Negotiation is the Intersection of Sales and Law

Today Wednesdays for Women is another in our occasional series titled “Lessons from Leaders” featuring learnings from JDA leaders on topics of interest to anyone seeking insights and experiences that can help them grow their own leadership skills.  In today’s blog, Vicky Marco, global account director and member of the JDA Winning Leadership program, shares what she learned about the art of negotiation when it comes to sales.

Hebe Doneski started her career with JDA’s legal team when the company only had 1,200 employees (as compared to now with more than 4,600!).  At that time, the legal department did a mere 30 contracts a quarter.  She moved from the legal team in 2015 to start the first ever JDA Global Deal Desk.  The Global Deal Desk is the “life line” for sales representations when they have questions about complex deal structures, pricing and other miscellaneous items related to sales opportunities.  They interact with many different areas of the company to help progress sales opportunities forward.  I met with her to discuss how her background in law has lent incredibly well to sales, as she believes the intersection of sales and law is negotiation. These are some of the things she believes are crucial to success when it comes to negotiation.

Establish trust

I don’t think I knew what I was getting into when I went to law school.   I learned in my undergraduate years while doing some volunteer work that lawyers were trusted people that help people.  Trust is an important value, and being a trusted advisor was important to me.  That’s really what it comes down to; you must establish trust in order to succeed in a role that requires negotiation.

Negotiation is the intersection between law and sales

I have always liked negotiation.  The intersection between sales and law is negotiation.  I realized since leaving a legal function that a lot of what I was doing was not really law.  It was dealing with business sense, strategy, and tactics of how to get deals done, which is what I am doing now.

Try to understand the other side to get past disagreements

One key to successful negotiation lies in trying to understand the other side, hear the objections of both sides and hear the hidden agenda.  You’ve heard the expression, “nobody ever got fired for buying Oracle.”  One person may have an objection that has nothing to do with the conversation, like “fear of being fired.”   To the extent that you can hear those hidden objections, versus the words coming out of their mouths, you can help navigate opposing sides to a common ground.

Understand when to cut bait

Sometimes issues are what I call “religious” issues with no rational reason, and identifying those issues can help you drive a resolution.  An example of this is when our customers want to own intellectual property rights to our deliverables.  They believe since they are paying for something, they should own it. That’s not necessarily a rational reason, but they believe in it very strongly.  If you can find a way to identify religious objections it helps inform your negotiation strategy.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of being honest in order to stop an endless debate.  You may say, “we will never agree to do that so let’s find other areas where we can agree,” or recognize that it is time to walk away.  Or you may conclude that the person is not going to budge on that topic, so you look for areas of common ground instead.

Stand behind your beliefs

I worked at a law firm with a partner that had been a stockbroker prior to entering law.  He had this philosophy when it came to standing for your beliefs and decisions.  He taught me that if you had a good reason for doing what you did, but you made a mistake, to apologize for how you made the person feel, not for what you did.   He taught me that it’s okay to make a well-reasoned mistake as that’s how you develop and grow.

Don’t worry about what you can’t control

People tend to dwell on things they can’t control.  Another good piece of advice that I received early in my career is to remember that if someone is being adversarial or difficult to deal with, that it’s almost never about you.   This is especially true in a deal setting where there is pressure and can be confrontation.   If someone is yelling or being aggressive towards you, it’s almost always about them and something they don’t have control over.  The more you can remember that in a high-conflict position, the happier you will be.

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