People Skills Are Essential to Negotiation Success

Negotiation is at the heart of a business. Winning customers, building partnerships, and securing vendors are all negotiation processes. The skills required to negotiate successfully are complex: inter-personal communication, sales skills, a bit of analytical psychology, assertiveness, and conflict resolution. In short, for a company to do well, the lead negotiator must like people and know how to deal with many different types of people.

Some years ago, the British comedian and Monty Python member, John Cleese participated in a series of sales and management training videos. To this day, I still laugh remembering one of them, “How Not to Exhibit Yourself.” “How Not to Exhibit Yourself” focuses on trade show behavior and particularly how to effectively connect with potential customers, but in my mind, the humorous lessons offered by Cleese could just as easily apply to networking with people in general. My key point in this post is that regardless whatever field you work, your ability and skill in relating to people and communicating effectively will be crucial to your success.

With good intentions, and also a good dose of Facebook business strategy to expand its base of users, Mark Zuckerberg has struck out to promote Free Basics, a free limited Internet for the poor in less developed countries sponsored by Facebook and its local telecommunications partners. While on the face of it Free Basics would seem to have merit, Zuckerberg has run into a wall of opposition. On close inspection of the details, Facebook’s problem, despite all of its global corporate sophistication, appears to be naïveté about the foreign markets it is trying to enter. It is possible to argue that Zuckerberg and Facebook have the best of intentions and sound arguments. But the best of intentions and sound arguments mean nothing if the key element lacking is a clear understanding of the current foreign market, and the crucial need to adapt to it or fail. Zuckerberg could have looked no further back than 2013 for clues to why he has failed.

I will sanitize this Silicon Valley story. A very large technical workstation company tried to bully a smaller workstation company I worked for. The big company was OEM’ing the small company’s superior technology. The big company stopped paying their bills, running up a huge delinquent payable amount, believing they could leverage the small company into additional concessions. We met with them secretly over Thanksgiving in our offices. In an arrogant gesture, the big company tried to offer 1/3 of their delinquent payables. We literally threw the very large handwritten check back at them and told them to leave. A week later the full delinquent amount was paid, and they complimented us, saying “nothing had impressed them more, than when we threw the check back at them. The supreme irony was that the two senior execs who had flown from Boston to Silicon Valley to meet with us over the holiday weekend, never bothered to look at our financials before trying their arrogant scheme. We had $65 Million in cash in the bank.”

Fourth Year UBC Faculty of Management students will recall many of these points on “ice breaker” techniques to grab the attention of your audience. Use of any of these five suggestions may depend on your public speaking situation. Are you there to inform, inspire, entertain, or call the audience to action?…Is the situation solemn, serious, or relaxed? It can make a significant difference to the success of your speech.