It’s time! You’ve done your needs assessment, determined what you need to outsource for your new training program to be a success, completed the request for proposal and due diligence stages, selected a supplier … and now you’re ready to negotiate.
For many, this is where the nerves set in. While anxiety around negotiation is normal, research has found that it can have a negative impact on negotiation. Here are some tips for dealing with anxiety and negotiating a great training contract.
1. Know Your Goals.
Overprepare for the negotiation. Know exactly what you need from the training supplier – are you looking for instructors? Content developers? A new LMS? Or are you outsourcing the entire training function? What types of content or modalities work best for your learners? Are you willing to compromise any of the items on your wish list for the sake of cost? What are your deal-breakers? What are some difficult questions the salesperson might ask, and how would you answer them? While you can’t predict everything that will come up during a negotiation, you can prepare for a lot – and the more prepared you are, the less anxious you’ll be.
2. Develop Your Emotional Intelligence.
Deborah Jeppesen, a research psychologist for Australia’s Department of Defense, says that a lack of emotional self-awareness is one of the major barriers to effective negotiation. Take the time to understand your anxiety, how you typically feel and behave during negotiations, how you respond to other people, and how other people respond to you. Learn how to “read” other people – what is the salesperson’s body language and tone of voice telling you, as well as the words he or she is saying? Knowing you have these skills will help you feel more confident going into a negotiation.
3. Use Mindfulness Techniques.
Mindfulness originated as a therapeutic tool for treating stress and anxiety and is now a buzzword in the corporate management and training realm. Despite its trendiness, it can be an effective way to cope with anxiety and negotiate more effectively. Instead of fighting your anxiety, accept that negotiation is something that makes you nervous, and then find ways to cope – for example, doing some deep breathing just before a negotiation can help calm your body and focus your mind on the task at hand.
Mindfulness can also help you during a negotiation. Staying present will help you be more intentional in your communication and listen better to the other person. Taking moments during a negotiation to reassess your goals will help you realign what you say and how you listen. And staying clear in your intention will help you gain a broad perspective and find more win-win outcomes.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice.
Practice may not really make perfect – but it certainly helps! Take some classes in negotiation, and ask to sit in on negotiations led by another training manager, or even someone who works in procurement for another department of your organization. Practice negotiation in other parts of your life – after all, anytime you have to work with someone else to achieve a goal, negotiation is involved. Notice how you talk to your spouse about where to have dinner or to a friend about which movie you’ll see over the weekend. Did you have a successful outcome? Why or why not? Take lessons from your personal and professional lives, and apply them when negotiating a contract with a training supplier.
5. Learn How to Say “No.”
“No,” writes William L. Ury, co-founder of the Harvard Program on Negotiation and senior fellow of the Harvard Negotiation Project, “is perhaps the most important and certainly the most powerful word in the language. For many people, it is also the hardest to say.” Sometimes, though, you’ll have to say “no” to a vendor – even one with which you have an ongoing relationship that you want to continue.
How do you say “no” and maintain that relationship? First, be prepared to say it by knowing ahead of time the circumstances that would require you to say “no” – for instance, are there certain values you are unwilling to compromise? Ury says that in this case, “you are asserting your value” – and other people will respect that. Second, he says, have a plan B ready to offer. Finally, use those emotional intelligence skills to find a plan B or C that addresses both of your needs.
Being the person who negotiates a training contract can be a difficult and anxiety-provoking responsibility of a training manager. But with preparation, training and practice, you can manage negotiations and vendor relationships that result in wins for both your organization and for the training supplier.
Want to learn more? At the 2018 Training Industry Conference and Expo, Alison Fragale, Ph.D., of UNC-Chapel Hill will present a keynote on learning and teaching negotiation skills.