EPISODE 521: Negotiating Win-Win Sales Deals with David B. Morse

Subscribe to the Podcast now on Apple Podcasts!

Become a member of the elite Institute for Excellence in Sales and take your sales career to the next level!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on March 19, 2022, featuring negotiations expert David B. Morse. David says, “Negotiation is Complicated … but it doesn’t have to be!”

Find David on LinkedIn.

DAVID’S TIP: “The goal is always the win-win. If you just look around yourself in today’s world, the things that are of the most value have been done by collaborative or cooperation means. It’s just simply the way it is. You can create more in a win-win. If it comes down to a power or win-lose, there’s only so much that can be gained. Losers usually find a way to get back at you.”


Fred Diamond: Every Friday it’s Creativity in Sales, and David, we talk about sales tactics, things you could do to become a more effective sales professional. One of those tactics that people ask about is how do you get better at negotiation? Everything is a negotiation, of course. We’re going to be talking today with David Morse, he’s an expert on the topic.

We’re going to be talking about some specific things you could do to be more effective. David is the goal win-win, or is the goal for you to win? Let’s get started with that.

David Morse: That’s a great place to start. The goal is always the win-win. If you just look around yourself in today’s world, the things that are of the most value have been done by collaborative or cooperation means. It’s just simply the way it is. You can create more in a win-win. If it comes down to a power or win-lose, there’s only so much that can be gained. Losers usually find a way to get back at you.

Fred Diamond: Let’s get started here. Give us your overall perspective. We have sales professionals, sales leaders, typically B2B sales professionals who work for great companies like Salesforce and Amazon and Cvent, companies like that around the globe listening to today’s show. Give us your perspective on what they should be thinking about as it relates to negotiations. In some cases, it’s an ominous term. A lot of times people are afraid of the concept. Give us your thoughts, break it down, and let’s start getting specific.

David Morse: I think the main issue to keep in mind in negotiation is that everybody can do it. The tools that you have for it, they’re common in everyone. The only difference is the intentional focus and practice of them. There’s really practically no different from watching the evening news and things happening on the national scale, to you around the dinner table with your family. They’re really truly based on the same skills.

Fred Diamond: Let’s demystify it a little bit. Is there a cookie cutter approach that you talk about? Is every negotiation different? Do you have to start from a different place? Let’s talk about some specific skills as it relates to communications that you think people need to know about.

David Morse: In general, yes, every negotiation is different, but the value I see and the approach that I take is that they’re all based on these common skills. You have to have the strategic view. It’s the tactical cookie cutters, all have some value in it. I believe I’ve read and digested every text that’s out there. All of them have some good bits. But the point is, you’ve got to integrate all that into what I call the keys to negotiation, which are effective communication skills that involve things as far-fetched as your mental thought processes and decision making to collaborative work processes.

Fred Diamond: Mental thought processes. Talk about that.

David Morse: It’s one of the more challenging parts to get people to really realize how important, but your subconscious and conscious mental processes are key in getting done. If you think of like Daniel Kahneman and Thinking Fast and Slow, you’ve got to integrate those aspects of you and how other people think into your negotiation strategy. That’s what the keys to negotiation do. Things like that.

Fred Diamond: How about the mental approach? One thing that you like to talk about, you just mentioned it again. Mental from the perspective of, do you have to come into the game with a certain attitude? Or does that shift? I’m just curious on where you want people to start with that.

David Morse: It’s almost too common to say, but preparation ends up being that critical piece. Some people believe that they’re natural negotiators, likely that that’s true. But it’s also true that they’ve gained that through practice and experience. If you have not thought through what it is you’re trying to accomplish, and especially putting yourself into the mindset of the person or the company across the table, your value creation is going to be limited. It’s just the way it is.

Fred Diamond: We have a question here from Denise. She says, “Can David give us some examples of mental thought processes?” Maybe there’s a couple different ways you could go with that. Denise, thank you for the question.

David Morse: That’s a good one because it really drills into one of the more complex parts. Ideas, and people’s ideas of how to collaborate, what the goals are, are critical. Maybe the more mysterious ones that we use every single day, it’s generally called abstraction. We talk about things, especially in oral conversation, also in writing, like if I say dog. You’ll immediately have in your mind a picture of what that dog is, or if I say river. If you cross different cultures and languages, we’ve spent a decent amount of time in Germany. If I said cow in Bavaria and I said cow in the Midwest of the US, there are two different cows that have been thought of. Abstraction is like a ladder or a pyramid, and in conversation you have in your mind that the other person might be in a different place than you. It’s a valuable mental tool to think about and focus on and realize is in operation everywhere.

