The Point: These are truly turbulent times in business for leadership. Make the right moves, and you’ll be a hero! Make the wrong or no moves, and you’ll be far from a hero!! I’ve seen a lot of negative-speak lately as COVID-19 takes an enhanced grip on the globe. Recognizing that it’s awfully difficult to agree to deals that no longer make sense (especially when your business hair is on fire!), it made me wonder if we’re looking at the business-landscape through too negative a lens? So in this post, we’ll explore how to embrace the power of ‘Yes’ in business turbulent times… Enjoy!
Starting with ‘No’
“I loved saying ‘No’ when times were good… I cherish the opportunity now that times are bad to say it with even more conviction/volume!” a purchasing manager at a client recently shared with me. If they’re like most purchasing managers or leaders I’ve worked with, during negotiation they’ve learned the single best tactic towards achieving a successful outcome for themselves/their company is to begin with ‘No.’ While embracing the power of ‘No’ typically leads to continued negotiations, and hopefully positive (or ‘Yes’) results for both parties, the possibility exists for negotiations to breakdown, stall or worst case scenario come to a screeching halt.
So, what are the effects of starting negotiations with ‘No?’ From Harvard Business School and Harvard’s Department of Psychology, research has been conducted and summarized on how the utilization of ‘No’ not only leads to poor negotiation traction, but often times the negative feelings associated with future negotiations. Furthermore, negotiations that start with ‘No’ typically break down, as participants perceive the inflexibility of the other party.
Starting with ‘Yes’
In business turbulent times such as these, the last thing I would recommend to a client is to take a bad business deal. As a matter of fact, I don’t think even in non-turbulent times taking a bad deal in and of itself is a good option! However, is there a way in which we can successfully not start with ‘No’ during negotiations? What would be the outcome in starting with ‘Yes’ instead?
Starting with ‘Yes’ overcomes the initial negativity often experienced during a negotiation. The inevitable “I should have started higher” thought permeates the negotiators mindset. However, this can not only lead to earlier agreements, shortened sales-cycles, but also better outcomes for both parties now (as well as in the future!)
‘And” is Better Than ‘But’
So how can starting with ‘Yes’ be better in negotiations than starting with ‘No?’ The key, according to a mediation expert, is to utilize the conjunction ‘And’ instead of ‘But’ in negotiation moments. Supported by the Harvard research, this technique often “[O]pens a window of opportunity for addressing multiple issues, and using new approaches, while mitigating the taint of pejorative shadings [for both parties].” ‘And’ also avoids the dismissive nature associated with using ‘But’ during negotiations.
Starting with ‘Yes’ using ‘And’ Example
Here’s an example of how to properly utilize ‘Yes’ as well as ‘And’ in a typical negotiation. For framing purposes, your company is being pitched a new software piece that will significantly reduce costs and increase utilization (Yes, this is possible!) However, it’s your birthday and the strategic partner calling on your company knows it… So, they inquire:
SP “I heard it’s your birthday today?”
YOU “Yes, that’s correct, and I’d love a cup of coffee and a doughnut.”
SP “Well then let’s go get one!”
Admittedly, this is not the greatest negotiation example (after all, who wouldn’t like a doughnut, and do we really need to wait until it’s your birthday to have one?!?) But the point I’m making is that if we had started with ‘No’ and utilized ‘But” in the response we’d be looking at a negative negotiation with the potential of stalling/stopping and having caused future negotiation to not occur (All future negotiations!)
In this post we’ve explored how to embrace the power of ‘Yes’ in business turbulent times such as these. We explored the Harvard research surrounding the negativity of ‘No’ as well as how to positively leverage ‘Yes’ for successful negotiation outcomes. The key in utilizing, and especially starting with ‘Yes’ is to use the conjunction ‘And’ to stipulate what you’d like to see have happen as a result of beginning, and staying, at ‘Yes.’