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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.

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!

Listening: The Golden Rule of Successful Negotiations

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You know the feeling of frustration you get when you know you aren’t being heard? It’s the same feeling your potential client has when you place more importance in the pitch you’ve prepared than what he or she has to say during a negotiation. Negotiation is about striking a balance—this isn’t possible without hearing both sides. If you don’t know how to effectively listen, potential clients will stop trying to communicate altogether.

The Importance of Listening

It’s in many peoples’ nature to talk too much when they’re nervous. Silence can feel uncomfortable during a negotiation, so negotiators strive to fill the silence with their own voice. Unfortunately, this habit gives clients the impression you aren’t interested in hearing what they have to say. Instead of nervously filling conversation gaps with empty words, try to listen.

Studies show that people spend 60% of an average conversation talking about themselves. You is a subject you know and feel good about discussing. Reverse the situation, and realize your potential client would also like to spend 60% of the conversation talking about him or herself. Now you may understand why listening is often better than talking during a negotiation.

Talking about the self encourages feelings of motivation and reward. When you allow potential client to talk about their own needs, wants, and feelings, you’re encouraging these positive feelings. Truly listening to a client makes an enormous difference in how they perceive you and your company. Practice good listening techniques, and train your employees to do the same.

Practice Active Listening

True listening is active. It’s a dynamic process that involves acknowledgement, inquiry, and restatement. It’s not static listening while your potential client talks. Psychologist John M. Grohol describes active listening as a skill that “builds rapport, understanding, and trust.” He has a few tips on how to become a better listener:

  • Summarize what you’ve heard
  • Use brief conversation prompts to show you’re listening
  • Repeat things the client says in your own words
  • Ask probing questions to draw more information from the client
  • Take advantage of silence
  • Avoid distraction while the other person is talking
  • Provide feedback to clarify certain points

Active listening not only shows your client that you care about what he or she to say, but it will also ultimately allow you to respond to clients’ needs more thoroughly. Listening is a skill that requires constant practice to keep up. If you master effective listening techniques, you’ll engage more fully with clients and reap the benefits of their appreciation: new business.

How to Turn Your Sales Force Into Expert Negotiators

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Your company perfected your training process over years of trial and error. You’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s, hitting all the fine points to create your industry’s next top negotiators. You’re probably proud of your training model and plan on using it for the foreseeable future. But you may be missing a major component: the art of teaching habits instead of just methods.

Habits: The Missing Link in Negotiations Training

When you’re under pressure, what’s the first thing you resort to? The answer is most likely habits, an instinctual reaction in stressful situations. During high-pressure negotiations, your meticulously trained sales force may forget the methods you taught them—but they won’t forget their own habits. You have the ability to mold their habits into ones that are beneficial to your company and geared toward closing a sale during negotiation.

Turning your sales force into expert negotiators takes more than giving them a list of best practices. You need to focus on the how to negotiate on top of the what to do during negotiations. Your sales team must be able to take client objections in stride without resorting to bad habits such as becoming embarrassed, backing down, or apologizing. Your sales team should enter negotiations with confidence, and habits that will help them succeed.

What Are the Best Negotiation Tools and Habits?

According to a recent article by Neil Patel on Forbes.com, the best negotiation habits to teach employees are those based around human interactions. In other words, habits stemming from body language, personal relationships, and good-natured discussion. At its core, negotiation is the art of convincing another person to agree with what you’re saying. When you establish a few simple habits for your employees to resort back to under pressure, you can enter a negotiation with relative certainty as to how personnel will react.

So what are the best negotiation habits to instill in your staff? Here are a few pointers to lead you in the right direction:

  • Engaging body language. For example, leaning into the conversation instead of leaning back in your chair can express openness and attention.
  • Keeping quiet. A common bad habit for many salespeople is to chatter when they feel stressed. Train your sales force to take the time to absorb information given to them, slow down, and keep responses calm instead of jumpy.

