On Conflict and Collaboration

On Conflict and Collaboration

Selling well is a balance between conflict and collaboration. The more—and faster—you can move away from conflict and towards collaboration, the better. But conflict is built in.

Conflict at the Start

The conflict begins at the very onset of the relationship. You want a meeting with your dream client and they don’t want to spend time with you. You ask your prospective client to give you the commitment of time, and they object. Presto: instant conflict.

You do have to push if you want an appointment, but the more you can change that conflict into a collaboration around the value that you intend to create during your first appointment, the easier it is for your dream client to agree to a meeting.

Struggle in the Middle

There are a lot of ways conflict can pop up in the middle of your sales process. There can be conflict over what the right solution needs to look like. Your ideas may conflict with what your dream client wants. There might also be conflict between different stakeholders as to what the right solution might need to look like—or whether there should even be a discussion about leaving the status quo for something that may or may not prove to be better.

You can move from conflict to collaboration in designing the right solutions by engaging your dream client in helping build it. The more “your story” and “their story” merge into “our story,” the greater the likelihood that you win. The same is true of the internal conflicts. It’s not easy, but if you can facilitate an agreement between stakeholders, you can turn the conflict into a collaborative solution that meets everyone’s needs.

A Small Scuffle at the End

You aren’t likely to get away without a scuffle at the end of your sales process and your buyer’s buying process. They have to ask you about your price. You have to ask them to invest the amount necessary to get them the outcome they need. It’s difficult to be collaborative during the value claiming stage of the process, but it helps a lot.

Negotiating sometimes means having a collaborative discussion around creating more value—and claiming more of the greater value created. It might also mean creating value that greatly benefits your client and costs you little—or vice versa. The more you can move the negotiation from pure value claiming to a collaborative conversation around creating and claiming together, the better the outcome will be for both of you.

To sell well, you have to be comfortable with conflict. You also have to possess a strong ability to collaborate with your clients. It’s great when you can quickly move to collaboration, but you also have to be comfortable with the conflict.

Questions

What part of selling is conflict?

What are the implications of believing and behaving as if there is no conflict?

What part of selling is collaboration?

What are the implications of believing and behaving as if there isn’t an opportunity for collaboration?

How and when do you move from conflict to collaboration?

Comments

comments

  • http://twitter.com/TimOhai Tim Ohai

    Love it, Anthony. Especially the bit on “conflict at the start.” So true!

    I’ve always thought there are 3 levels to client relationships: competitive, cooperative, and collaborative. Once you start negotiating, you drop one level. If I am not able to reach a point of collaboration before I start working out the price, I am guaranteeing that the negotiation will be competitive. Or worse.

    What’s really ironic is that great collaboration is not without conflict. It’s just that the relationship can actually harness the conflict to produce a much stronger, more robust exchange. Maybe that’s the key here – knowing how to harness conflict (?).

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      I like your idea about getting collaborative early. I wonder if the reason we end up with nightmare clients is that we can’t get to collaborative early in the process.

  • Marc Zazeela

    Anthony,

    I think the conflict at the beginning is the most difficult to overcome. Getting them to agree to listen with an open mind is tough. Once you have gotten beyond that, the rest is much easier, in my opinion.

    How then, to get past the conflict at the start?

    Cheers,
    Marc

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