Fred Diamond: We have an interesting question here that comes up again as a follow up to that. Question comes in from Bernie. Bernie says, “How do we understand where the other person is coming from?” Bernie, thank you for the question. Let’s talk about that for a little bit. You’re negotiating, and the people who are listening to today’s show, they’re in sales. They’re probably negotiating terms, price, length of service, those types of things. In a lot of cases, it’s standard. It’s like, “This is what we offer everybody,” type of a thing. There’s not a whole lot of room for negotiation. At the same time there is because you want to get the deal and the customer wants to get the best level of quality of service for their company. Let’s get back to what Bernie’s talked about. What are some tools, David Morse, that we should be deploying to be better prepared, to understand more effectively where our customer might be coming from, that we’re negotiating?

David Morse: I’ll mention two classic tools, and one that maybe is a little less obvious. The classic ones are usually called positions versus interests, emotions versus concerns. It’s part of classic negotiation practices to separate those issues when you’re approaching someone and trying to think through, what is it their position is? “I want 10% discount.” What’s their interest behind that? What’s really going on? Emotions and concerns are the same category.

If you want to pick on a tool that is probably less commonly thought about, but I encourage very highly, is that for association. There are two levels of association, one of close-knit groups and broad diffuse groups. To realize where the person across the table is in that dynamic and finding the place where you and that other person can be in a close-knit group of whatever definition. Humans are excellent at forming associations, so there’s a lot of opportunity there.

Fred Diamond: We have a bunch of more questions coming in here, David. Let’s see. This is The Sales Game Changers Podcast, so most people who are listening are probably not professional negotiators. They’re listening to today’s show because they want to get better. Jessica said, “Should I hand of anything that’s related to a negotiation to a professional in my company or my manager?” Jessica, thanks for the bravery for that question. David, let’s talk about that. We do a Sales Game Changers Podcasts every day, and there’s so many things related to the sales profession, there’s, of course, the prospecting, relationship building, writing, communicating, preparation. There’s so many things you need to do to be successful at sales and we’re talking today about negotiations. Back to Jessica’s question. Should we bring in the attorneys to handle them all? From your experience, have people gotten in trouble because they really weren’t in the right either skill or mindset to be good at this?

David Morse: That is a good question. I think the simple answer is no. That is, whatever role you’re in, and roles have broad scope, from a CEO or the Head of Attorney for the whole company, down to the customer service rep. They all have a role. Within the scope of that role, you should be engaging with the other party. Recognizing the hierarchy and where it is that the decision needs to be made. What you do not want to do is hand off the decision or the process of negotiation to the person who will finally approve. It is immensely critical to have that hierarchy and an escalation path in any negotiation. Whether you’re, again, customer service rep, and you’re the manager on the call, you’ve got to have that ability to move things along and escalate the level of importance of their concern from the other side. As much to the financial power of the decision that, let’s say, manager or the CEO can make.

You brought up and touched upon the attorney part. I have had the really great fortune to work with a lot of very good business attorneys. But those were relationships that were most valuable when the business attorney was in the background, was not in the foreground. The attorney has certain constraints, their purpose is to look out for things that are very narrow and specific, and just use the term legal. In general, having that business attorney behind you and supporting you is the most valuable part of that equation.

Fred Diamond: You make a really good distinction. The sales professional is usually not going to be the one to sign off, either it’s going to be their manager or someone in contracts. I would definitely not recommend that the average sales professional be signing contracts. I like what you said, a lot of times you hear in companies where the business attorney, the inside corporate counsel is a sales inhibitor, because they make the terms so insidious that the customer will never sign up to them.

What we’re talking about here is a skill. We’re talking about you as a sales professional the same way, David, we talk a lot about if you want to be a sales professional, you need to be a professional and professionals practice. They practice role play, and they practice conversations, and they practice writing, and they practice presentation, things like that. Is negotiation, a skill that sales professionals can get better at? Or is it something that is better left off to the professionals?

David Morse: It is my contention, everybody can get better, and that the way you do it, it’s got two parts to the equation to do that. One is intentionally recognizing what those tools are. If you don’t even pay attention to it, you’re going to miss something, and then practice. I use the analogy a lot of times of a car. In the US, the driver sits on the left in a right-hand turn, you don’t notice your right wheels. Imagining what’s happening below the surface is an important skill and you only get that by practice and intentionally recognizing those things.

Fred Diamond: When you were doing your research to really understand some of the core things as relates to negotiating, you went deep. You went into anthropology, you went to sociology. Talk a little bit about some of the things that you discovered that may be interesting to the people listening to the podcast that will help them get a general level of comfort. I’m going to guess there’s two types of people listening to today’s Sales Game Changers Podcasts out of the 1000s who download the show. There’s going to be those who are great at it, and they’re going to listen because they’re great at it. They want to hear an expert like David Morse talk a little more. There’s probably going to be people who are like, “I’m nervous about this, I don’t know how to do it well, I failed before, I know I need to get better.” Talk a little bit about some of the things you discovered when you went deep into anthropology and sociology and things like that.

