Episode #137: Deborah Kolb

Principles Unite, Specifics Divide


Deborah Kolb

Deborah Kolb is one of the worlds foremost experts in the fields of negotiation, leadership and gender. Deborah was the former executive director and is currently co-director of the Negotiations in the Workplace Project at the Program of Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Deborah holds a BA from Vassar College, an MBA from the University of Colorado and a PhD from MIT Sloan School of Management. Her most recent book with Jessica Porter ‘Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins Into Big Gains’ was named by Time.com as one of the best negotiation books of 2015.

[01.16] Deborah defines Negotiation – as trying to make an agreement with people who have different interests but they are trying to come to an agreement that some ways satisfies each of their interests. A back and forth process of trying to come to an agreement.

[01.43] Deborah explains how negotiation is important for business – negotiation is the way business gets done, certainly with the sales negotiation. Deborah’s work helps people to negotiate for themselves within organisations, so that when you go out to negotiate you are in a good position.

[02.14] Why don’t some salespeople don’t like to negotiate and what can we do to change this – Deborah feels that negotiation can signal conflict and disagreement and often people are uncomfortable with that. However Deborah also feels that it is a way to solve problems and when framed positively you are much less likely to think about avoiding it. For a good sales person who has received good training and leadership within their company, they wouldn’t think twice about negotiations and opportunities to do well for yourself, your client or customer and for your company.

[03.09] How do you plan and execute a high stakes negotiation – Deborah shares that she talks about two parts of negotiation – Advocacy and Connection. Advocate for yourself, getting yourself in a good position, understanding some of the ways you might get your own way, run the sessions through your head before you get to the negotiating table, what are your alternatives to agreement and what do you really want? Come up with multiple options, it’s better to propose a few different deals than just one, people are more likely to say yes if they have a choice. The second part of preparation for negotiation is Connection, think about what the other party wants, where are they coming from? What are there interests? Alternatives? What would be a good deal for them? Try to understand their reasons for saying ‘no’ to you and anticipate them, build them into your proposals that way you won’t be caught off guard when the negotiations start.

[04.52] What are the attributes of a good sales negotiator – Deborah feels that rather than attributes and traits, it all depends on how one presents themselves. People can learn what to do and develop skill sets to become a good negotiator, which would include having good preparation, knowing what you want, knowing your alternatives and having options to propose. These skill sets can be practiced through role play.

[05.52] Deborah discloses her top negotiation tools and strategies – originally from classic negotiation theory, Deborah talks about focusing on interests and oppositions, what are the multiple things you want and the multiple things the other party wants. Then come up with multiple options that meet those wants and it gives the other party a choice, that is also more than likely to make them say ‘yes’, and empowers you in negotiation. Have good information, the more you know about what people get, the more defensible you feel asking and having the support of your team is important too.

[07.46] Deborah shares her top three negotiation Do’s and Don’ts – Do prepare, you can’t get what you want if you don’t know what you want. Be clear about how well positioned you are to negotiate, what are your alternatives to agreement and have options to propose. Don’t focus on one issue, don’t get emotional, try to stay calm. Don’t think of a win – lose negotiation, even with price, add issues in so it becomes a package deal which is a way to get good negotiation outcomes.

[12.30] Deborah shares her favourite negotiation story – of a position she found herself in when she had to negotiate and agree to a percentage of compensation that she and the school should be entitled to. However, Deborah was able to turn the negotiation into devising a principle that would apply to all future negotiations so that she wouldn’t have to keep on negotiating over and over again.

More About Deborah

What was the last book you read?
The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis

Who / What inspires you?
Nancy Pelosi—stands her ground and recognizes her power—but think she could use it to negotiate now

What aspect of your own Social Media are you most focused on improving at the moment?
I don’t have an answer to that — I am quite happy

Hobbies, Interests?
reading, swimming, gardening

How can our listeners contact with you?