Training From the Intelligence Community Improves Business Negotiations

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Conversational skills and psychological profiling tools used by the world's secret agents translate well to the business world. Knowing what really motivates a prospect to accept your argument, and your offer, puts an ethical and positive twist to competitive analysis. And no one gets hurt.

What sales people are taught about closing a deal has just the opposite effect on a large number of prospects according to a new training module from George Dennis Associates, a competitive intelligence training firm.

"We put the class together from our other CI training modules when one of our aerospace defense clients wanted their new contract negotiating team to get better pricing on systems and materials," said George Dennis, principal instructor, "It was so effective for them we added it to our competitive intelligence curriculum." The training, Profiling for Negotiation, helps business negotiators and sales people win over customers with difficult personalities by combining skills that are well known to government intelligence officers who must tease information from unwitting or unwilling subjects.

The two-day class blends conversational tactics called elicitation with psychological profiling of individuals using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI.) Elicitation is the practice of using applied psychology in casual conversation to root out information about people's work they would not ordinarily express if asked directly; a training normally given to intelligence community field officers. The MBTI is the quickest and most accurate indicator of personality preferences available to the non-psychologist. But instead of a company's new product or future plans, the ideal result from this course is learning about the individual's decision making preferences.

"We teach the elicitation techniques followed by the MBTI cues on the first day," Dennis said," The MBTI portion is taught by lead instructor Dr. Marta Weber, a 30-year clinical psychologist and profiler who works with state and federal intelligence agencies.

"The fun part is the evening exercise where participants go out and engage a total stranger in a brief conversation, collecting clues to the person's personality preferences. People are always amazed at what can be learned about total strangers in one brief conversation, if it is managed for that purpose," Dennis says. The next day each participant discusses their stranger encounter and, with Dr. Weber's assistance develops a strategy as if their subject was a difficult customer they would have to negotiate with on the first meeting. Then come the surprises.

For example, most sales people are taught to "trial close" the prospect several times during their presentation. Unfortunately for the sales person many executive-prospects are "introverts" on the Myers-Briggs scale, for whom decision making is a very private affair.

"The negotiator who can't distinguish 'I'd like to think about it' as a stall, or a genuine plea for time to come around to their way of thinking, is going to drive away perhaps a quarter of their best prospects," Dennis said.


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