In mid-January 2023 it was time for the fifth cohort of the PIP to reunite at NFU HQ, still recovering from a full-on Christmas period. I am sure I can speak for us all, especially those involved in the seasonal side of our sector, in saying it was a welcome couple of days away from the farm to catch up with some old friends while honing our skills.
First up on our two-day stint was a day of negotiation training. I think everyone will agree that this is appropriately timed given the challenges our sector is seeing, trying to secure fair and reasonable price increases in light of soaring input costs.
Aims of the day
The key aim of the day was to develop our ability to “negotiate positive outcomes” which we quickly realised is a multi-faceted and complex art to master, but one that is achievable. The best negotiators in the world follow “negotiation formulae” and some of the base elements are:
- Trust – This is key for long-term and successful relationships, and personally I believe it is integral for any working business relationship.
- Communication – You have to be clear about what you want to achieve, and try to understand the other parties' aims to come to a mutually-agreeable outcome.
- Preparation – Be ready to support your business case, and anticipate what the other party may say in response.
- Develop a rapport – Listen and learn about the other party, make them feel understood, use positive body language, and match the speed, tone, and volume of their voice.
- Power of metaphors – These can act as a key tool and help influence or change someone’s thinking. They help people to engage in discussion and see the situation in a more relatable fashion.
Mastering the art of negotiation
After lunch, we launched into a practical exercise to try out our new negotiation skills. This really put the cat among the chickens!
We split into two teams that were two departments within the same business. The aim was for each department to make a profit for the business and the team with the most profit would win overall.
Essentially, each team had to choose either red or blue, which had positive outcomes if both chose red, negative outcomes if both chose blue, and if each department chose a different colour one would gain, and the other would lose double.
In the end one team ended up losing the business £10 million while the other made £4 million, meaning we lost the company a whopping £6 million in total with the whole team ultimately failing the main objective of making the company a profit. However, we reflected back on this and considered the key takeaways:
- We did not trust each other to follow through on any agreed actions and prioritised our own department’s profit. We should have placed more value on building that long-term business relationship.
- Poor communication led to long-term relationships being irreparably damaged. We felt that was down to not being clear on the aims of the brief and not listening to each other about how we would achieve the best outcome for both sides.
- We were simply not prepared to launch into negotiations as there was a clear lack of understanding and conflicting views on which colour to choose. We should have taken more time to focus on the aims of the brief and not let our ambitions get in the way of doing the right thing.
Overall, it was a brilliant day of learning, solidified by a practical exercise which demonstrated the importance of following the “positive negotiation formula”.
A lot was learned by all, with one department catastrophically losing out. Sadly, I must admit I was a part of that team.
However, there doesn’t always have to be a winner and a loser in a negotiation. Getting to that win-win situation is key, especially if certain friendships in the PIP are to continue as strongly as they are (you know who you are!).