1. Precedents

Jeff Cochran


Knowing precedents gives you the power of the past. You can quote or cite, as well as learn from, those events that have already happened, thereby giving legitimacy and credence to your position. Knowing how similar transactions turned out in the past may also guide you in structuring this one. But don’t just focus on a single precedent, such as the one that supports you position. Be familiar with the precedents the other side might use.

Case and point: Cal Ripken’s 1992 contract negotiation. Our precedent was the highest paid player, the Orioles was the highest paid short stop in the game.

Out Prepare to Out Perform

Jeff Cochran


The Seven Prep Steps of the Preparation Planner:

1.      Precedents

2.      Alternatives

3.      Interests

4.      Deadlines

5.      Strengths and Weaknesses

6.      Highest Goal/Walk Away Position

7.      Strategy and Team

The Preparation Checklist or Preparation Planner was created to serve as a tool for people from all walks of life to deal with the pressure of the everyday challenges they face. The inspiration for the eight-step Checklist came from the Checklist that pilots have used for the last 40 years.

Have you ever gotten on a plane and watched the pilots as they prepare for a flight?  Now we all know they know how to fly a plane – yet if you look up front they have their heads in an instruction book (“check, check, check”).  That’s the pilots’ checklist. I ask pilots whether they know how to fly – “want to be sure doing it right”, even when they’re under pressure.

Who could forget the February, 2009 emergency plane landing in the Hudson River? Certainly the pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, and the crew of U.S. Airways flight 1549 were under the ultimate pressure when that flight’s engines went out.  Obviously, Sullenberger’s experience and temperament played a major role in saving the lives of 154 people. He described his emotions as a combination of, “calm on the outside, turmoil inside.” But it is also worth noting that the co-pilot, Jeffrey Skiles and the crew did a run through of the Emergency checklist for just this kind of situation….The Checklist played a major roll in getting them through the extreme pressure of the situation.

A preparation checklist can only help you better achieve your goals, especially in times of serious pressure. Chesley Sullenberger is a hero today because of preparation and planning. The lesson here: Out prepare to out perform.

Virtual Reality

Jeff Cochran


For over 15 years, SNI has been conducting training programs and providing real deal consulting services that have helped our clients generate and save millions of dollars and secure long-lasting partnerships.

While we are undoubtedly proud of these accomplishments, we’re also extremely excited about the next evolution of our company: Virtual Training Partners.

For year, webinars, video conferencing, and other technologies were touted as the models and platforms for the next generation of training.  While they continue to exist and are used in a limited capacity, these technologies have never materialized as viable alternatives platforms for interactive training needs.

Today there is something new on the horizon, and SNI has devoted an extensive amount of time and resources into uncovering its potential.  3D Virtual Training platforms such as Second Life are quickly developing and receiving the real support to finally provide that technological leap to applicable skills training.

While instructor-led trainng will always be the primary platform for providing skill transfer, we are convinced that virtual platforms are going to revolutionize the way training is conducted.  As a result, we created Virtual Training Partners, an entriely separate division of SNI dedicated to virtual training success.  We’re proud to be recognized as experts in this training area.

This immersive, engaging, and fully interactive experience creates a world where the only limit to training delivery is the creativity of the human mind.  In fact, in some ways, this training platform will allow for increased creativity and practice that not even instructor-led training can reach.  Virtual training technology provides organizations with a way to reduce or even eliminate travel expenses and time out of the office, making it a realistic and effective alternative to instructor-led training.

In October, Mark Jankowski, Co-Founder of both SNI and Virtual Training Partners, invites you to join him for a one-hour complimentary open enrollment training event in Second Life, Preparation Skills for Effective Negotiation.  The dates for the program are as follows:

October 6, 2009

October 13, 2009

October 20, 2009

October 27, 2009

Each program will run from 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm EST (9:30 am – 10:30 am PST).  The number of participants for each program is extremely limited, and not everyone will be able to attend due to limitations with computer systems and corporate firewalls.  SNI’s staff will help guide interested parties through a quick process to determine their ability to participate.

If you are interested in being part of these groundbreaking programs, please visit the following link: Virtual Training Program Information.

Pharmaceutical Sales: How to Stand Out

Jeff Cochran


One of the toughest sales jobs in business today is that of the pharmaceutical sales representative. There are so many barriers to the traditional process of selling…limited access, managed care, limited resources and generic drugs in a time when every patient and physician is hyper-sensitive to costs. According to SK&A Associates, a leading provider of healthcare information and research basedin Irvine CA, the number of practices that no longer see reps has increased to 38.5%

Add to that the fact that a pharmaceutical sales rep rarely gets to see the “sale” at the point of the prescribing decision – that moment is rightfully reserved for the examining room – and you can see why the pharma sales job in an increasingly demanding position. It is really an “influencing job” rather than a more tactical selling approach.

