My very first post on this blog was about our EMBA orientation. We must have introduced ourselves at least 50 times within those 4 days. How different our approaches are to answering a simple question – tell me about yourself. Partly due to the number of times we’ve answered this question and partly due to the lack of skills necessary to tackle such questions. It’s not just about technical knowledge, you can’t learn it in books. It has to be learned through practice.
I mentioned lack of skills because most of the first impressions are based on how you introduce yourself – your elevator pitch. In business, how you introduce your product or services determines its success in the market, sometimes more than product features and quality.
A month ago I attended a very interesting course at CEU, Consultative Selling and Negotiations. The course was conducted by Prof. Achilles Georgiu over 3 days, an intensive weekend but what an experience it was. It started with simple exercises, pairs negotiating over small deals, selling stuff, salary negotiations etc, and ended with half of the class engaged in an intense multi-way negotiation that could affect lives of thousands of people, not just the ones negotiating. Kind of negotiations that the politicians and executives at large corporations usually engage in.
Best part of the course was role plays, though we did learn some theoretical background that Prof. Georgiu applies in his day-to-day life as a Sales Representative at IBM. Even simple role plays can help to bring out the real character of participants. Some are aggressive, some submissive, some want to win, some just want to get over with it, some like to prolong it and some like to keep it short. It was also clear how many of us didn’t feel comfortable on the negotiating table at all. None of them lacked the knowledge of the subject. Upon asking their cause of discomfort, some mentioned culture as one of the reason, but I think it’s not just that.
Soft skills can be acquired.
One of the role plays started with forming 2 groups, each representing a company engaged in a multi-million dollar deal. Of course, one team represented buyers while the other represented the sellers. Within the team we had to assign roles to each member, technical experts, finance, legal, marketing etc. Such large negotiation is actually 2 step process. First level of negotiation happens within the team when all team members try to agree on a common statement and terms of the deal considering interest of all stakeholders. The interest of technical community are usually different from those of the legal or marketing folks. The second level of negotiation takes place when the buyers and sellers come together to reach a common goal. I’m going to randomly list few skills that I think are critical in such situations –
Right body language
“Mind reading” – predicting the next move of your counterpart
Controlling the emotions
Most of the Business Schools do focus on soft skills and so does CEU. Every course at CEU encourages student participation, professional paper writing, presentations etc. Though there are very few courses that explicitly focus on inculcating soft skills. So far, Consultative Selling and Negotiations course is the only one I’ve attended that focuses on developing soft skills, such as Negotiation and Consultative Selling.
I really enjoyed this course and will highly recommend to everyone currently studying at or planning to study at CEU. These skills will help you become a better negotiator, or a salesman or maybe just a little more comfortable answering the famous question – tell me about yourself.