To Team Or Not To Team, That Is The Question

by drjim on January 22, 2010

It’s Easier To Make It To The Finish Line When You Have A Team

It’s Easier To Make It To The Finish Line When You Have A Team

Don’t you just love movies? Whenever there is a negotiation going on in a movie, be it with hostage takers or closing a big business deal, there is always the picture of the noble solitary sales negotiator doing his / her best to close the deal against almost impossible odds. Can you tell me what is wrong with this picture?

Say Hello To Negotiating: The New Team Sport

The arrival of the 21st Century has brought with it a great deal of complexity. This is especially seen when it comes to sales negotiations. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that almost all sales negotiations were carried out by a single negotiator – teams of negotiators were reserved for extraordinary deals.

However, due to the complexity of deals and their often technical nature, teams have become more of the norm instead of the exception when negotiating sales deals these days.

Why Bother Creating A Team To Handle A Negotiation?

There are a number of advantages of doing sales negotiations using a team of negotiators. Not all of these benefits may be obvious upon first glance. Here are a few of the most important reasons for using a team to negotiate your next sales deal:

  • Knowledge: As smart as a single person may be, a team will always bring more raw knowledge to the table. It’s just a fact of life that a team of negotiators will have had more experiences and more diverse experiences than any one single negotiator could possibly have had.
  • Creativity: In order to reach a deal with the other side of the table, the ability to create a novel deal that works to the advantage of both sides is a critical skill. In order to make this happen, the creativity of the entire team is going to have to be harnessed in order to search out all of the possible solutions to the issues that will arise during the negotiations. A single negotiator will hit a brick wall when a team is still going strong and creating ways around issues.
  • Details: It’s a fact of life that it’s the little details of any sales negotiation that can result in a deal that is good or bad for either side. The challenge in modern negotiations is trying to stay on top of a sea of constantly shifting information and understanding just what the ramifications of each agreed to change will be. This is too much for one person and perfect for a team where responsibilities can be divided up amongst the team members.
  • Risk: research into how negotiating teams operate has shown that as a group, teams of negotiators will generally set higher goals for a negotiation and will take more risks during the negotiation in order to achieve those goals. The flip side to this behavior is that when the stakes grow too large, when they threaten the organization, teams will become more conservative than individual negotiators.

What’s Wrong With Using Teams To Negotiate

Although the advantages of using a team of negotiators to complete a deal is generally a better idea then relying on one single superhuman negotiator, there are some drawbacks to the team approach.

The single greatest drawback to using a team is that it requires a strong leader. You might be scratching your head at this issue, but it is really the heart of most negotiating team problems: poor leadership. The reason that it can be so hard to get a good leader for a negotiating team is because the skill set needed to be a good leader is so large.

Negotiating team leaders need to have several characteristics in order to be successful. In order to accomplish the goals that the team has set for the negotiation, the team leader has to be both flexible and firm. Ultimately the team leader needs to act like a conductor and make sure that the negotiation continues to flow in a direction that will result in a deal being reached. He / she can’t allow it to get hung up on small issues or get lost in a discussion about some issue that is not relevant to reaching a deal.

What All Of This Means For You

Each sales negotiation is unique. It has its own set of challenges and its own opportunities. One of the first decisions that needs to be made is if you’ll approach the negotiations by yourself or with a team of negotiators. More often than not the right answer is going to be to use a team.

A team of negotiators can accomplish much more than a single negotiator can. From such practical issues as being better able to keep track of all of the details of an ongoing negotiation to also being better suited to creating creative solutions to obstacles that pop up, teams are almost always a better approach.

As long as you can supply a skilled negotiating team leader, you should be in good shape. This means that if you want that job, you’ve got some studying to do. Negotiating is hard. Successfully leading a team of negotiators is even harder!

Do you feel more comfortable negotiating by yourself or as part of a team?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Today’s sales negotiation sessions have become so complex that it’s almost too much for a single negotiator to handle. That’s one reason that more and more sales negotiators are being handled by teams of trained negotiators. This simplifies a lot of the record keeping and tactical details of a negotiation; however, it introduces a new layer of complexity – how to manage the negotiating team…

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion January 23, 2010 at 12:10 am

Interesting article Jim, and I appreciate how you took a look at the pros and cons of the issue. I think what I appreciate most about team negotiating is that sometime a ‘one man gang’ doesn’t have the same ability to see everything as it really is because, frankly speaking, they are talking too much. Teams allow for more listening and observation, which we all know is a critical negotiation key.

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