I was asked many times in my training or speeches what are the qualities of the best negotiators. I always answered in the best way I could, based on my experiences up to that moment. These days, however, I realized that the answer is much simpler than I thought and the answer was there, in front of my eyes all the time. I just did not see it until now!
The qualities of the best negotiators are the same as the qualities of the best doctors! As simple as that! While you may argue that not everyone dealt with a professional negotiator, I doubt there is anyone who did not go to a doctor for a consultation.
While there are many common traits between the best negotiators and the best doctors, I chose 5 that I strongly believe are the most important. Failing any of these 5 will lead to the loss of the negotiation, respectively to the loss of the patient (or worse, the loss of the patient’s life!).
1. CHARACTER = always strive to do the right thing. Do the right thing for the business, the relationship with the other side in a negotiation, or for the patient. Being recognized for a good character will give the person a good reputation. And, as a result, this person’s business will thrive, so will a doctor’s clientele. I strongly believe that there is NOTHING THAT JUSTIFIES JEOPARDIZING ONE’S REPUTATION! Period!
2. GENUINE CARE. One of the characteristics of the best leaders I’ve worked with was the genuine care for the other people. I stress the word “genuine” because I’ve seen too many people claiming themselves “leaders” who faked this care to a higher or lower degree. And guess what: the people around them were not stupid, they “smelled” the falseness and did not give a damn about the “leader”. I’m sure you also met such doctors, for whom you are just a number… When you genuinely care, you truly want to solve the issue in the best possible way: the issue under negotiation or the health issue that’s bothering the patient. And once you’ve acted with “genuine care”, you can be 200% sure that the other party will return to do business with you in the future (or come again to your medical practice for future health issues).
3. UNDERSTAND THE REAL ISSUES. Both the best negotiators and the best doctors think about the “Iceberg theory”: the real issues/motivators are not obvious, many times they are very well hidden below the water, just like in the case of an iceberg. And, to understand what’s truly bothering the other party, one needs to put himself in the other party’s shoes. An action that is easy to say but hard to do truly effectively! When I was selling advertising services in an agency, I always went to my potential clients, and the first question I asked them was the following: “What’s keeping you awake at night?” Based on their answer, I reverted with tailor-made presentations for their specific needs. The same holds for doctors: when you enter a doctor’s room, you expect to get a consultation BEFORE you are prescribed medicines! I’m sure nobody would take a prescription written by the doctor before he understood what’s hurting!
4. A COMMITMENT TO HELP. In business and medicine, one party should want to help the other party. I say “should” because that would be the normal approach: still, I’ve seen both negotiators and doctors that were motivated by other factors (usually pecuniary), therefore they recommended business or health solutions that were not in the best interest of the other party/patient. That this is plain and simple unethical it’s an understatement, yet it sadly happens quite often. I love “The Hippocratic Oath” and I think it should apply to business as well. I particularly find this part most relevant for negotiations: “I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.”
5. HONESTY – RECOGNIZE HIS LIMITATIONS. We all have big EGOs, we all believe we are smart, almighty, knowing everything. It’s natural, yet destructive. The best negotiators, just like the best doctors, know they don’t know it all! They are aware of their limitations and they recognize when it’s the case. I remember a situation when I was talking to the Trade Marketing Manager of a large multinational company that presented me with 3 different business challenges that “kept her awake at night”. I knew instantly that our agency was unable to help with the second challenge, which was putting in place a new Visual Brand Identity Guide for one of their bigger brands. We could have subcontracted the service, but that was not our expertise and I could not look her in the eyes and promise we will deliver to her expectations! She was surprised and told me that it never happened to her before that an agency said: “We can’t help you here!”. But she said it with admiration and respect and I knew she would trust us 100% from that moment onward.
I know that none of these 5 characteristics of the best negotiators/doctors is a huge surprise for any of you, yet I found it very useful to write them down and keep then at hand as a “cheat sheet” in my future negotiations. I don’t want to forget any of them in the rush of closing a deal!
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