Territory.

Best part of FMCG sales was the quick results I got to see. I loved the store visits to check on how our products are doing. It was fun advising store owners how to display better, promote harder and sell more. Suited my restless, quick win style. I enjoyed haggle for more and better display space and faster collections. Negotiations? No worries, I bragged to my friends, it’s just an advanced version of bargaining.

Then a senior in college who was in the production line of a heavy engineering company called. “Saharsh”, he said, “Our company is looking for bright, young, eager eyed engineers who will enjoy selling big, complex monster machines. The hulks. Interested? ” This sounded like a fantasy coming true. I jumped instantly. And quickly discovered getting what you wish can sometimes spell trouble

You ask, what went wrong? I bet big on my comfort with heavy engineering and my love of sales. What I didn’t bargain for was the long, sales cycles and the unending slow, protracted negotiations. At the end of my first quarter my Sales Head said “Agree you have built up a healthy pipeline in three short months. Challenge is with the progress you’ve made in getting closer to closure. The negotiations are all hanging. No clarity on where we go next in each of those deals. Looks like your pipeline is in need of a stent or by-pass. Let’s see if you can do better in the second quarter”

I made a May Day SOS call to another senior who does project sales for an infrastructure company. I downloaded my story of troubles and he laughed. “Is that all Saharsh? 'Negotiationitis' is what you want to fix? That’s easy. I will share a 'DPB Dipstick Tool' that will banish your negotiation blues forever. That will teach you to sense where you are in your negotiations and craft a strategy to take the deal closer to closure. Here is the thing.. In that sensing, you pick up feedback that energises you to steer ahead. But the bigger thing, I think is, you should become more 'cognizant'. Might sound like a word from GRE vocab section. It simply means you are alive to how the opportunity is shaping up in real time, and seize it. Become cognizant and you will do well in heavy engineering sales, I’m sure. Mark my words, even better than FMCG. Good luck Saharsh”

Saharsh’s phone blinked. It was a message with a Word attachment titled 'DPB Dipstick'

Sales challenges can be overwhelming in their length, width and depth

High stakes deals with huge budgets can feel like white water rafting, where rookies tend to go under, with only the champions steering through the roaring rapids. As events unfold in succession and you experience the pulls and pressures of large purchase organisations a novice like Saharsh in our story, can feel lost in the blinding surf and turbulent currents. But the cognizant sales champion is ever alert to recognize the need of the situation, and respond appropriately. Such cognizance is the winning edge for aspirants in every walk of life, not just selling.

Negotiation outcomes are not easy to predict

How things will pan out in each negotiation meeting is not easy to predict for any party. This dynamic means that the process of negotiation is bound to take unexpected turns. Being cognizant of this, makes you stronger and better at negotiations. Here’s where a well laid out Sales Process, can help. Eating an elephant is easier when done in bite sized chunks, instead of being flummoxed by the complexity of the challenge. Being cognizant in a Sales Negotiation situation would mean being able to sense the phases, which sales negotiations typically go through. That done, negotiation ceases to be the terrifying beast it appears to be at first.

Negotiation happens in 3 phases

Regardless of all the twists and turns and high drama that sometimes goes with negotiations, there are three phases to any negotiation process:

(1) Discussion phase to exchange each other’s position with an encouragement to reveal interest behind that position so that common ground can be found.

(2) Proposing phase for movement of positions taken to explore a win-win outcome.

(3) Bargaining phase to reach a firm and specific agreement.

It is good to remember that these are 'phases' and not the steps. The process of negotiation can move between these phases. At times the phases could change from meeting to meeting and at other times phases could change within one meeting itself.

The Simple Secret of Negotiation Success

Recognizing which phase one is at and acting accordingly is the secret of negotiation success.

Possible solution for the story situation

Saharsh can master negotiation if he uses the DPB Dipstick his senior shared with him, every time he has to handle a negotiation (See Anchor Practice below)

Anchor practice - The DPB Dipstick:

Apply this Dipstick in 2 steps: (i) Use the list of signals to recognize which phase of negotiation you’re in and (ii) Formulate your response to achieve the objectives for that phase

Discussion Phase

SIGNALS: We want to know each other better.. our problem, our constraints, our opportunities, our capabilities, our desired outcomes. What does a ‘win’ mean for all stakeholders?

OBJECTIVE: To exchange each other’s position with an encouragement to reveal interest behind that position so that common ground can be found.

Proposing Phase

SIGNALS: Given our realities as discussed and agreed, what could be our options? How do those options compare? What option could be most suitable to resolve the problem or encash an opportunity? What are the caveats? What possible scenarios could emerge in consequence? Is this a sustainable remedy, or is this worse than the disease? Is this a win-win for all stakeholders involved? How can we be sure?

OBJECTIVE: For movement of positions taken to explore a win-win outcome.

Bargaining Phase

BSIGNALS: Are we biting off more than we can chew? Is there a way we can make this sweeter? Are we getting the best of each other? Are we challenging one another well enough to maximize value for our respective sponsors? Have we extracted all the juice we can? Are we leaving behind some value on the table?

OBJECTIVE: To reach a firm and specific agreement.

Pause to reflect:  “Cognizant sales champions are ever alert to recognize the need of the situation, and respond appropriately. Such cognizance is the winning edge for aspirants in every walk of life, not just selling”

Action Question:  “Short list negotiations that are coming up. How can you apply the DPB Dipstick in each of them? How would your responses change?

Related Readings: Mercuri Insight Document on Are you well prepared for negotiations?

Takeaway Quote:  “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures” - William Shakespeare

About the series:   This is the 73rd in a series of 100 Posts that seek to build your #Sales Resilience ... as an individual salesperson, as a sales team, and as a sales organization. Because a Resilient India needs Resilient Sales.


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