Customer success and customer support are full of negotiations, so I read with interest an article titled Emotion and the Art of Negotiation in the December 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review. Here’s a quick summary of the article and what it means for customer success professionals.
- Emotion is a big part of any negotiation, as we well know, but it is often misunderstood, even ignored. Instead, pay attention to how you feel throughout a negotiation and use that self knowledge, along with what you can observe of the other parties’ emotions, to help get to a successful conclusion.
- Before the negotiation, we often feel anxious and excited. Avoid expressing anxiety; instead, express forward-looking excitement, which can build rapport. (Try, “Let’s find a solution together” rather than “My hands are tied.”)
- During the negotiation, we may feel angry. Be careful about expressing anger. While it may pay off short term, it harms the long-term relationship. Prepare answers to likely tough questions to help you stay calm during the negotiation. (I find that customer success professionals are often very good at anticipating what tough questions will come up!)
- At the end of the negotiation, do not crow about outcomes that make you feel particular pleased, even triumphant. It is important that all parties feel they have “won”. Emphasize the value created for everyone.
- Negotiate process before substance. How will the decision be made? Who will participate? This also helps you anticipate what kinds of questions will come up.
- Normalize the process. discuss, in advance, typical barriers that your counterparts may not be aware of. For instance, make it clear that bug fixing is a multistep process that cannot be completed within the hour.
- Control the frame so you can negotiate as equals. For instance, if the customer is complaining about price, don’t simply acquiesce that your services are expensive, but instead discuss value rather than price.
I find it very useful to carefully observe the customer(s) to understand what emotions they may be feeling, and calmly call out that emotion (to myself) so I can think of the best way to proceed that will feed the emotion, not just the rational mind — which is often hobbled if strong emotions reign.
Tell us about tough negotiations you participated in and how you made them work.