See if you can shape your staff’s habits to model the habits of confident, calm negotiators—and reap the benefits of cultivating a training process that focuses on the how and not just the what.

How to Handle High-Pressure Negotiators

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Everyone has their own ways of handling high-stress and high-pressure situations, and negotiators often employ manipulative tactics to gain the upper hand. Don’t let them!

Emotional Ploys

Your opposition may feign offense or indignation at your offer, as if it is far below a reasonable expectation. If you know your offer is fair, it’s important to stand your ground and start a dialog about what the opposition thinks is unreasonable. If there is no acceptable, logical answer, your opponent may be trying to bait you into making a lowball offer.

You may encounter a good cop/bad cop routine. One member of the opposition may seem to be on your side and on board with an offer, while another seems inordinately opposed to it. This tactic is meant to encourage you to compromise. Be wary.

Sometimes, you may see emotional outbursts that are meant to make you uncomfortable and speed you toward an immediate agreement for the sake of social propriety. While you may be tempted to give in, your best response to any outrageous emotional behavior is silence: Wait for the display to end and carry on professionally.

Distractions

A red herring tactic is one where the opposition will bring up a completely unrelated topic to derail a conversation. Saying the topic has nothing to do with the issue at hand  may make you look aggressive. Instead, shelve the topic until you finish handling the important issues.

The opposition may sometimes try to bombard you with data that appears to support their position but is nothing more than a distraction. Once you realize this, ask what specifically this information has to do with the conversation at hand.

Refusals and Walkouts

In extreme cases, the opposition may attempt to stonewall you with a negotiator who absolutely will not budge on any issue. Don’t be afraid to ask for a new representative. The opposition may also demand an immediate resolution and threaten to leave if you don’t acquiesce. The best thing to do in this situation is to let them leave. More often than not, they’re trying to gain the upper hand by forcing you to make a play. The best play you can make is to show them that you’re not interested in working with someone who is willing to walk out on a deal. If they need the business, they’ll change their tune.

These may be some extreme examples, but every negotiator is going to resort to some tactics to get the best deal for their side of the table. While you may be tempted to resort to some of the sleazier tactics (especially when you’re sure they’ll have the desired effects), it’s important to maintain the high road and represent your company with integrity, honor, and grace.

 

Sources: http://www.bakercommunications.com/archive/apr13/negotiation040113.html?campId=70140000000flkz

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/10-dirty-negotiation-tactics-and-how-to-beat-them/

http://www.calumcoburn.co.uk/articles/negotiation-tactics/

http://negotiatelikethepros.com/overcome-the-top-ten-neg-tactics/

 

 

How to Negotiate an Extra Day Off from Work

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The workforce is more competitive than ever these days. With the economy on the upswing, more businesses are trying to find employees and entice those who may have given up on finding steady work. This being said, we all need a day off from work occasionally. Whether you’re sick, dealing with a family emergency, or just need a “mental health day,” a day off gives you the chance to rest, recharge, and breathe. You can negotiate for extra time successfully if you follow the right tips.

Know Your Workplace’s Policies

Every workplace, and often every department supervisor, has a different policy when it comes to time off. Some companies, such as Xerox, allow employees to buy extra vacation time, deducting from your pay using pre-tax dollars. Others have similar leave without pay (LWOP) policies, and some will allow leave with pay depending on the circumstances.

For example, you are more likely to get leave with pay to take care of a chronically ill child or other family member. However, never take any policy for granted. Do your homework, especially in regard to your department or supervisor. How often does this department or person grant extra time off? Under what circumstances? How many vacation or sick days are negotiable? Answer these questions before ever bringing up extra time off.

Be Calm

Negotiating extra time off can sometimes be emotional. You may want the extra time because you’ve been given a heavier workload than usual, or perhaps you are expected to do others’ work without overtime or credit. You may need the extra time because you’re unexpectedly ill or because a family member has a serious need.

