Appy, a male elephant with his name synonymous with happiness and his twin sister Proppy, a name synonymous with prosperity were back in the city after many days. They were seated on the chair in Lucky’s office. As usual, Appy always feels at home with any place that has lots of novels. He quickly picked up one and started reading aloud.
“There he was in the middle of the city, he pulled his cap low to avoid being captured on the security cameras. He zoomed his car on the bylanes, negotiating traffic. Not far away, there waited a black car, their occupants waiting to ambush him. His enemy had influence in this part of town and he had placed his trusted people on the job.”
Appy put down his book and shook his sister who was reading the latest edition of BusinessWorld and said, “This reminds me of our boss. He always tells me ‘Appy, this is non-negotiable’ and it always makes me feel a little nervous.”
Proppy broke into a smile and said, “I know that nothing is non-negotiable. Because I always negotiate and I have proved so. What I lack in skills, I make up for it by negotiating. I avoid getting ambushed very often.”
“Yes, you have the ability to influence someone’s decision through a simple conversation”, said Appy with a wink.
Proppy raised her eyes over the magazine and commented, “I think only politicians and big business folks influence. The rest of us have to negotiate.”
Proppy went back to what she was reading and Appy slowly picked up the magazine from her sister’s grip, set it on the table and said, “I think everyone influences whether it is a powerful politician, a business leader, or an ordinary person.”
Proppy folded her arms and said, “I hear you. Let us discuss this.”
Understanding Influencing and Negotiating
Appy made himself comfortable in his chair and said, “influencing is the ability to have an effect on someone’s behavior about someone or something. You can influence someone when you discuss things with your counterpart.”
Proppy sat straight and said, “It is a discussion between one or multiple parties aimed at reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement or outcome, that’s what you call negotiation.”
Appy shook his head and said, “Marketers are great at influencing someone’s decision. They have the skills to influence someone’s opinion about a product. A marketer uses social media or company blogs, and also attends trade shows to influence people’s opinions about their company and their products.”
Proppy who was listening intently said, “You see, the results these marketers have despite all of their efforts are intangible. People who negotiate can get prospects to agree on a price and make them paying customers. I see salespeople in our office talking to our clients and selling them our finished products. Negotiators bring tangible results. Not sure if you have seen, our customers are furniture makers, idol makers, and others who come to negotiate the price for the lumber that you and I bring to the workshop from the forest.”
Just then they heard a knock on the door. Appy and Proppy stopped their discussion and looked at each other if they had to open the door or not. Then Lucky entered and said, “I am sorry Appy and Proppy. I had to step out to take a call, it was a negotiation call with a prospect. As my call was ending, I heard a lot being discussed in this room. I hope I did not disturb it.”
Proppy enthusiastically said, “Of course not. We need help to figure this out. Appy says that business deals need influencers, and I say only negotiators can make business deals.”
Lucky smiled and said, “everyone does a bit of both. I have to influence and negotiate every day in my business. In fact, I teach it to eager candidates.
Appy and Proppy smiled knowingly at each other and listened intently.
Lucky picked up a brochure of an office utility product, pointed to the top of the brochure and said, “On this brochure, you see the features of the product mentioned here? This is the part where the organizers are influencing people to know more about the product. After reading this part, the prospects are sure to look for information on the website or pick up the phone to know more.”
He continued, “Below that, you see that the company is trying to negotiate by talking about the benefits of the product, and an attractive offer for the product. After that, they are again influencing by putting the testimonials of people who have used the product along with their brand ambassador’s message. The company is telling their prospects that they will get value from their product for a good price. They are also talking about how their past customers have taken the product and benefited. An endorsement from a celebrity is a big influencer.”
Proppy was the first to speak, “So the art of influencing and negotiation is both used in business deals like peace and porridge for breakfast.”
“Correct!” said Lucky.
Proppy gave her brother a thumbs up and said, “An e-commerce website will have a beautiful layout with the product description. This is how they influence customers. They negotiate with customers by providing a lower price than normal. They also run coupons, discounts and festival sales to negotiate with customers and make them buy.”
“Correct again,” said an impressed Lucky. He also added, “negotiation does not have to be always for money”. Appy was quick to react, “can you please give an example?”. Lucky continued, “some examples that you can easily relate are:
- If you are planning to buy a car, you will surely look at the price and some brands offer a couple of years of extended warranty.
- If you are buying a camera, you would observe some sellers on some models offer a money-back on return if you don’t like it. The brand says great customer experience is non-negotiable.
- A startup in B2B deals sometimes would want to have a big brand sign-up as its client, charging them less and ask them to endorse and promote their product or service.
You should spend some time looking up ‘How Steve Jobs was able to negotiate a revenue-sharing agreement with AT&T’ while ‘AT&T has iPhone exclusivity until 2012’. You both would surely learn from it”.
When to Influence and Negotiate?
Proppy brushed her hair and asked, “When do we negotiate and when to influence?”
Appy asked, “I guess top leaders of business and politics use influencing and negotiating tactics well. If you want to negotiate with someone, you must be able to influence.”
Lucky pointed at the brother-sister duo and said, “yes, they are twins like you, inseparable one at that. I have seen both of you work at the lumber yard. The way I see it, Appy is an influencer, and hence good at marketing, and I see Proppy is a negotiator and hence good at selling.”
