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MGMA Financial Management and Payer Contracting Conference

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This past month, SNI’s Master Facilitator, Jeff Cochran delivered a keynote speech to Medical Group Management Associates at the 2017 MGMA Financial Management and Payer Contracting Conference held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The conference is highly regarded and attended by medical practice professionals that go to enhance their financial education to advance the profession of medical practice management. Jeff’s keynote was entitled Negotiating: Strategies for Success. Since 1926, MGMA has created successful medical practices that provide the highest level of patient care through member benefits, education, resources, news, information, advocacy, and networking opportunities.

 

 

SNI’s approach to negotiations challenges traditional perceptions of approaching deals. Jeff spoke on the foundational teaching of Shapiro Negotiations Institute- The 3 P’s systematic method to managing negotiations: Prepare, Probe, and Propose. Through an interactive role play, Jeff taught attendees to cultivate long-lasting relationships with their counterparts by utilizing the 3 P’s correctly. The reactions from the conference attendees exhibit not only the charismatic delivery of Jeff, but, more importantly, how beneficial SNI’s Systematic Approach to Negotiating can be.

 

(Photo from https://twitter.com/MGMA)

 

We value all of the training feedback we recieve and were happy to hear from Kelly Mattingly, the Director of Contracting and Credentialing at Practice Velocity about her experience at MGMA:

 “I thought your talk was the most valuable session of the conference. You were entertaining, the topic was very relevant, and the hands on aspect was engaging. In my opinion negotiating is all about doing your research and finding your (and your opponent’s) strengths and weaknesses, knowing when to play your cards, and understanding who you are dealing with on the other end (because in my opinion…that may change my strategy entirely). I work in an industry where our negotiating leverage is pretty minuscule to non-existent. I was reminded to treat each negotiation as if I had more leverage than the last. I think sometimes when we are defeated often, we forget to reset …gain our confidence, and give the next negotiating opportunity an A+ effort. I won’t underestimate my strengths again, and I won’t talk myself down before I sit at the negotiation table. I look forward to hearing you speak again in the near future.”

 

Thanks again to MGMA for the great opportunity! 

Do You Have These 5 Negotiations Skills?

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Andrea Kupfer Schneider, Marquette University Law School professor, recently wrote an article for the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy explaining the importance of teaching five specific skills for negotiation, rather than teaching with negotiations style labels alone. These five critical abilities, according to Schneider, are assertiveness, empathy, flexibility, social skills/intuition, and ethics. Consider how each plays a part in the process.

Assertiveness

Negotiations are a two-way street, but it’s easy for some people to get bowled over and taken advantage of. Schneider’s first key skill for negotiation is to stand firm in your decisions. If you’re a self-doubter, this can be especially difficult to master, but it’s absolutely vital to making sure you’re getting the compensation (benefits, etc.) you deserve.

Empathy

Empathy and assertiveness might seem counteractive, but there’s a special balance a good negotiator must achieve. You must remember that you’re building connections with other humans, so listening and truly discussing their concerns with honest empathy is important.

Flexibility

The world includes a whole lot more gray than black or white. Things can’t always be the same or stay set in stone. Flexibility is key for better negotiation. You’ll be faced with unique situations and problems whether you’re ready for them or not, so being able to change plans and tactics will keep you ahead of the competition.

Social Skills/Intuition

Even though they’re about business, negotiations are just another form of conversation. Naturally, you need to have polished social skills if you want to excel. If, for example, you can ready body language cues, you’ll be able to adjust your tactics to suit extra-eager or finicky clients. Every person will provide live feedback about the conversation if you only know what to look for.

Of course, your social skills can’t be limited to watching the other person. You need to be able to communicate clearly and project yourself in a friendly, confident way. For many people, approaching others is the hardest part of negotiating, so polishing your intrapersonal skills can help everything else go smoother.

Ethics

The fifth skill Schneider listed is a dedication to ethics. No matter how badly you want to make a deal or come to an agreement, you still need to know when to draw the line. Polished ethics skills ensure you always stay on the right side of the law and don’t compromise your personal or business integrity at any point.

If you’re a little lacking in one or more of these areas, don’t worry. That’s exactly what SNI negotiations training is for.

Super Bowl 2017: X Lessons in Sales From the Best Commercials

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With another Super Bowl in the books, the world can once again analyze some viewers’ favorite part – the commercials. Your sales team can benefit the most from looking back on the failures and successes of this year’s Super Bowl advertisements to more effectively reach customers.

 

Understanding the Weight of Super Bowl Ads
One thing that’s important to understand is just how much most of these companies risk with their advertising techniques. Each 30-second ad costs a whopping $4.5 million, and, of course, longer ads run an even higher tab. The successes are extremely powerful and the flops hit exceptionally hard, so every reaction should be seriously considered.

DO: Make a Powerful Statement

The best Super Bowl commercials this year (such as Budweiser and #LikeAGirl) have one thing in common – they make a statement. They’re bold, unabashed, and ready to add a lot of power behind their message. Whether it’s your own commercial or a mission statement, you have to figure out the power behind your company and run with it. Be bold and powerful about what you’re doing or what your company offers, and don’t let anyone stand in the way.

DON’T: Use Advertising Without a Plan

You can’t just throw up commercials or sales pitches without purpose. If you’re talking just for the sake of talking, it will only devalue your brand and its benefits. Always lean on having a purpose. If you don’t have a clear one, wait until you figure it out before pushing further.

DO: Make Your Brand Memorable

People remember things that are unique. You must make your products and services stand out against a host of competitors. Figure out what it is that sets you apart and cling to it. Different might be a bit intimidating, but it can definitely be a golden ticket.

DON’T: Go Too Far

Uniqueness and memorability are vital, but you must remember to keep things in line with your company beliefs. Often, things like excessive vulgarity may help potential customers remember you, but in a negative way. Salespeople should never tarnish or devalue brand promises just to make a deal. Find your purpose and pursue it, but don’t go too far.

DO: Back Up Every Claim or Pitch

If you’ve been spending time saying you’re the best, make sure you’re ready to prove it. Whatever your purpose, you need to have skill and passion to follow up your claims. Some of the biggest Super Bowl flops are those in which the commercial was better than the brand itself.

A Year in Review: 2016 Training Industry Report

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On average, negotiations training and other training expenditures increased for both small and large companies in 2016, while remaining consistent for midsize companies. Seems like good news, right? Underneath this seemingly bright information for companies that specialize in training and consulting, is the raw truth that businesses are spending more on training because they have more employees.  They are spending about 10% of their budgets on training, which is down significantly from last year…

What does this mean? As training becomes less focused on in-person facilitation, and more focused on online learning tools, training and influencing companies have begun to offer products that reflect the market. Companies are looking to train the largest number of employees for the least amount of money. There is little evidence that online training is as successful or impactful as in-person facilitation but, none-the-less, the shift towards mass, online training is underway.

Personal facilitation is still a relatively big part of training budgets, but the use of blended learning techniques is rising significantly, as the combination of instructor-led classroom training, virtual classroom/webcast training, online and computer based training, mobile device training, and social learning becomes more readily available. These blended learning techniques are often delivered in one of two ways: learning management systems (e-learning) or virtual classroom/webcasting. Why? Overall, technology use among companies is rising, meaning their sales or negotiations training programs are beginning to mirror this.

Looking ahead at 2017, training and influencing companies need to understand the current and adjust accordingly. Outsourced training programs are likely to be more successful in small (100-999 employees) and midsize (1,000-9999 employees) companies, which will be looking to invest in the programs with the best blend of innovative learning techniques.

Cheers to a new way of training and to a profitable year!

