Blue Highways Journey – Episode 44 – Negotiating

Jerry Dawkins and his Associate VP of Marketing had decided to do a blue highway journey together to have some time to think about their sales staff training. Ginni Florio was mainly responsible for their technical sales force. The industry was changing and the old school hard-sell approach was no longer working.

Jerry had picked a journey through one of the nation’s last old growth forests. As he and Ginni marveled at a part of the country they never knew even existed. They had a lot of time to rethink their staff development needs.  But all they had come up with were tweaks of their current training. They needed something new. As beautiful as the woods were, they hadn’t inspired any new ideas.

It was toward the end of their journey when they encountered what looked to be an unfolding hostage situation. A group of local citizens were holding loggers hostage. The owner of the forest had allowed a timber company to harvest the older trees to make way for newer growth.

Jerry was curious about the situation and decided to observe the confrontation. It didn’t take long for Jerry to find a spokesman for the police to talk to. Fearing that Jerry and Ginni were press, the spokesman decided to explain the police action.

“As much as you or I might admire the forest and hate to see the trees being cut, we need to protect the loggers from violence. We’ve called in our Hostage Rescue Unit (HRU) to see if they can resolve this situation peacefully.”

“How does that work?” asked Ginni. 

“The key is to engage the hostage takers in a conversation to gain their trust. If we’re successful and can get the hostages released, then we will allow the parties to work through a settlement. We don’t want to make arrests or escalate the violence.”  

“The woman you see with the megaphone is our chief hostage negotiator. She has a sheet of paper in front of her with what we call hooks and triggers. The hooks are prompts we can use to sustain the conversation. It’s things we know they care about, and they give us an entry to building trust. The triggers are subjects we want to avoid. If these come up, the conversation will likely end or lead to nothing good.” 

“I’m fascinated,” said Jerry. “How do you identify these hooks and triggers?” 

“Technology really helps. If we can identify the persons we are dealing with, we develop a hooks and triggers profile from their social media posts. The key is to humanize the conversation and not make it a transactional debate.” 

While Jerry and Ginni needed to move on, they couldn’t forget the hooks and triggers strategy. “I think we need to think of developing a hooks and triggers approach to getting to yes with our customers. We need to rethink our training from a one-size-fits-all approach to a customized approach for each client based on valuing what excites them (the hooks) to what turns them off (the triggers).”

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“The key to all of life is understanding how to add value to others.”
– Jay Abraham


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