A primary care physician (who gives access) sees an average of 35 reps per week and spends less than 90 seconds with each rep on average. What can reasonably be accomplished in 90 seconds in terms of effective selling? Most reps use the time to do a quick detail of the product they are promoting and than try to engage the Doctor for additional time by asking questions about disease states, personal interests and patient feedback on their product. The Doctor usually gives the rep an “auto-response”, in effect telling the rep what they believe the rep wants to hear for the singular purpose of getting the rep to leave their samples and then leave the office.

This equates to a tremendous waste of time for both the rep and the physician.

We suggest that a pharmaceutical rep has to differentiate their approach in order to effectively capture a physician’s attention. We have been working with reps to develop what we call a “Doc Stopper” questioning approach. The rep grabs the attention to the physician by asking a question that defies the “auto-response” and promotes a more open and honest conversation….it does not necessarily add time to the average sales call but garners a deeper, more thoughtful response.

One rep was constantly being told by a physician that any drug in their class would work for patients presenting a particular disease state. Since there are five drugs indicated for that disease state, the rep grabbed their attention by asking “Would you agree that it makes the most sense to spread your prescribing more equally among all five products to create competition and drive down the average sales price?

The Doctor stopped for a moment, considered the question and replied that economically it made sense, but admitted that there were partcular clinical circumstances that affected her decision on which product to write for a specific patient. The Doctor went on to explain her thought process.

By asking the “Doc Stopper” question, the rep was able to move past the usual interaction and learn:

  • How the physican was actually differentiating the five drugs in the class.
  • That the presence of samples had an impact on prescribing decisions in some cases but not others.
  • That the economics of the drugs in the class had limited, if any, impact on the prescribing decision with this physician.

Pretty valuable information from a 90 second interaction, and certainly more useful than the usual message – personal connection – signature routine.

Other Doc Stopper Questions

  • How has the influx of “urgent care” facilities in the area affected your practice?
  • What are your thoughts about the changes in how we market our products?
  • How much will it cost your practice to convert your medical records to electronic files (if it becomes law)?
  • Do you find that your patients are waiting longer to come in for office visits in this economy?
  • What is your biggest business challenge today?
  • What are your thoughts on “boutique” practices?
  • How do you attract new patients to your practice? What differentiates you?

For more information on how this approach and other influencing techniques can help you make the most from every sales call, please call us at 410-662-4764.

Jump Starting Stalled Negotiations

Jeff Cochran


Negotiations deadlock for many reasons. When both sides refuse to budge, it’s time to be creative. Here are some guidelines to get the other side talking again:

  • Start Over. When Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev deadlocked during arms talks, Reagan reached across the table and said, “Hello, Mikhail, my name is Ron, and I think it’s time we talked about the arms race.” This broke the tension and led to meaningful discussions. 
  • Keep a Secret. Some negotiations stall because negotiators want to please third parties (such as bosses). If you suspect this, assure the other person that you’ll keep the conversation’s details confidential. The negotiator won’t worry that something he says will get back to the boss. 
  • Recount interests. Don’t talk about positions – focus on each side’s real needs. Say, for example, “It seems you’re most interested in delivery to meet your customers’ timetable.” If the other party agrees, ask, “What do you think are my main interests?” Highlighting the main interests, rather than side issues, helps you create room for new solutions.

Excerpted from The Power of Nice. Ronald M. Shapiro and Mark A. Jankowski.

The SL Economy and the Worldwide Economy

Jeff Cochran


Very well… thank you very much!

First Quarter results were released today in the Linden Blog. Highlights of the quarter include:

  • 124 Million User Hours, an increase of 42% from the same quarter last year
  • Peak concurrent users of 88,200, an increase of 33% from the same quarter last year
  • 120M in user-to-user transactions, up 65% from the same quarter last year
  • The Islandmarket has stabilized, although overall square meters of resident owned Land has decreased
  • Gross sales on the Xstreet SL marketplace grew 23% over Q4 of 2008 and 72% over the same quarter last year

Growth numbers of ranging from 23% to 75% are impressive for any business in any economic cycle. The fact that Linden is posting these numbers during this economy is extraordinary, though not unexpected. IMHO, the following factors in the corporate training community are adding wind to SL sails:

Travel Budgets: While there are many elements that drive the SL economy, the fact that travel budgets have been slashed, if not completely eliminated, plays into the hands of SL, which allows companies to continue training sessions and meetings without touching their travel budget.

Small Business: Because there are few (if any) established 800 pound guerillas in SL, small businesses are flourishing. Small businesses are suffering in the US because of the credit crunch. In SL, the barriers to entry are low (other than time spent on the learning curve). The low cost of start-ups means that bank financing is unnecessary, and therefore the credit crunch does not impact as many small business in SL

Free Time: Displaced employees are seeing SL as an opportunity to grow their skills without paying tuition or spending hours and hours in a physical classroom. It would be rare for an employee to be commended for spending time in SL while at work. Now that so many people, unfortunately, out of work, they are less hesitant to tune in and turn on.

Why Wonderland May Fall Short

Jeff Cochran


It is easier for a competitor in its early stages to promise many of the advances discussed in the last blog entry. Of course, large questions remain with regard to Wonderland’s ability to deliver on its promises. The challenges include:

Too Few Developers within Sun: Wonderland remains in the research phase and there are only 8 developers within Sun working on the project. (Recently fixes were delayed because the 2 developers working on the project went on vacation…)

Small External Development Community: So far Wonderland has not been able to attract an external development community comparable to OpenSim and SL.

Budget: Sun’s current business challenges (and possible acquisition by IBM) may stop the project in its tracks.

That being said, there remains a great deal of excitement surrounding Wonderland, and it is worth it to keep an eye on its progress over the next year or so.

Wonderland is Wonderful

Jeff Cochran


I just attended a meeting in Second Life where SunMicrosystems’ Nicole Yankelovich described Sun’s Wonderland 0.5, which is planned to be released this summer. While a 0.5 version in any software program demonstrates that it is in its earliest stages, Wonderland is trying to address many of the concerns corporate training departments have expressed about Second Life.

Some examples:

Firewall Issues: While SL is planning to release a version that can exist “behind the firewall,” Wonderland has been built from the ground up with the intention of existing behind the firewall.

Remote Access: In SL, employees who do not have access to a computer are not able to participate in meetings. Sun has addressed this issue by creating an inworld phone system where people can call in and attend the meeting. While it is obviously more beneficial to have everyone inworld during the meeting, this dial in approach at least allows employees to participate at some level.

Business Tool Focus: Because Wonderland is focused on business and education, it includes tools built specifically for those purposes and therefore incorporates powerpoint slides, white boards, Web integration and data visualization.

Multiple Conversations: SL started with text chat communication and then integrated voice. Wonderland has been built with a focus on voice chat. Therefore they have developed tools such as a microphone that allows front of the room speakers to extend the reach of their voice, while attendees can reduce the extent of their voice projection so that they can essentially conduct IM Voice Chats.

While these are interesting developments, Wonderland has a long way to go before it overtakes Second Life. Tomorrow we will discuss some of the limitations of Wonderland that may prevent it from reaching a 1.0 level…

SNI in SL: Learning in the Virtual World of SecondLife

Jeff Cochran


SNI has developed a presence in Secondlife to deliver content without the expense and hassle of travelling to a training progam. SNI’s founder, Mark Jankowski, has emerged as one of the industries thought leaders on using the virtual world to enhance the learning experience for SNI clients.

Listening Tips for Negotiators

Jeff Cochran


When we teach people to be more effective negotiators, we tend to focus on our Three Ps – Preparation, Probing and Proposing. Perhaps even more important than these threeskills is being a good listener. This area is often neglected because few people think that there is skill in listening, and even more believe it is inheritied and cannot be learned. It is assumed that if I hear what you say that I’m also listening to what you say. This is a bad assumption. Here are ideas and comments about listening that might help you improve your abilities in this often neglected area.

Learn Your Blind Spots – These are words, ideas, and topics we have strong feelings about and, therefore, tend not to be able to listen to very well. We become over-excited by them and stop listening. Alternatively, we become angry, frustrated, or simply refuse to hear and block them out. Try to identify three of these “blind spots” and consciously work to listen when they arise in conversation.

The “Rehearsal Effect” – Most of us are wrapped up in our own lives and we find it boring and painful to let someone else talk. We are absorbed in self-concern. I recall reading in Carnegies “How to Win Friends and Influence People that Dale Carnegie was regarded as a great “conversationalist” by a woman to whom he merely questioned and then listened to her responses intently. Try to enjoy the part of the conversation where you are learning about the other side!

Speed of Thought – The difference in the time it takes to talk and the time it takes to listen is another barrier to effective listening. The average speaker delivers at about 140 words per minute. The average listener, on the other hand, can listen comfortably at about 300 words per minute. Instead of using the time differential to analyze the speaker’s message, we tend to fade out, day dream, think about other things we have to do, or plan what we want to say next. The only way to combat this is to try and jot down brief notes when listening…this activity will use the remaining excess”bandwidth” in your brain.

Distracted by Speaker Behaviors – Most people do not talk in a very organized fashion. Speakers tend to “think out loud” and grope for the idea they want to convey. This process often causes us to give up trying to decipher their message. Other reasons listeners may tune us out include irritating mannerisms and talking a long time. Ask paraphraing questions thoughout, and summarize what you heard to fight this tendency.

Focus on Body Language – Approximately two-thirds of a speaker’s message in any conversation is not contained in the words themselves. It is instead conveyed by the speaker’s tone of voice, body language, and word tense. Listening only for the words and not for the feelings behind them is another common listening problem. So listen for the meaning behind the words and ask questions about what you observe.

Distractions – Disruptions in our environment can affect our ability to focus on what the speaker is saying. Some typical examples of disruptive factors in work environments which could impair your ability to listen effectively include ringing phones, slamming doors, people walking in and out, street noises, etc. If you are engaged in an important conversation, try to have it in a prvate area with minimal distractions.