Words can make or break a business

​Every day we see, read and hear words that come to us in millions of formats and contexts..headlines, company names, brand names, peoples’ names, articles, op-eds, comments in social media, news media and a slew of other sources.

Its literally a “word bath” we take each day. As we absorb the words and its meaning within the context of the language, we form ideas, opinions and perspectives toward the person, company, products, society, country etc. These words are affecting us each day…we start to like a company, like a product, dislike a company, start to dislike and disconnect from a product. Maybe we start to like a leader or other way around. Bottom line–words are very powerful.

It is imperative that people who engage in writing whether in business or other social context, pay clear attention who is it for, what message they want to send to the reader/listener/viewer. Will the the message from the brand name, company name, article spread and gets liked many parts of the world or just stay localized in a region?

Almost each day we hear of companies discontinuing a product, changing names, losing market share to competitors. A large percent of cases, after some deep analysis, it can reveal that a combination of bad or wrong words used by marketing, sales, C-level people was the main culprit.

International Business Negotiation Approach

Most languages do not readily translate into another language. It is because the meaning of words are substantially different among languages of the world. Words and languages carry signals and people from different language background will invoke different perceptions from same words.

Therefore, marketers and business executives must prepare well in creating a winning negotiation position when it comes to international business. One must pay close attention to these areas:

  1. Determine the cultural and language context. Determine if you are dealing with low context culture (explicit) or high context culture (implicit). In a broad sense, business cultures are these two broad types. In low context cultures, business people get down to “business” quickly. Examples of some low context cultures are North American, British, Scandinavian, German, French, and Swiss. On the contrary, high context cultures people take considerable amount of time to get to the core of business transaction, because they need to know more about a person before a relationship emerges. Examples of high context cultures are Italian, Latin American, Arabic, Japanese, and Spanish. So, one must pay close attention to these aspects during a negotiation.
  2. Check if you are in a negotiating situation. Always keep in mind that a negotiation position exist when you have some advantages on your side. Otherwise, do not engage if you do not have any advantages, therefore avoid a no win situation. 
  3. Make your goals clear. In any negotiation, the main objective is to achieve your goals. If these goals are not defined before the negotiation, it is unlikely that you will win. Examples of written goals can be: ” At the end of this negotiation, I want the customer to agree on the project start date to be June 15th”. Always keep this goal in mind during the negotiation process.
  4. Gather intel. Once you know that you have a negotiation situation, gather all the info from various sources and use it to fine-tune your approach. A large percent of negotiations fall apart because one party or the other does not gather info, listen or check what the other party is offering, or even what they are bringing to the table. This means, during negotiation process you should do lot of listening, less talking, asking clarification, and checking. When you put your offer on the table, ensure that you use every skill you can muster to make your offer understandable to the other party.
  5. Negotiate with your own side. Most cases in negotiation you engage with a team behind you, therefore, you should get a mandate form your team members. Gather all the trust, resources and support you need. 
  6. Get a BATNA. Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) is making sure that you can walk away from a negotiation by having lined-up an alternative party. This allows you some power to walk away to go with the alternative, even if the alternative isn’t quite what you want. 
  7. Prep for the audience. Ask yourself these five sets of questions to prepare: (a) Who are they? (b) What do they know? (c) What do they feel? (d) What are we negotiating about? (e) How can I motivate them? In digging-up the answers to these questions, go in deeper not just skin level questions– think about them individually, as group, as people from certain culture, language etc. 
  8. Make the mental prep. The main difference between successful and unsuccessful negotiation is simply- the right attitude. To get into the right frame of mind before you begin, prepare with the following in mind: 
  • Be tough and business-like, do not yield
  • Do not feel you owe them something
  • Do not put yourself above or below them
  • Relax and maintain an “unhurried” posture
  • Do not show your feelings at any point

There is no magic silver bullet to win in a business negotiation. But the probability of winning will increase hugely if these tips are put to best practice in your next negotiation. And poor preparation definitely will lead to failure. Happy negotiating!

Sales Team Motivation

It is a tough job to motivate employees now-a-days– especially the ones involved in sales. Research show again and again, companies are spending an incredible amount of money and time in sales training, yet many sales teams fail to deliver . There are numerous examples of sales team succeeding well and there are sales team failing spectacularly, whether in small and medium businesses or in large multi-nationals. Throughout human history, it has been a mesmerizing question- why people do what they do? Knowing the answer to this question and applying them across the organization today, no matter how small of large it is, has huge payoffs.

There are numerous examples of sales team succeeding well and there are sales team failing spectacularly, whether in small and medium businesses or in large multi-nationals. Throughout human history, it has been a mesmerizing question- why people do what they do? Knowing the answer to this question and applying them across the organization today, no matter how small of large it is, has huge payoffs.

At the deepest level of understanding human motivation of engaging in any act, these are the three drivers to consider:

  1. Expectancy. It is the perception the salesperson has toward the effort that it will lead to performance. Basically, it is the belief that the likelihood of a particular action ( sales call, making sales plan etc.), will be followed by particular outcome (new account, commission etc.). A sales team must be trained to believe in their sales process they follow that it will give them good result if they take actions. Therefore, a sales team leader’s main role is to convince the team members that the outcomes are highly probable. A person or a group of persons will take actions even if they know that there are many events or variables out of their control. For example, a person or a group will buy many lottery tickets multiple times for a $100 million knowing that many things are at odds for them to win. But they believe that there is a “likelihood” of winning. Similarly, a salesperson must believe in this likelihood of winning.
  2. Instrumentality. This is the salesperson’s perception of the overall probability that performance of actions will lead to a certain outcome. This is the tendency in salespeople to attach a probability percent in their minds toward a “win” or “no win” outcome of their actions. A team leader must train its members not to prejudge the outcomes without a proper qualifying process. Many cases, a salesperson will loose the motivation to call certain prospect without having the chance to ask the prospect the right sequence of qualifying questions.
  3. Valence. It is the salesperson’s perception of the attractiveness or unattractiveness of of an outcome from certain actions. In other words, this is when a person has assigned preferences among the outcomes. If a salesperson thinks that a sequence of actions will bring an outcome, and he or she paints to the outcome as attractive (+) or unattractive (-) mentally, there is high probability that the salesperson will act accordingly. A sales team leader has to keep an eye on the attractiveness of the outcomes and keep the team focused. Team members must learn how to detach from the outcomes. In business and life, best results follow when detachment from outcome is practiced.

To put all these in a summarized formula:

Motivation= f ( Expectancy X Instrumentality ) X Valence
T​he sales team leaders and managers must pay close attention to these drivers to build-up the foundation of their sales team. Sales managers responsible for team performance, many times fall into one of two traps. Some will act like a traditional boss, and tell the team what to do and how to do it. The other type will try  the “empowering approach” by maintaining a hands-off policy. Neither approach works without the understanding of these drivers and balancing appropriately with the team in terms of authority.

What does all these mean in practice? In each organization, managers must spell out the team’s objectives unambiguously and unapologetically. That way team members do not have to make any guesswork on what they should be doing. Then using these three drivers as the backbone, customize the sales training in the organization to maximize each member’s full potential.