But it involves one critical, yet often overlooked skill—negotiation.
In the latest installment of our Ignite Visibility University podcast, CEO John Lincoln chats with founder and CEO of Venn Negotiation, Christine McKay, as she shares her top tips on how to negotiate like a pro.
What We’ll Cover:
- Christine McKay: Negotiator Extraordinaire
- How to Negotiate
- Mistakes to Avoid During the Negotiation Process
- What’s on the Horizon for Christine McKay?
Christine McKay: Negotiator Extraordinaire
Negotiation isn’t new to Christine McKay.
Originally specializing in international mergers and acquisitions, she facilitated negotiations for roughly half of the Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of small and mid-sized businesses.
Throughout the course of her career, she noticed that smaller organizations were frequently disadvantaged at the negotiation table. Many of them were never given any framework for the negotiation process and how it could impact their bottom line.
To fill this gap in the marketplace and level the playing field between negotiator and decision-maker, Christine McKay officially launched Venn Negotiation in 2018.
Venn Negotiation aims to transform its clients into world-class negotiators through personal and group negotiation training and services. The firm partners with businesses of all sizes to find creative solutions to their toughest negotiation challenges and maximize every opportunity for a successful outcome.
Long before becoming the business powerhouse she is today, Christine McKay struggled with homelessness and relied on welfare for nearly a decade as a single mother.
She recalls the first time she went to the welfare office and was told by several people that the odds would always be stacked against her and that she would never be able to get herself out of the system. Years later, she obtained a full scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and later received her M.B.A. from Harvard University.
Christine McKay’s experience during this tumultuous period in her life compelled her to focus on helping smaller businesses understand the value they bring to the table and how strategic negotiation tactics can enable them to achieve their goals.
At one point, she had a client that owed a vendor over $1 million dollars in liability. “The vendor wasn’t willing to renegotiate that and I came in and I was able to reduce that liability by 73%. That company stayed in business for 7 more years and sold for over 150 million dollars to a fortune 50 company” she said.
According to Christine McKay, everything is negotiable.
How to Negotiate
One of the biggest and most valuable skill sets of any effective negotiator is curiosity. It’s what leads to positive experiences and exceptional deals.
Christine McKay’s philosophy is that negotiation ultimately revolves around relationships and as everyone knows, you cannot win relationships. When viewing negotiation as a conversation instead of a battle to be won, it opens up a new realm of possibilities.
It helps to think about it this way—you’re never negotiating with the company per se; you’re always negotiating with the person. We all bring our humanity and our life experiences to every decision that we make.
A negotiation is also a hopeful act. We negotiate something at the moment which is informed by information from the past and use it to create a future that’s mutually beneficial.
So, it’s helpful to establish early on what you want to get out of the negotiation. For example, if you’re buying a business, Christine McKay recommends that you determine the type of person you want to sell it to. Who do you want to do business with?
You’ll also want to discuss more than just the numbers. At the end of the day, price is often an output of a negotiation, not the input. But since there are many assumptions that go into determining costs, negotiate what those assumptions are, get some consensus, and then start managing the process from there.
Since both parties need to contribute to this process, the key here is to stay organized. Create communication avenues where you can discuss when your meetings will take place, what will go on the agenda, and what items have been agreed upon so far.
By the time you get to the contract stage, you should know how to read them from a risk mitigation point of view. In many cases, people just hand them off to an attorney who doesn’t know anything about their business, which is a big no-no.
McKay notes that because negotiation is so inherently emotional, it’s important to sit back and let the other person express their frustration. A boiling teapot eventually runs out of steam, so it’s better to just let them go.
She also stresses the importance of not taking it personally when tensions do arise. Instead, this should be an opportunity to listen, take note of what the other person’s reservations are, and let them know that their concerns have been logged and noted.
Mistakes to Avoid During the Negotiation Process
The most common mistake that people make during negotiations is not listening.
If a person is more focused on what it is they want to gain out of the partnership, they tend to not actively listen and end up missing out on important pieces of information. They might forget that there are two or more parties involved in the relationship and what’s important to the other person must also be factored into the process.
McKay also says it’s a good idea to get comfortable with silence and let people explore their options without pressuring them to make a decision right away.
If they end up changing their minds about something that was nearly set in stone, take this as an opportunity to re-evaluate or figure out an appropriate time to part ways.
Ultimately, negotiation is an accumulation of yes’s. The more yes’s you get, the easier it is to deal with the inevitable conflict that arises in any relationship because you have a foundation of an agreement to build off of.
So, What’s On The Horizon for Christina McKay?
In addition to her podcast and speaking endeavors, she recently launched VennMasters™, a unique program that combines film, literature, music, and several other disciplines to help small and mid-sized businesses learn how to negotiate better.
Not to mention, she is also releasing two books on negotiation later this year.
The importance of negotiation in business simply cannot be overstated.
According to Christina McKay, finding success as a negotiator all starts with being curious about your counterpart. The better you understand them, the more creative solutions you can come up with to create a win-win situation for everyone involved.
For more tips and tricks on how to negotiate better, be sure to visit www.vennnegotiation.com or tune into Christina McKay’s podcast—“In the Venn Zone.”