I’m in the process of reading a book by Chris Voss, called “Never Split the Difference”. To be fair, I’m about 70 pages in, but it has captured my attention. It’s a book on negotiation, but it doesn’t follow the normal processes. The ones that follow a logical thought pattern. In fact, it captures the way we all make decisions emotionally. He describes how, as an FBI negotiator, he aligns himself with the other party and connects with them. This is in a life of death situation.
Our world, at NineRuns, is not life or death negotiations, but I subscribe to his teachings. What we work with sales team on is the same thing. Understand your customer. Understand what is driving their needs. What are the initiatives of the company that are driving the individual needs?
What Mr. Voss talks about are the techniques he has used. They are subtle and effective. He uses tone of voice. He uses empathy. I’m excited to read the rest of his book, and that is saying something for me. Most books on business start with a premise or concept that I can get excited about, but then they spend the next 10 chapters justifying the concept. I’m not being critical, but that doesn’t work for me.
This past week I had a lot coming at me personally. My 90-year-old mother came down with bronchitis. I came down with the flu and had to cancel a business trip. As I was trying to reschedule the trip, I found that there were conflicts with my customers schedules and they are fighting the flu as well. My initial reaction was frustration because it was not easy for me. Then it struck me that this is an opportunity to put into practice, what I have been preaching, and what I’ve been reading. Practice some empathy. It’s not all about me. I can use the excuse that I’m not feeling well, but that is just that; an excuse. I needed to be more self-aware.
Self-awareness is critical, yet it is extremely difficult. When we look at the world through our own eyes, we see it as we wish to see it. We see it as centered around us. Other people are just in our way. Unfortunately, they may be seeing it from their center as well and this leads to poor communication and misunderstanding. Ultimately it leads poor relationships.
We recently worked with a client where we sent our assessment tool to the field prior to meeting them individually. The participation was very low, initially. We had the leader of the team send a couple of messages cajoling them to take the assessment. We explained how it would benefit them. We took a more demanding tone, yet nothing seemed to work. We then reached out to each of them via telephone and talked to them. We spent time getting to know the team, as well as allowing them to get to know us. The results were staggering. The assessments were finished within 24 hours.
When we review assessment results with team members, we find that most will open up to us. They feel safe, as they must. We also find that they don’t hold themselves in high regard. There is a lot of negative voices in their heads. They don’t feel like they are good enough and they must put on a façade to fit in. We must earn their trust to help them. We must earn their trust to be able to break through the façade. We need to point out their strengths and talents, so they can work from them, and not try to fix the “weaknesses”.
If we focus on our strengths, and be aware of how our actions affect others, we can build trust. We can have a positive impact in our business and our personal lives. While the title of Mr. Voss’s book is catchy, I don’t see it as a book on negotiation. I see it as a testament to how we should address our interactions with others every day. In that case, it is life or death.