My friend, Jeff Leitner, is fond of asking the question “What does winning look like?”. This simple question neatly frames the problem that many entrepreneurs struggle with. Sometimes it is a lack of focus. Sometimes it is a plethora of options. Sometimes it is just getting overwhelmed by the speed of business. In sports, it’s easy — more points. In politics — it’s 50% + 1 of the cast votes. In business, not so easy.
In a posting last week, I talked about negotiation. The key to a negotiation is to understand the very essence of what winning looks like. In order to get what you need out of a negotiation, you need to take a deep breath and invest the time to really understand what winning looks like, both for you and what you imagine it looks like for the other party. If you can clearly lay out what winning looks like, the negotiation becomes much easier since you know the winning strategy for each side.
But you do not need to be in a formal negotiation to see the benefits of thinking seriously about winning. Think about meeting a new sales prospect. As much as possible, you need to control the agenda for a meeting. The agenda should be built with winning in mind. If you control and publish an agenda, you have the ability to help ensure winning.
In contracting, if you are asked to write a first draft of a proposed agreement, jump at the chance. Yes, it will be more work for you, but it will allow you to shape the document towards your vision for winning. You can certainly take this too far and write the agreement one sided, but if you can use the opportunity to shade things toward your winning strategy, you have a more positive negotiating position and the likelihood of getting a favorable deal is increased.
So, how do you know what winning looks like for the other side? Many times you can guess as to the components of a winning deal, but why guess? I have disarmed many people by just asking simple questions: “How are you compensated?” or “What is your incentive for making this deal happen?”. I don’t want to know their W2 or base salary. What I really want to understand are those things that could be beneficial to my negotiating partner that are not valuable to me. These become good bargaining chips. Winning to the other guy could be something as simple as booking this deal by the end of the month. Perhaps I can trade booking the deal this month with longer payment terms.
Sure, understanding what winning looks like before each meeting, negotiation or sales presentation is more work. Documenting these strategies will take a bit more time. But in business, as in sports, winning usually means working harder than the other side.