3 Reasons Negotiations Fail

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1. Mismanagement of expectations

Imagine going to a pizza shop and then being told it only serves sushi; disappointment is likely. The same goes for negotiations. If expectations aren’t managed properly, disappointment or frustration may ensue from a misalignment of expectations and reality, and may result in a less-than-ideal outcome for one or all parties.

Properly managing expectations comes from preparation and flexibility. If a party has done its homework –including understanding past precedents and current alternatives—that party is much more likely to have realistic expectations for its encounters. In addition, acknowledging that things may not go as planned can lead to preparation of alternative scripts and backup plans. These scripts and plans must lay out strict acceptance and walk-away scenarios prepared before negotiations begin.

 

2. Unwillingness to empathize

It’s like watching someone go fishing and not realizing that some people may enjoy fishing. Often, people do not consider the other side’s points of view and cannot appreciate that the other side has different needs and desires, which have a profound impact on how negotiations are approached.

By considering the other side’s goals, needs, and thought processes, a negotiator will be able to anticipate arguments the other party may make and consider alternatives that the other party may find appealing even before they meet. In addition, understanding and acknowledging the other side’s point of view may improve the rapport between the parties and can have a positive impact on long-term relationships.

 

3. Lack of preparation

Have you ever gone to the grocery store without knowing what you already had at your house, only to end up getting more of things you don’t need and less of what you do? Going into any deal without a knowledge of the negotiation’s landscape and potential traps can be treacherous for a negotiator and inhibit proper management of expectations.

A negotiator should come in knowing what relevant precedents exist for the current negotiation, what alternatives may be available (or currently unavailable), and what curveballs may be thrown during the conversation. Preparation in the form of a checklist can be especially helpful as a visual representation of what the negotiator has done, is doing, and needs to do in order to fully prepare for the negotiation. This detailed preparation will make the negotiator more flexible, confident, and purposeful than coming in with only a vague idea of what to expect.

 

For more on how to improve the likelihood of success in negotiations, check out The Power of Nice: How to Negotiate So Everyone Wins, Especially You! 

The Art of Persuasion: 3 Ways Women Can Negotiate Better in the Workplace

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We may not realize it, but we spend part of every workday negotiating. Whether it’s asking for a raise, closing a sales deal, pushing for better assignments, requesting more resources, or seeking more flexibility, we use our negotiation skills on a daily basis. However, women appear to be at a disadvantage in this regard.

Research shows that men are often the better negotiators, but Audrey Nelson, Ph.D. believes this is mostly due to cultural stereotypes rather than actual gender differences. A common misconception is that men are typically more direct whereas women are more relational in their style of communication. With these beliefs, women may fail to tap into their true potential. Here are some helpful ways for women to sharpen their negotiating skills and get what they want.

  1. Start Strong

Women are more often shy and more likely to apologize, whereas men say what’s on their minds. Don’t be afraid to cut the small talk and be direct. It may take practice, but the more you do it, the more empowered you’ll feel. Plus, since a direct approach may not be expected, it will give you the upper hand right out of the gate.

  1. Communicate Value

This is a strategy that builds upon a woman’s natural inclination to think globally versus a man’s more linear method. Simplify the desired end result in your mind, but use that as a starting point to map out the ways that goal is beneficial for everyone involved.

For example: You’re a top performer in sales and want to negotiate for a higher compensation package. Communicate your desire clearly at the start of the meeting, and then highlight your contributions to the company. Don’t think of this as bragging – managers are often so busy with other things that they don’t notice the value of their team members.

  1. Know Your Facts

It’s widely known that men tend to be more fact-centered while women tune into feelings. Before you begin your negotiation, do your research! Find out the median salary for your position. Bring hard data to the table (e.g., “In 2016, our department increased revenue by $500,000 while cutting expenses by $100,000”). Know the actual market value of that car or home you’re trying to purchase. Numbers don’t lie, and the more information you have, the more legitimate your end goal will seem to others.

Above all, remember that you’re worth what you’re asking for. Self-confidence provides the foundation upon which all great negotiation is built!