David Morse: The main driver was that over my experience in my career, I got better and better over time. But I noticed not everything fit together. It was one item or failure here and there. We were like, “Okay, why did that actually happen?” It was my motivation, let’s say, to drill into the whys of negotiation and I think that’s where I feel the discovery and the uncovering of natural human skills, people skills are common in all of us. That’s where everything evolves from, not to use that term too strongly. The only way that I could get there and connect all the conventional negotiation skills – framing, cooperation, alternatives, whatever you want to call them – was to go deep enough to find where’s the connection in all of us.

That’s where I did go fairly deep, maybe too deep. It was the way to get connected to those common tools in everybody, and make the connection between a negotiation, say, around the dinner table, to ones that show up in the news. If I could get people to open their lenses a little bit and recognize what are those common things in the news, those are prime training opportunities that you don’t have to wait until you’re at work, and you’re trying to negotiate with either your boss or a client. You can use the news to figure this stuff out too. That’s why I went deep.

Fred Diamond: We have a couple more questions here. This question comes in from Larry. Larry’s question is, what if my customer who I am negotiating with isn’t reasonable and is getting angry? David it’s great kumbaya, we want to communicate especially after what everyone’s been through over the last couple years. We talked about things like transparency and vulnerability, and all those things. As we started off today’s show, we want to win, we want our customer to win, and we want our customers’ customer to win and our company to win. If everybody wins, it’s great. What are some of your strategies if the person that we’re dealing with is not playing along?

David Morse: Thank you, Larry. That’s a common concern. In interacting with people, people will be people and there’ll be times where they just need to vent. I can think of one particular experience of mine that I had in Europe was, got back from about an hour of being chewed out and was having a beer at the airport and realized, well, okay, thinking through, they just needed to vent. Or if they’re really attacking, in both cases, you use the normal communication, or people skills of trying to de-emphasize. Lower the temperature. The worst thing you can do is engage and attack back. That’s the way to destroy the relationship between the companies for the future.

It’s the defusing and dealing with those aggressive by going, not passive, but making sure you’re assertive, but not confrontational. Those are communication skills and other stuff come out frequently, but those are the common ones that are used in negotiation. If your spouse is yelling at you or whether your client is yelling at you, it’s the exact same tools. Imagine that that client that’s angry at you is someone familiar, how would you deal with them? Someone you know.

Fred Diamond: Now that’s interesting and we actually have a follow up question from Denise who asked the question before. Maybe is a good opportunity based on the story you just started to tell, “What’s the main tip for negotiations with a company from another country?” We could probably talk about that for a couple of hours depending on which country and who you’re negotiating with, etc. One thing that’s interesting too, David Morse, we talk a lot on The Sales Game Changers Podcast about two things, knowing your customer’s why. Why are they in the game? What are they hoping to achieve? Why are they even working for the company they’re working for?

If you can understand that, that’ll make things go a lot better. Also, the concept of getting inside their head. It’s like, “Why are they concerned about that?” Not only their big why, but why is this an issue? As compared to responding based on yourself. Take Denise’s question first here about negotiating with people from different countries, and then talk a little bit about ways to get inside the head of your customer, so that you just don’t go back and forth with not solving any problems.

David Morse: Many of the lessons that I learned, or let’s say the problems that I tried to work through to demystify negotiation, as you put it, had to do with overseas interaction. Traveled and visited and done client work in 40 countries, spent three years in Germany and every other week in Saudi Arabia. It was there that really the differences between people became obvious as not being very different.

People are people wherever they are. There is a difference in a language, although English is such a common tool to communicate nowadays. In the toolkit that we all have, think about those association tools, the ones that are the broad and the narrow. Those broad association tools are the ones that are typically called under culture. When I give my talks, I talk about the cultural toolkit isn’t Bavaria, or Texas, the cultural toolkit is the way in which we understand each other. The best advice I can give for across culture US-European is to look and think about the similarities between people. There are a lot of references that you can use to differentiate and identify what the cultural differences are for wherever you are. Those are only some of them. Most of the differences are these are people and people are all different.

Fred Diamond: What do you do? Are you a consultant primarily? Do you come into a company and work with them one on one? What is the main service offering that you offer?

David Morse: David B. Morse, and I’ll just re-emphasize it’s the B. If you Google David Morse, you’re going to show up a person, that’s not me. If you do, David B. Morse, my name actually will come up. The services that we provide are the standard speaking, training, consulting. The ones that are the most enjoyable, well, all three of the avenues are really about training in some way. I think what you identify in the consulting bracket, you go in, being an agent for someone is good, it is interesting.

