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When You Negotiate, Who Wins and Who Loses?


Negotiate Who wins who losesWe have all seen Law & Order and read books or watched movies that clearly show us that, when lawyers negotiate, someone wins and someone loses. I recently realized this when talking with a friend of mine who is a lawyer – clearly, we define “negotiate” differently. Then I asked myself, are sales people negotiating in terms of winners and losers? Or are they negotiating to the right outcome?

How Do You Define “Negotiate?”

First, I decided to get a reality check by looking up the official definition:

 verb, ne·go·ti·ate ni-ˈgō-shē-ˌāt, ÷-sē-
1: to discuss something formally in order to make an agreement
2: to agree on (something) by formally discussing it
3: to get over, through or around (something) successfully

As an attorney, when my friend negotiates, it is all about ensuring her client wins and the other party loses. It makes sense. However, in sales, the thought of someone winning and someone losing should be foreign to us. We are taught that a successful negotiation is when both parties win. In order “to discuss something formally in order to make an agreement,” we hope that both parties walk away feeling good about the decision. And then I started thinking about the nuances and key differences in the two negotiation outcomes.

Key Differences in Outcomes

Win/Lose – Typically you want to gain additional business from those that you help win. You don’t care about those who lose. They are merely the “enemy” in this style of negotiation. Your customer values that you will do anything to ensure they win.

Win/Win – Typically, you want to gain additional business from those you help win. The way to do that is to ensure they understand you are both working together to ensure a similar conclusion. Your customer values that you will do anything to ensure they win.

You’ll notice that these ended the same way. So, what are the key differences in outcomes?

  • In the win/lose scenario, the other side is the “enemy” and in the win/win scenario, you are working towards the same goal
  • In the win/lose scenario, someone always feels badly and in the win/win scenario, everyone feels good about the outcome

There are many similarities among the two ways of negotiating, but the key differences are the outcomes. Whereas negotiating means something similar and something different to a lawyer, as a sales person, my preference has always been to ensure both parties win. I work diligently in both my professional and personal life to ensure that both parties will walk away feeling good about themselves and the future we’re shaping together. That’s the ultimate win/win.

How do you define negotiate? Are you negotiating to the right outcome?

Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter

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