These situations can tempt you to get angry or even cry during negotiations. Try to avoid this. Although most employers are understanding, too much emotion is off-putting. Anger especially can make you look disrespectful or ungrateful. If you have a pressing need or a grievance related to extra time off, take a deep breath and prepare yourself. You could even practice the request with a trusted colleague.

Respond to Needs

Ideally, you’ll ask for extra time off when it’s convenient for both you and your boss. Sometimes though, this isn’t possible. If you must ask for extra time off during a busy season, be prepared to compromise. If you really want a week, perhaps you could compromise and take three days. If you need four days, maybe you can take two.

Empathize with your supervisor. Say something like, “I know we’re in a busy time. What can I do to help?” Offer to check in during your time off, or come in on a day you’d normally be absent to make up for the extra time. Additionally, offer to work with the people who’ll cover for you so they know exactly what your duties entail.

Be Confident and Warm

When negotiating for time off, be confident, but be friendly. Avoid “closed” body language like crossed arms; this can make you look demanding. Emphasize your hard work or remind your boss of something you’ve done well, but don’t say things like, “I deserve this.” If you’d like extra help, check out our negotiation training for assistance.

Tips for Communicating Value to Clients

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Every business needs clients to function. To keep clients, you must convince them they are investing in a valuable product or service. Communicating value can be difficult if you own a large company or business, but it isn’t impossible. With the right strategies, you can communicate the value of any product or service, maintain your current client base, and find new clients.

Ask First

It might seem like common sense to ask customers or clients what they value in a product. Surprisingly though, many business owners don’t ask. Thus, their clients don’t feel valued and don’t get the product they are looking for. Before selling one product or service, ask customers what they value most about what you offer. If you’re a baker, is it healthy, gluten-free ingredients? If you’re a mechanic, is it your response time or the specific tools you use? Ask customers what they like about your existing product, what they would change, and what they would like to see more in the future.

Think Beyond Price

Most customers or clients want an inexpensive product, but they also want to come away satisfied with their purchase. For example, no one wants a well-priced product that breaks down easily, or a service that is fast and inexpensive, but of poor quality. When deciding how to sell your product, think about other factors such as –

  • The specific response you want
  • What you are willing to guarantee (e.g. is your new electric blanket safer and warmer than competing products)?
  • The knowledge your customers already have. Customers who frequently restore old cars will come to your mechanic shop with a greater knowledge base than those who don’t.

Use a Rating System

Rating systems are one of the quickest, most efficient ways to get customer feedback. A rating scale can tell you in one number how your business or product is doing in several areas, and it saves you the time it would take to read through paragraphs of feedback. A rating scale will also draw your attention to additional comments; if someone takes the time to specifically say what they liked or did not like, you’ll notice it right away and be in a better position to change it if necessary.

Find a rating system that works for you – for example, 1-5 with 5 being the best – and stick with it. Check your ratings often. If one or two areas get consistently low ratings, focus most of your energy on improving them.

Build Rapport with Customers

You can’t communicate value to clients without talking to them. Good communication often starts with rapport. Remember your customers’ names when possible, as well as details about the products or service types they like. For example, if you own a ‘50s-style café, get to know your customers well enough that you can ask, “The usual?” If you own a bookstore and know one specific customer likes a certain author, call or email her when a new release from that person is in. If you need help building and maintaining rapport, you can also check out our negotiation training or influence training for assistance.

What Does “No” Actually Mean in Business Deals?

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No one likes to hear the word “no.” This little word can mean anything from, “I don’t accept your idea” to “I can’t or won’t give you what you want.” From the time we are toddlers, we learn to avoid being told “no.” Yet what does this word actually mean in business deals? “No” can mean much more than you think, and hearing it does not necessarily mean your negotiation has failed.