3 Ways to Become a Better Active Listener

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Being an active listener is important, whether it is in a meeting with the perfect client or in a negotiation with a raging lunatic. It encourages trust by showing that you care about what the other party is saying. Listening shows that you are not simply hearing what they are saying, but actually processing the information and taking it seriously. And it may preempt misunderstandings before they create problems. Here are 3 ways to become a better active listener.

  1. Put the technology away

It’s hard to disconnect, especially during work hours. But it is essential to minimize distractions during conversations to ensure that the people you are meeting with know that you value their time and opinions. By putting the technology away, you increase the likelihood of giving the other party 100% of your attention. Instead of using a computer or notebook to take notes, try using pen and paper to decrease distractions. If a computer is necessary, store necessary files on the desktop and turn the internet off to avoid the temptation of checking that new email or answering a lingering text.

  1. Repeat important statements in your own words

Repeating important concepts or statements in your own words serves multiple purposes. If the other party agrees with your reiteration, it shows that you are engaged in the conversation and received the message as intended. If the other party notes a discrepancy in what was said and what you said, it may help preempt miscommunications before they turn into problems by showing that something was lost in translation.

For example, if a client says “I would take $4 million for two,” you should repeat the statement as you understood it by saying, “So you would like $2 million for each.” If the intention was to get $4 million for each of the two, getting clarification could help avoid a huge misstep.

  1. Ask questions

Besides the obvious goal of getting answers, asking questions serves similar purposes as restating important messages. It shows that you are listening to the speaker and want to make sure you understood what they said. And it gives you the opportunity to clear up any discrepancies before they become full-blown misunderstandings. When an answer is given, it may help to repeat it in your own words to make sure that it cleared up any lingering questions.

Similar to the previous example, if a client says, “I would take $4 million for two,” you could ask, “Is that $4 million for each or $2 million for each equaling $4 million?” Again, this will clarify the client’s goal and avoid a mistake moving forward.

 

For more on how to become an active listener, check out The Power of Nice, which discusses how to participate, engage, and personalize to become a better negotiator, faster.

Should you listen to a Devil’s Advocate?

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Why would we encourage someone to tell us we are wrong and that our ideas aren’t clear? Sometimes it could be the push we need to be better, to do more, or to make more. John Adams, the second President of the United States, relied on his wife Abigail for advice and critiques to lead our country. With that said, taking the extra hour to script your pitch for a meeting or to hand off your proposal to a co-worker might not only be the remedy to miscommunication, but the key to success. So, do you have a devil’s advocate, someone you can turn to for guidance? Who is your Abigail Adams?

If you’re the drafter…

The tried and true process of putting pen to paper allows us to work through our thoughts and uncover our real goals. We have drafted our proposals and scripted our speeches And, now that you know what you want to say, and think you have said it clearly, hand it to the one person you know won’t be biased or go easy on you. When he or she brings you back your draft with red marks and arrows, go and redraft the script. Do it again and again until your devil’s advocate has run out of recommendations. In this case, third time may not be the charm. It may be the fourth or fifth or tenth. But when all is said and done, you will have a script that is clear and concise.

If you’re the devil’s advocate….

Maybe you are sitting at your desk when a co-worker hands you their latest proposal. They ask you to read it over, make suggestions, and be brutally honest. How can you be a good devil’s advocate? Here are a few key things to consider.

Is the intended demand or request clear? What can you change to make it more apparent?

Are the facts there, or does the proposal sound too personal?

Is the proposal concise and specific? What type of language do they use?

Take-aways: Take your time with a proposal. Get your ideas down on paper and don’t be afraid to redraft until it is right.  Be someone’s Abigail Adams and let someone be yours. You will be more successful in the long run if you’re not afraid to ask for advice.

The Importance of Personal Relationships in Negotiations

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Experienced negotiators know the importance of building a personal relationship before going into business negotiations. A negotiation involves two parties trying to come to a deal when both sides may want different things. An overly heated atmosphere and anger can unravel the most carefully planned deal. You can avoid many problems when you establish a personal relationship with the people who will be on the other side of the negotiating table. 

You Are Working Together

A personal relationship with the person or people against whom you will be negotiating prevents an adversarial relationship from souring the deal before it starts. If negotiators see themselves as adversaries in a confrontation, both sides tend to become defensive and reactive with each other. In this situation, asking for even a small concession is seen as an encroachment or an attempt to take advantage of the other party. However, if the parties share a personal relationship, it is easier to put these give-and-take dealings in the context of building consensus. If your opponent believes that you are genuinely looking for a mutually beneficial deal, he or she is far more likely to make a concession. 

Focus on Business

Remember that business is business. If both parties didn’t have divergent needs, there would be no need for negotiations. Both parties will be asking the other to give up something. This can create a difficult atmosphere if you’re not careful. Never make personal attacks or attribute any combative exchange to malice on the part of your opponent. When things are getting tense, suggest a break. Taking some time away from the negotiating table can help you steer the conversation back to your personal relationship. Remember to not take things personally. 

Know Your Opponent

A good negotiator will build a personal relationship with the person against whom they will be negotiating before they even get to the table. This means making those important social calls to your opponent. The key is to frame yourself as a friend first and a negotiator second, which transforms your relationship from competitors to cooperators. This can provide a positive perspective on the person with whom you will be negotiating. Understanding what they want, can also help you get what you want.

Building personal relationships between negotiators is an essential part of reaching a deal. Remember to not only get to know the positions from the other side, but the people with whom you are negotiating as well. Focusing on your cooperation can be the element that closes the deal.

Navigating Negotiation Stalemates

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Every businessperson has experienced a negotiations stalemate. Compromise has faltered, neither party is willing to budge, and there is nothing more to say. A successful negotiator knows the way out of a stalemate and how to seal the deal.

Stay Professional and Keep the Client

Before trying to get your opposition to budge, think hard about what you are willing to do to keep this client. Make sure you are being smart about considering compromise. What is the smallest concession you are willing to make? Is this concession worth keeping the client? Negotiation isn’t always about getting your way on everything, sometimes to get what you want, you have to know and help them get what they want.

Your tone should remain professional, no matter how heated the negotiations become. Be courteous. Avoid the “buts” – saying, “I understand your point, but …” just tells your opposition that you are rejecting their points. Shift the conversation to finding joint solutions. Ask them, “How can we make this work?” Build relationships is much more profitable in the long run than burning bridges in one deal.

Breaking the Barrier

You’ve made all the concessions you are willing to make. Now is the time to break through your opposition’s objections. The first step is to understand the other person’s stumbling block. Get this information by being honest about your sticking point. This invites them to tell you why they aren’t budging. You will be able to address their concerns from this information.

If you aren’t getting anywhere at the negotiating table, it may be time to shift focus. The key is to change the context of the conversation to something else for a while. Get the client out of the combative mindset by suggesting a break. This allows you to engage with the opposition in a social context and gives them a chance to get to know you on a personal level. You can also talk about future business opportunities your two organizations might share in the future. More important, it gets them out of the adversarial mindset.

Power Moves

Breaking up the negotiations when they have stalled may be your only option. If you have the upper hand at the time, you can suggest a cooling off period. This is a better move to make when you know your opponent wants the deal more than you do. The prospect that you are willing to walk away may be all that is necessary to get the other party to budge.

If you don’t have the advantage in negotiations, it is still possible to shake up the negotiations by buying some time. Telling the opposition that you would like a legal opinion is a card you can always play. Most business-people understand the need for legal advice. This keeps your negotiations open and buys both of you some cooling-down time.

Keep an Ace in the Hole

When all else fails, you should always have a trick up your sleeve. Before you go into negotiations, prepare something you can use to push stalled negotiations over the edge. Use alternatives. A deal, a discount, or a special offer can go a long way to closing the deal.