But if you can teach someone to be a better negotiator, be that, like I mentioned about the business attorney that’s the backstop that I’ve had that supported me in in so many negotiations, that is a very rewarding role. I do go the whole spectrum of speaking engagements, all the way through being an agent for some company in a negotiation. The ones in between training classes and being the back-office reference for someone are the more enjoyable because then I know the person other than me is intentionally recognizing the tools and practicing and getting better.

Fred Diamond: We have a question here that comes in from Daniel. Daniel says, “I’m still nervous about negotiating with customers.” Actually, I know Daniel and his company, Daniel’s a little bit early on in his sales career. Obviously, like any type of sales skill, it takes time to learn, practice putting context. Daniel, stick it out there, buddy. Give some advice to young sales professionals, people who are maybe a couple years into their career. David, there’s a lot of people that we have on The Sales Game Changers Podcast who are attendees who are in their first, maybe second sales job. A lot of times when they make it to their second or third then they know that sales is the career they want to be in, and they come back to really understand it. Give some advice to people who are maybe junior in their career. A couple of things, two or three things that they should be the thinking about to begin to hone this particular skill.

David Morse: The advice that I’m going to give is not only for the junior or the beginning salesperson, but is for everyone. The best thing you can do is go slow. It is extremely hard in the hunt and the thrill of sales trying to get that deal to think about this. But if you can slow yourself down mentally, slow down the process of engaging with that client, you will learn so much more. It’s the asking questions to learn more information. Listening, active listening, or reflective listening, anything you can do there will improve your next step. That’s all you need to focus on is, “Okay, let’s just pause or go a little slower here. The next time, we’ll go better, the next time after that better.”  Whether you’re just starting your career, or you’re trying to negotiate a multi-million-dollar supply contract, it’s the same process.

Fred Diamond: David, before we ask you for your final action step, I want to follow up on what you just said. Not infrequently, the concept of being a better listener comes up. When I asked the sales VPs, the sales leaders around the globe for their advice, listening comes up all the time. We’ve gotten deeper into ways that you can be a better listener. I like the advice that you’re giving here about take it slow.  I want to get your advice on how to be a better listener. It’s great to say you need to be a better listener, but give us two or three things that people can do, the sales professionals listening, to truly become a better listener.

David Morse: It is a common piece of advice, because it is very important. Before the advice part, the problem is we think so fast compared to how we talk. Your mind is racing ahead. The main piece of advice to get to be a better listener is focus on the exact words that the person is saying. Visualize the words in front of you. Then when they take a break, they pause for your comment, use their exact words back to them in a question. This approach will slow you down so that you’re not thinking about how to answer the question or retort with an alternative view. All you’re doing is focusing on the words that the person is saying. That’s the primary way to slow yourself down, because then your focus is on, “Oh, what did they mean by, in the background?”

Then insights are going to come from that as long as you slow yourself down. The slowness, I want to emphasize in a conversation isn’t slow for those, say, the bosses and the sales directors that are on the call, it isn’t slowing the deal. It’s just slowing, adding a half second between what you’re saying and thinking or thinking and saying. It’s that slowness, not the slowness of, “Did you get the deal today or you’re going to get it next week?” It’s in the moment. That’s the main piece of advice that I’m going to focus on.

Fred Diamond: That as a great bit of advice. There’s an expression we heard recently that’s been making the rounds, which is, “WAIT, Why Am I Talking?” Many times, people listen to “have their time to talk”. I really like what you said too, for a couple reasons. One is we hear this so many times too, is that the customer is more excited about things that they can offer you as compared to what they’re told. As they come up with aha moments, as they come up with insights, being able to communicate back to them.

David B. Morse, I want to acknowledge you for the work that you’re doing. You’ve worked with so many companies to help them be more successful at this and the value that you provided to the sales professionals watching today or listening to today has been very valuable.

We got some comments here. We have a comment here from Cheryl. Cheryl says, “Thank you, Fred.” We have a comment here from Nick. Nick says, “Thank you, David B., for the great insights.” We have a comment here from Jeffrey as well, who says, “This was great, Fred, thank you so much.” Thank you, David Morse. David, as we like to end every Sales Game Changers Podcast, you’ve given us so many actions steps, give us one specific thing people should do right now after listening to the webcast or listening to the podcast to take their sales career up one level.

David Morse: I would say go to davidbmorse.com and look at the tools, but that’s a secondary step. The thing you do as we’ve spoken before is slow yourself down. Whatever you’re doing, the next engagement that you have, take a second and just think, what’s really going on?

Fred Diamond: That’s very powerful, we’ll provide links to your website where people can get more information. I want to thank everybody for listening to today’s show. My name is Fred Diamond, this was a Sales Game Changer Podcast.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *