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Leading a Negotiating Team—10 Success Secrets for Women in Sales

Photo of business people’s hands on top of each otherGuest blogger Carol Frohlinger explains how to corral your colleagues and make the sale together.

Most salespeople would pass Negotiating 101, but negotiating in teams? I think I’d flunk. My sense is that most salespeople, especially women in sales, would jump at the opportunity to learn how to win at team negotiations.

That’s why I invited Carol Frohlinger, president of Negotiating Women, Inc., to guest blog this month. Carol and I have known each other for more than 25 years (gulp). Even though she’s in New York and I’m in San Francisco, we’ve stayed in touch. I respect and admire Carol’s approach to negotiations and her unwavering commitment to research-backed data.

The following is Carol’s advice for women in sales:

“As clunky as it can seem, sometimes negotiation must be a team sport. And for lots of reasons, when women lead the team, they often find it more challenging to ensure players follow the game plan.

If, for example, you are trying to close a complex sale, prospective clients probably won’t take your word alone as proof your company can seamlessly deliver on your proposal. You might need to hold a meeting where your client hears it directly from the horse’s mouth, necessitating involvement from non-sales colleagues. You might need to bring along another senior leader to demonstrate how much your company values these prospects’ business.

These situations (and many others) require salespeople to create and lead negotiation teams—to bring together co-workers from across the organization who each play a unique role in winning over the client. Not so easy!

Some advice:

Pick the Right Negotiating Team

Your first impulse will be to enlist people with relevant subject matter/ technical expertise. Don’t just go with that; it’s necessary but not sufficient. Your selection criteria must also take personality into account.

1. Filter Out the ‘Butt Kickers.’ If you’re concerned about achieving a ‘win-win’ outcome, avoid ‘win-lose’ people. They believe the only win for your team means exacting lots of concessions from the other party. Long-term client relationships are unlikely to survive this kind of thinking.

2. Go Beyond the Usual Suspects. Include people with diverse backgrounds. They’ll add value by helping the team see the issues from a variety of perspectives.

3. Eliminate Wannabe Heroes. Heroism can manifest itself in many ways in a negotiating team context—none of them good. People who are averse to asking about client needs, incapable of listening for client needs, or constitutionally unable to take direction will cause negotiating disasters.

4. Look Out for Manterruptions. Women in sales might also have male colleagues (even those less senior) who try to dominate the conversation. Several new terms have recently been added to the lexicon to describe these behaviors. They include:

-manterruption—when a man interrupts a woman, often mid-sentence
-bropropriation—when a man takes credit for a woman’s work or idea
-mansplantion—when a man explains what a woman ‘meant to say’ (this is often coupled with manterruption)

Not only do these behaviors undermine your authority as a leader. Since the client’s decision-making team might include other women, letting men shut you down can cause your team to lose the sale. Don’t invite individuals who exhibit these behaviors unless absolutely necessary. If they are required, negotiate the rules of engagement before the client meeting.

Invest Time to Prepare

All negotiations benefit from preparation but team negotiations inevitably fail without it. Picking the right team is the first step, but then you must lead it. Here’s how:

5. Get Clear About the Plan. Collaborate on a negotiating strategy. Be sure everyone understands (and is on board with) the desired outcome as well as the implications if negotiations fail.

6. Agree on Roles. Decide who will orchestrate the negotiation and who’ll be the supporting cast. Clarity regarding roles minimizes the chance that a well-intentioned team member will over-contribute.

7. Anticipate Pushback. Brainstorm a list of objections you expect from the other party and determine which team member will handle each area.

8. Put Out Place Cards. Not literally, but do think about who should sit where. Be sure you end up in the power seat (usually at the head of the table or directly across from the lead decision-maker) so your leadership role is clear to everyone.

9. Arrange a Time-Out Signal. Rather than relying only on verbal requests for time to regroup, decide on an unobtrusive gesture that indicates a team member wants a sidebar.

10. Appoint a Scribe. Documenting agreements is an important part of making negotiated solutions work and even more critical when multiple players are at the table. Have someone on your team own that task. In general, I advise against appointing a woman because of the stereotype associated with note-taking as ‘women’s work.’

Every negotiation is an opportunity to build your negotiating prowess and your leadership ability. Take time to debrief. Discuss what worked well and why, as well as what the team will do next time to be even more effective.

When negotiating, two heads can be better than one, and three are better than two—but only if the heads nod in unison.”

© 2015, Negotiating Women, Inc. All rights reserved.

(Note: The original version of Carol’s article appeared on www.NegotiatingWomen.com.)

frohlingerAbout the Author

CAROL FROHLINGER, J.D., is the President of Negotiating Women, Inc., an advisory firm committed to helping organizations advance women into leadership positions and women to develop business and negotiate more confidently and competently. The firm, known for its Just Add Women® Initiative Toolkit Series, specializes in providing practical content to women’s initiatives/affinity groups. An internationally recognized speaker and workshop leader, Carol has been featured on multiple media outlets: including the Today Show , CBS MoneyWatch, NPR, and the New York Times. Coauthor of Her Place at the Table: A Woman’s Guide to Five Key Challenges to Leadership Success and Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It: 99 Ways to Win the Respect You Deserve, the Success You’ve Earned, and the Life You Want, Carol also contributes articles to professional and association journals and blogs, including Forbes and the Huffington Post.

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