Proppy smiled and said, “We influence and negotiate to solve problems, build trust, strengthen relationships, and promote cooperation. These skills are used by leaders to trade between countries all the time. The business section of a newspaper is full of this.”
Appy agreed, “I agree. In what scenarios is it implemented in business? Has it worked before?”
Lucky tapped his table and said, “As Proppy said, these two skills are used by leaders of two or multiple countries to do trade. It is used inside a corporate set up too.”
The elephant twins who always longed to hear corporate success stories pulled their chairs close to Lucky and listened.
Lucky waited for the twins to settle and said, “Successful entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerburg, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk are praised for their innovations. The products they put out represents the zenith of innovation, which combines precision engineering and aesthetic purity. Their products are useful and elegant and humane.” Lucky paused and then stated, “their innovation was backed by their influencing and negotiating skills”.
Influencing and Negotiating Skills Supporting Innovation
“I have read interviews with product managers and leaders; these people are tough negotiators. They initiate innovation and do a good job completing it. Innovation is a social process that involves a bit of influencing and negotiation. An example I will take is Apple Watch initiated by Tim Cook. This is Apple without Steve Jobs.”
“When Tim Cook took over, he had to influence teams to leave behind a culture of working in tiny silos and collaborate to make large teams who were focused on customer experience. This required constant negotiation with team leads, business heads, and other staff.”
“They negotiated the recruitment of Patrick Pruniaux, the Vice President of Sales at TAG Heuer and watch expert Dominique Fléchon because of his obsession with aesthetic and functional purity. They partnered with medical experts to develop its health apps. They then negotiated a $3 billion deal and acquired Beats, a company built by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, mainly to gain its industry insight.”
“Tim’s team influenced many industries to come together. They negotiated with vendors, operational partners in its supply chain, government regulators, carriers such as AT&T and Rogers, and then service partners such as IBM, their rivals once upon a time. The negotiations covered the manufacturing cost, time, price, markets, intellectual property, and so on.”
“Wow, he did that all for a watch?” asked Appy.
“Not just any watch dear brother. It is an Apple Watch. It takes influencing all stakeholders to come together, negotiating with them to deliver value to customers, and creating an ecosystem,” answered Proppy.
Lucky said, “Just like democracy, innovation is ‘By the people, for the people’. It is social in nature. When you have bullies as negotiators on one side, you have a win-lose situation. Whoever is the winner will not stay so for a long time. If you look at the interests of both parties, then you can have a win-win situation, leading to products with an enriched value proposition.”
Proppy interrupted and said, “this sounds like collaboration to me. And this requires the power to influence.”
Influence and Negotiate to Collaborate
Lucky answered, “The age of competition is over. Global companies will not succeed by going the same way as the Dutch East India Company or the English East India Company, that is by removing competition. This is the age of collaboration. This is the age of global interdependence. Influence and negotiation lead to collaboration, and collaboration is a pathway to the innovation of our dreams.”
“How do you influence and negotiate for a collaboration?” Appy wondered aloud.
Lucky answered, “Good question. The major part of the negotiation is listening, not talking. Remember, listening means learning. You must first bring staff, partners, vendors, distributors, and customers together to influence the success of your innovation. Negotiating constructively will help you learn and yield crucial, value-enhancing insight. Negotiation is a mechanism to get stakeholders to take ownership of innovation and support the end product’s distribution and sales. Finally, it also helps your innovation develop traction and longevity.”
Appy asked, “Lucky, can you please give us an example of how these three are connected.”
Lucky turned around and responded with a smile, “Ravikiran Annaswamy is an entrepreneur and CEO of Numocity Technologies. Numocity is a Bengaluru-based tech startup with expertise both in hardware and software focussed on energy management for the electric vehicle segment. This SaaS-based tech startup wants to be a critical energy enabler for EVs. Ravikiran says, “EV as a market is witnessing a lot of interest in India, and this is similar to what we saw in the telecom segment earlier. We understood that EV is going to be an ecosystem play.” You can read more at YourStory.
Currently, innovation is driving high in the Electric Vehicle (EV) space. Changes in the Government policy is the biggest influencing factor, the timing of Numocity seems right as Ravikiran is busy negotiating deals with business leaders in the automobile industry, energy industry, energy distribution networks and with potential investors. Collaboration is the methodology used for developing an ecosystem.”
Proppy who earlier had glanced at a poster inviting people to a hackathon on the notice board asked, “Collaboration is a methodology used in hackathons to come up with tech innovations, right?”
“Yes correct. Both of you are learning,” said Lucky.
“Yes Lucky, we will keep doing so. It was a great topic to learn. Something that we need to practice more at work,” said Appy.
Proppy took a sip of the water and said, “We will never underestimate the power of collaboration. These things we learned today will come in handy at work and while we build a start-up.”
Lucky responded and said, “This has been a very productive discussion. Unfortunately, more important things call. Like my growing hunger! Who wants to join me for a quick nibble?”
The elephant twins jumped to their feet at the mention of food.
“Who’s in for Chit Chat Chai?” asked Lucky now on his feet.
Both elephants raised their arms.
“Non-negotiable,” said Appy aloud. All three broke into laughter and slowly headed towards the cafe.