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The Importance of Negotiation

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Technology advances rapidly in the business world. However, some things will always stay the same. The art of negotiation is as important a business skill as it ever has been. Why is negotiation important? Strong negotiation skills can be the difference between a beneficial compromise and a loss. There will always be conflicts in life, and the ability to solve them, particularly in the business world. That’s why negotiation is important in business —  it is what creates success. What are some important negotiation skills, and why are they so critical?

  • Confidence. Don’t be intimidated; bullies know how to get their way. The business world has its fair share of tyrants, as some people intimidate their way to success. Feeling intimidated means you’re already on your way to defeat. People can sense when you’re emotionally not up for the fight, and they take advantage of it.

In the business world, this can mean lost profits, promotions, and opportunities. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated during negotiation. If the other person appears more confident, understand it’s typically not because they deserve something more than you do; they’re just convinced they do. By bringing this conviction to the table, you can win a negotiation.

  • The importance of negotiation skills includes knowing when to walk away. Some battles are not worth fighting. When business decisions hang in the balance, it’s imperative to be willing to — and know when to — walk away. If someone is transparently trying to get their way with no concessions to you, it’s best to exit the negotiation.
  • Playing fair. In most negotiations, the goal is to be fair. If both parties can understand this and be sympathetic to the others’ needs, both stand to benefit far more. A competition for money or business resources isn’t a true negotiation. In any negotiation, each side has something to offer, and some things they can reasonably concede. Be open, fair, and honest, and you can gain the most from business negotiations.
  • People skills. More often than not, it’s not what you say – it’s how you say it. By presenting your case in the right light, you stand to gain much more from any negotiation. Approaching a negotiation nervously or aggressively gives the other party the upper hand. Be calm, civil, and direct. A good sense of humor and open demeanor, as well as being a good listener, go a long way to realize a successful negotiation.

The importance of negotiation skills cannot be overstated. That’s why, as a business skill, negotiation is here to stay. But by not only understanding why negotiation is important in business, and  prioritizing having good negotiators on your team, you create the perfect environment for business success. Remember, negotiation should be approached not as a competition, but as a compromise in which everyone leaves satisfied.

4 Tips for Answering Influence Skills Questions in Interviews

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We’ve all been on that interview where a prospective employer asks you to “Give me an example of a time when…” While building rapport is very important in the interview process, it often feels as though the interviewer is just reading off a list of prepared questions. Well, he or she most likely is.

But what does the prospective employer really want to know?

These questions, also known as competency-based or behavioral interview questions, are designed to discover how you may respond in real-world situations. They’re useful for helping hiring managers weed out applicants who look good on paper from the ones who understand how to influence others and deliver the results that they need.

In almost every field, from government to project management to customer service, these negotiation and influencing skills can have a strong impact on a worker’s success. Negotiation interview questions allow prospective employees to demonstrate where these negotiation and influencing skills have helped them in the past—situations that may not show up in the applicant’s cover letter or résumé.

Some examples of influence skills questions are:
  • Tell us about a major challenge you encountered in your current position. How did you adapt and overcome?
  • How do you handle projects that require a lot of initiative and team work?
  • What is your approach to dealing with an angry customer? Can you tell us about a specific time when you solved this type of situation?
  • How do you contribute to your organization’s long- and short-term goals?

Even though these types of negotiation interview questions style of interviewing have become increasingly popular, questions like these can still throw you for a loop. SNI offers a variety of courses to help develop the communication skills necessary to excel in situations like these, but we’ll start with the basics. Here are four tips for answering these influence skills questions that will help ensure you project competence and authority, highlighting your value from the moment you enter the room.

Reach for the STAR

The challenge with influence skills questions usually isn’t thinking of an example; it’s organizing your thoughts efficiently and communicating them powerfully. The STAR acronym outlines four steps to breaking down an influence skills question – no matter how complex it may seem. Keep this in mind when a hiring manager lobs one your way.

1. Situation. Describe the situation or context of the example. For instance, “We were far behind our projected sales goals and had lost two key members of our team.”

2. Task. What goal were you trying to meet? What obstacles were you trying to overcome? “We had three weeks to make up 50% of the difference.

3. Action you took. Take ownership and use “I” statements frequently. Remember, they are interviewing you – not your former coworkers. “I pulled some long hours running numbers and I discovered missed opportunities…” Also, specifics are crucial here. Try to use actual facts and figures instead of generalizations. “I analyzed three months of account revenue and found 30–40 instances of missed opportunities.”

4. Results. Again, using “I” statements and specific facts, sum it all up. Example: “I restructured the working hours of the staff to allow for more coverage during high-volume times, resulting in a 35% increase in our closing rate and an additional $500,000 in revenue. My department ended up exceeding our goal by $10,000–$15,000.”

Follow STAR and the other tips outlined above. The next time an interviewer tries to surprise you with an influence skills question, you’ll be more than prepared to demonstrate your strengths when it comes to getting results.

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Gamification for Sales Team Training

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Gamification, or making ordinary training practices into interactive employee games, is a popular trend sweeping offices throughout the nation. While there are proven benefits to gamification for sales training, such as making training fun and more memorable, it also has significant pitfalls, such as distracting your employees and reducing productivity. It’s up to you to compare the pros and cons before deciding if it’s the right course for your business.

 

Good: Better Employee Engagement

Gamification increases engagement for your employees. It’s no secret that almost every business can benefit from more energetic and determined workers. A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that as many as 70 percent of employees in the United States don’t feel engaged in their jobs.

LiveOps did a study about adding game elements to reward its employees. The single change actually shortened call times by as much as 15 percent, increased sales by 8 percent, and increased customer satisfaction by 9 percent.

 

Bad: It Can Be too Generic

If you don’t make the efforts to create a thoughtful and customized plan, you could actually be doing more harm than good. Generic enterprise gamification just slaps point systems and badges onto any process instead of putting emphasis onto the ones that matter. In fact, as much as 80 percent of gamification efforts will fail because of this.

 

Good: Encouraging Progress

Gamification also provides immediate signs of progress and achievement. Employees get many smaller rewards that help track their progress and show their rankings to colleagues and supervisors. This keeps them motivated to always move forward and strive for improvement.

 

Bad: Mandating Drains the Fun

The point of gamification is to encourage workers to play games and have fun. Forcing everyone to partake defeats the purpose. Unfortunately, many employers make this mistake and end up making their workers resent the changes that were supposed to make them happier.

 

Good: Filtering the Best Employees

A gamified workplace also allows the best and brightest employees to shine. The people who make the most progress will stand out. This opens up an entire new platform for recognition and can help businesses pick out good employees.

 

Bad: It Can Cause Discord

People are unavoidably competitive. Gamification creates an outlet for workers to try to cheat their way to the top. This can cause personal issues between employees as they try to scrabble toward progress and rewards.

There are disadvantages to gamification, of course, but with careful planning and implementation, it can be a vital tool for encouraging engagement in the workplace.

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!

Are You Doing These 5 Unproductive Work Habits?

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We often get stuck in a rut of doing things a certain way at the office without realizing how harmful that can be to our productivity. Are you in charge of training or sales at your company? Then you know that time is money – and that every minute counts. See if any of these examples resonate with you. If so, take steps to eliminate them and watch your productivity soar!

  1. Water-cooler overload. Mondays should be the day when we grab the week by the horns and set our priorities. Instead, many Monday mornings are spent catching up on other’s weekends, finding out who won the big game, sharing the details of your favorite TV show, etc. A more damaging variation on this theme is how easily harmless talk can morph into gossip. Not only is that highly unproductive, but it is also unprofessional and damaging to relationships. Keep your small talk just that: Small.
  1. Email mismanagement. Not utilizing the tools at your disposal to organize incoming and archived email will kill your momentum. Most email programs have excellent filtering options that you can use to avoid that unwanted company-wide potluck from disrupting your flow. Also, turn off the audible notifications. Set times to check your email throughout the day, and unless it is urgent, don’t check it except at those times. It is better to respond during your “email hours” to all the emails you have rather than flagging them and letting them pile up for later.

 

  1. Meetings. This is probably the biggest time-thief on the list. In today’s connected world, meetings are largely counterproductive. There are great groupthink and project management apps and software out there (like Basecamp and Asana) that allow employees to remain at their desks or in the field while staying connected and on the same page.
  1. The Internet. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter… Who hasn’t fallen victim to the pull of a midday surf session only to look up and realize that two hours have gone by – and you still have a project due by the end of the day? If you can’t trust yourself not to get sucked in, there are browser add-ons like StayFocusd that will only allow a certain amount of browsing per day or block the sites completely.
  1. Your phone. Twenty years ago, when you went into the office, you were only reachable by the phone at your desk. Now our phones keep us tethered to the outside world. Sadly, the temptation of distraction is often too great. Turn off all notifications while at work, and set your phone’s profile settings to only allow calls from a close family member or friend in case of an emergency. Use an auto-reply on your texts to alert messengers that you are at the office and have limited availability. And keep your devices in your pocket or purse instead of on your desk.

With a little initiative, you can reclaim hours easily lost due to distractions, poorly optimized tools, and unproductive meetings. Follow these tips and enjoy the results as your to-do list dwindles.

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!

How Sleep Deprivation Negatively Affects Your Work

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It’s widely known that sleep deprivation negatively impacts a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our ability to focus, handle stress, and think clearly are all at stake. No matter what your profession, not getting enough sleep has a negative impact on your performance. But when you are a sales professional or a training manager, it doesn’t just affect you – it affects your whole team.

Here are some of the results of sleep deprivation:

* High blood pressure

* Heart attack

* Stroke

* Obesity

* Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders

* Mental impairment

* Poor quality of life

For your health and your team’s, follow these critical steps to make sleep a priority.

Set a Bedtime Routine and Stick to It—Even on the Weekends

Prepping for bed starts early. Try to begin the process at the same time each evening. Follow these guidelines for a greater chance of success:

* Prohibit alcohol and caffeine consumption within several hours of your desired bedtime

* Exclude screen time one hour before bed

* Don’t do any exercise within three hours of when you want to sleep

* Wake up at the same time each day; don’t sleep in on weekends

Create a Restful Space

Cluttered bedrooms lead to cluttered (and restless) minds. Take some time to create a peaceful, tidy space in which to sleep. Invest in a good mattress and linens. After all, we spend about a third of our lives in bed – which justifies a more substantial investment into that part of our homes!

Consider Incorporating a Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness and meditation practices can lead to falling asleep more quickly and having better quality sleep. By managing stress and keeping you focused throughout the day, mindfulness can also improve performance in other areas.

It’s safe to say that sleep is one of the most influential factors in our daily performance. There’s no such thing as making up for lost sleep, so prioritizing it is crucial. For those in high-pressure sales jobs or people in charge of training programs, it’s even more important to take care of this easy to neglect need.

Ensure that you’re firing on all cylinders and aren’t running the risk of blowing a gasket when things get heated in the office – or when deadlines are looming. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your team. Follow the tips above, and work your way toward more restful nights and more productive days.

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.

3 Tips for Negotiating Your Salary

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Many people avoid asking for higher pay for fear of sounding pushy or entitled. However, if you know your work is valuable to your organization and worth more than you’re receiving, you should be able to argue your case effectively. Remember preparation is the only aspect of a negotiation you can control.

First, you need to know you have a solid case for higher pay. Everyone wants to believe their work is worth more than what they’re paid – but you need to know it before you bring up the subject. Once you do, it’s time to decide how to approach your supervisor.

Pick Your Battles

When you choose to initiate the conversation about your pay is as important as deciding to do it in the first place. Although our emotions shouldn’t affect our performance at work, things rarely play out this way, so you need to assess your superior’s state of mind before broaching the subject.

Typically, the best time to ask for more money is when the company has been doing well for a noticeable amount of time. A small rebound after a slow or difficult season isn’t ideal. Wait until the company is posting gains rapidly or after a particularly good year. Also, never forget that your time spent working for the company is a crucial part of your conversation. A good rule of thumb is to avoid asking for more pay for at least a year in your role, unless you are churning out extraordinary work on a regular basis that’s above and beyond expectations.

Know What You’re Worth

Once you think it’s time to have the talk about more money, you need to check your ammo and understand any precedents. Not only do you need a strong portfolio of work that displays your value as an employee and contributions to the company’s success, you also need to have a figure in mind. Do some research on professionals in your field and find a number that sounds reasonable. If you approach your supervisor with a precise number, you’re more likely to get what you want, as your supervisor will assume you’ve done your homework and know your value.

Special Tips for On-boarding

Salary negotiations are a bit easier when you have history with a company. Things get a bit trickier when you’re negotiating a starting salary during the interview and on-boarding process. Keep the following tips in mind for negotiating your starting salary:

• Let the interviewer bring up money first. Once the salary talk begins, never be the first to name a number. Let the interviewer give you a starting point and you’ll be in the power position once negotiations start. If you offer a number first, you run the risk of low-balling yourself with what you consider a lofty figure when the company was prepared to offer more.

• Know your value and aim high, just don’t be surprised if you are shot down. As long as you demonstrate value, the company will recognize your value. If it doesn’t, you may be better off looking elsewhere.

• Don’t bring up your salary at your previous job. This isn’t a benchmark and it’s not a great figure to reference when you’re joining a new company.

 

Sources:
http://www.employmentspot.com/employment-articles/salary-negotiation-learn-how-to-negotiate-for-a-higher-salary/
https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-negotiate-salary-37-tips-you-need-to-know
http://www.inc.com/jayson-demers/how-to-negotiate-a-higher-salary.html
http://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2014/03/31/job-seekers-8-tips-to-negotiate-your-starting-salary/#4453b77d548d
http://www.businessinsider.com/6-tips-for-negotiating-a-pay-raise-2013-10