If you or your team is struggling to win deals, navigate a tricky business situation, or communicate effectively, it may be worth your while to enlist expert guidance. A negotiation consultant can help you hone your strategy and guide you through a challenging situation with greater ease, confidence, and dexterity. But how do you know which consultant is best suited to your needs? We’ve outlined five things to keep in mind when choosing a negotiation consultant partner.
1. Identify what problem you’re trying to solve
Before you seek out help, it’s important to identify what you’re struggling with. In other words, what’s the primary problem you’re looking to solve? If you manage a sales team, figure out what part of the sales process is causing the biggest roadblock to success. Is your team having trouble showing value? Setting expectations? Implementing the deals it’s created? If you can pinpoint the root of your problem, you’ll have a better idea of what type of help you need to solve it.
2. Figure out what approach you’re looking for
When it comes to learning negotiation skills, there are three basic teaching approaches: academic, theoretical, and practical. Some consultants will offer an academic approach that focuses on things such as negotiation terms, acronyms, and rigid, linear processes. Although this background information can provide a loose guideline, a purely academic approach doesn’t address how to apply those skills in practice. In other words, you can learn all about game theory—what it is, how it works, what’s involved—but that doesn’t mean you’ll be equipped to deal with real emotions being exhibited by people in contentious life situations.
In order for negotiation coaching to be effective, it needs to address how theories and rules will be translated into practical skills—and how those practical skills will be reinforced to become second nature. This advanced learning is possible only when you incorporate all three approaches. Of course, a three-part approach takes more time, but it also ensures that changes will stick long after the course is over.
Any decent negotiation training seminar is going to give your team a confidence boost. But how long will that feeling last? You may hope that confidence pulls them through the next big challenge, but hope isn’t a viable strategy. Instead, seek out a negotiation consultant who will create a plan for reinforcement and execution.
3. Consider your timeline
It’s easy to memorize information for a short period of time—that’s why cramming the night before a big test can sometimes pay off. However, once that test is over, almost none of what you studied is bound to stick (which is why most of us have trouble recalling world history facts we learned in school). When all is said and done, memorizing information isn’t the same as truly learning it. And there’s no shortcut or workaround to learning—it takes time, repetition, real-world/low stakes practice, and reinforcement.
You’re not going to change how everyone on your team communicates in one eight-hour session. Instead, look for a consultant who is willing to spread things out in order to help you get your money’s worth.
To truly change how you or your team thinks, communicates, and operates in high-stakes negotiations, you need plenty of low-stakes practice under your belt. We recommend a coaching timeline of 12 weeks, in which you can learn new skills, practice those skills in real-world situations, and reconvene after each trial to debrief. This combination of academic, theoretical, and practical learning will help ensure that small successes become long-term trends.
4. Create a plan to ensure long-term success
It’s important to find a partner who’s committed to your success even after you’ve parted ways. In addition to teaching you negotiation skills, coaching you through challenging situations, and giving you opportunities to practice, the right coach will provide a framework for continued growth.
At the Black Swan Group, one of our greatest strengths lies in our ability to simplify communication. When your mind is going a mile a minute, it’s hard to let things go and even harder to focus on the basics. By teaching the foundations of effective communication, we aim to give our clients a more agile framework. Our approach isn’t about following a standard process or technical formula—it’s about using the skills in your toolbox to adapt in the moment. To do that, you need to understand how people approach conflict and know how to communicate in a way that will resonate with the individual.
5. Trust your gut
Effective negotiators know how to make their counterpart feel positive, collaborative, and at ease. If you’re talking to a consultant company and you feel like you’re being given a sales pitch, it’s a clear sign that they’re not good at what they do. As you choose between different options, think of every conversation in your decision-making process as a tryout. Do you feel like they understand your challenges and concerns, or are they giving you canned responses? The best negotiation consultants will know how to practice what they preach.
We’d love the opportunity to connect with you and learn more about your negotiation goals and challenges. To start a conversation, contact us for a free consultation.