Yes to X, No to Y

Sometimes, “no” actually means, “I like this part of what you’re saying but not that one.” It’s the kind of “no” a professor might get when approaching a dean about a new course he or she wants to teach. The dean may like some elements of the course but be skeptical about the value of others so he or she might say “no.” The professor then has to figure out how to compromise so he or she gets to teach the course, or some parts of it, while the dean remains satisfied about what students are learning. Like that professor, if you get a partial “no,” be ready to compromise, or ask what could be changed so you get a “yes” next time.

I Can’t Take the Risk

In business deals, people sometimes say no because they’re afraid agreeing to your terms might hurt their business or employees. For instance, many employees get turned down when they ask for extra time off because it’s a busy season and the supervisor is wary of being shorthanded.

If you are negotiating for something with inherent risk, be aware of what the risks are. Approach the supervisor, client, or customer with an attitude that says, “I have analyzed the risks and can protect you in this way.” For example, when negotiating for time off, make the case that you need the time to gain respite to be your best when you come back to work. Assure your supervisor you will check in when needed, and offer help to the people who’ll cover for you.

This Doesn’t Fit

Sometimes, “no” really means, “your idea is good, but it doesn’t fit my goals.” Let’s say you’re trying to sell a line of fitness equipment to a local gym, and the owner turns down your high-powered treadmills and bikes even though they’re highly sought after. Maybe the owner turned you down because his or her gym focuses on classes instead of solo workouts, or low-impact exercise over high-impact.

To avoid this type of “no,” do your research. Find out as much as you can about what the person you’re negotiating with needs. How has he or she responded to requests or sales pitches like yours in the past, and why? If you do get a “no,” think about how you could revise your request or product and try again.

I Don’t Understand You

People are often told “no” in negotiations because they aren’t confident. They go into negotiations lacking knowledge, which means they use poor skills and don’t get the results they want. If you aren’t confident in negotiations, negotiation training and plenty of practice can help.

HOW YOUR BIRTH ORDER CAN HELP YOUR NEGOTIATION SKILLS

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Some people believe negotiation skills are taught, not inborn. While this is true in some cases, your birth order does give you innate strengths and weaknesses that can serve or hinder you in the business world. Once you know the innate traits of your birth order, you can capitalize on those strengths and work to improve the weaknesses. Eventually, you will become an excellent employee and negotiator.

Oldest Children
Oldest children are the people we usually think of as neat, organized, natural leaders, and often more than a bit bossy. According to experts like psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman, this is often because they had Mom and Dad to themselves for months or even years before the birth of siblings. They’re more likely to grow up acting like little adults and succeed as leaders like CEOs, head teachers or principals, or the top artist, novelist, or musician in their field. Firstborns will negotiate with confidence and can easily enumerate reasons why their way is the best way to do something. They should watch out for perfectionist tendencies, as well as the tendency to demand their own way or to rebel if they don’t like someone else’s decisions.

Middle Children
Middle children are in a unique position because they grew up with older and younger siblings, so they learned to negotiate from an early age. They were neither babied nor given the oldest child’s responsibilities, so they may have socialized more outside the family to fit in. Middle children often thrive socially. They’re good negotiators because ultimately they want everyone to win, so they’ll find ways to make that happen. Middle children should be careful of being walked on; for instance, they traditionally report making less at work than oldest or youngest children. They should also avoid getting in a rut and should push themselves to take advancement opportunities.

Youngest Children
Youngest children love people, attention, and approval. If the needs for attention and approval aren’t met, they can experience burnout or rebel against authority. Youngest children are creative and persistent. A youngest-born child generally has no trouble asserting him or herself, especially when feeling railroaded. Youngest children should avoid the tendency to manipulate in negotiations. They should also be willing to let others share the spotlight.

Only Children
Only children are sometimes called super-firstborns. They are more organized and articulate than most firstborns, even if the firstborn has several siblings. These are the hard-driving negotiators who can and will negotiate all day if they need to. Like youngest children, they are innovative and love it when their ideas are adopted. Only children should stay open to constructive criticism and avoid becoming workaholics.