Dave DeSantis | Negotiating From Both Sides of the Table
At the end of the day, sales success is about having prospects and customers trust you – and never betraying that trust.
There are some obvious ways of doing that… but others that aren’t so clear says Dave DeSantis of negotiation training company Camp Systems.
We also talk about the strategies you can use in any business negotiation to ensure a fair outcome… and the one behavior you must avoid because it’s guaranteed to kill a deal.
Tune in to find out…
- When to walk away from big – even huge – deals
- The foundation of impactful sales and marketing strategy
- The surprising way systems lead to productivity
- How to make your prospect comfortable in the sales environment
- And more
Mentioned in This Episode: www.campnegotiations.com/spc
Michael Webb: Some people focus on selling processes like internet marketing or selling to senior level decision makers. Other people talk about process tools, measurement of data and systems thinking. But not many people talk about how these can be brought together to motivate people and create wealth for everyone. That’s what we discuss on The Sales Process Excellence Podcast.
I’m Michael Webb, and today my guest is Dave DeSantis. Dave is a business partner with Camp Systems and a former client. Dave, welcome here.
David DeSantis: Thank you, Michael.
Michael Webb: I’m glad we could schedule this time to kind of catch up and talk. Could you take a couple of minutes and explain a little bit about your background that led up to what you’re doing today?
David DeSantis: Sure, sure. Yeah, Michael and I met many years ago now when I was leading a medical device company and we were trying to figure out how to make our sales teams more effective. And by going through processes with Michael, of understanding from the perspective of our customers, we were able to put together systems and processes in place that were much more effective than what we had in the past.
So my background is really in general management, leading companies, with an emphasis on sales, marketing, and commercial services. Prior to leading these medical device companies, I was also a leader out of sales and marketing functions, and also head of operational excellence activities at another company.
So, all of that experience kind of fit well with the work that Michael was doing from understanding from an operations point of view and applying to commercial businesses. So, that worked well for us, and we had much success with that program.
What I’m doing now is working with Camp Systems, and Camp Systems is a negotiation training and coaching company. It was founded by Jim Camp, a leading expert on negotiations. And Jim and his team have trained over 100,000 people over the past 30 years to negotiate better and more profitable agreements. Jim is the author of The New York Times bestselling book Start with No: The Negotiating Tools the Pros Don’t Want You to Know.
At Camp Systems we help business leaders get more of what they want by negotiating better agreements. We do this by applying a system of principles and behaviors that are based on effective decision making and do not require a compromise.
The system shows you how and why to conduct your entire negotiation from the point of view of the other party, to eliminate neediness and fear of making mistakes. We teach how to use the word “no” along with these principles and behaviors to keep you safe and create more profitable agreements.
Michael Webb: Very interesting. Very interesting, well, I’m looking forward to our conversation. I have been since we scheduled it because of the … as when we were chatting before, the intersection between training and the whole mindset around what salespeople do, and the idea of principles and systems thinking.
So I’d like to start off with this initial question. How were you first introduced to the idea of principles in business, like systems thinking or others? I mean, going back into your career, this idea came up. Tell us about that and how it led to what you’ve learned about process excellence and about improving results in business.
David DeSantis: Yeah, sure, Michael. I started thinking about this question of how principles apply to me and their importance in a business situation, and I thought backwards a little further on where did I even come up with on appreciation for principles, as opposed to looking at results. And I think it all started with my parents, quite honestly, introducing me to the principles of respect for others, truthfulness, value and ethics, and obeying the rule of law in society, for a good society.
It was probably further enhanced in my education, where I realized that there’s principles in specific subjects like in science and math, and these principles really are the bedrock of the rules of those particular subjects. So they were something that you could always go back to as kind of your home base.
Probably in business the application of these principles started with my, gosh, my first job cutting lawns. I realized the principle of respect for others and doing what you say you’re going to do are paramount, and that extended with me through my career all the way to CEO of leading companies and partnering now and coaching people on negotiating and how to do their deals more effectively.
Michael Webb: Isn’t that interesting, how those basic ideas and realizations you have as a kid in middle school or high school … I did too, I mowed lawns, and worked as a dishwasher and a waiter and boy, you learn a lot with those initial experiences. And the principles, like you said, like math and chemistry, and they go back to explain help you how reality works.
So, as you think about principles that are important, especially for sales and marketing, what comes to mind as an important one?
David DeSantis: I think with respect to sales and marketing, the most important principles that I’ve always relied on are respect for others and the concept of trust, especially in the sales and marketing arena, people are always a little bit wary of what is this person going to push on me that maybe I don’t need or isn’t quite appropriate for whatever my situation is. And what I found over the years is that really goes back to the core principle of trust between two people.
So the real issue is how do you build trust, and how do you sincerely do that so you can deliver your goods, products, or services as represented and the other party is happy with that.
Michael Webb: And boy, lots of complications there. I remember a situation when I was … it had to be my first year being a salesman out of college. And of course, we were all being nose to the grindstone. Right? Our boss is after us to make the calls and get some orders and … I went for like more than six months, seven, eight months I think before I got my first order.
David DeSantis: Wow.
Michael Webb: And that was a scary, uncomfortable time. Right?
David DeSantis: Yeah.
Michael Webb: And I had an experience with a customer where I thought I had him ready. You know? And I was ready to go sell something to him, and I pushed it a little too hard and they asked me not to come back. How embarrassing. Right?
David DeSantis: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Michael Webb: Boy, that was like a direct voltage to your spinal cord about trust, and misusing that trust. And unfortunately, a lot of people have to go through that. Right? Before they learn it.
David DeSantis: And unfortunate I think is the right word to use there because as a new person coming into an organization like you were, and just being expected to push and push for a result, as opposed to working a system and trying to get inside the head of the person that you’re speaking with. I see that failure over and over and over in business, in sales, in marketing, and in negotiations where people have this tendency, and it’s probably due to evolution, that we just try to push and get what we want, when the examples come back to us over and over again.
The only time someone is really comfortable purchasing in a sales environment is when they make the internal decision themselves that this good or service is good for them. They don’t make the decision because you’re pushing it on them, they have to go through their own decision path, tell themselves a story why this is good for them, create an emotion that they actually want this thing, and then they can come and make a decision that they want it.
And once they go through that process, and sometimes price isn’t even relevant once they’ve made the decision. Now it’s just a conversation on what is the value of that decision.
Michael Webb: So, I totally agree with you, and all that stuff takes place between your ears, as the salesperson, and the ears of the customer, so you have to have a lot of empathy there. But I think that there are things that companies can do that really get in the way of building that empathy and that trust, and other things they can do to promote it and ensure that it happens. Care to comment on that?
David DeSantis: Yeah, sure. One of the biggest blocks of creating empathy and allowing their teams to get inside their actual customers’ heads to discover what they want is the metric systems and the culture of pushing for results.
Now, believe me, I know that every business needs to make money, and I think that’s not a bad thing in itself. You need to generate profits so you can invest in your business. You can pay your employees and treat them well, as well as make a return for your investors.
But I think the methodology of just focusing on the results themselves is the real shortcoming. Because, again, I’ll go back to what we were speaking of earlier. The real issue is people make decisions to buy something based on their emotions as well as their logic that’s coming through.
So the only way to get to someone and understand their emotional state and reasons why they would buy your product or understand your services or even work with you is because you align with them somehow in your story. And that’s up to you to figure that out and get inside their head, and really create a vision for them so they can see the benefit for themselves for the use of your product.
And that’s contrarian to what most businesses try to do, which is I need to sell this to you because I need to make my monthly number. From the customer’s perspective, that’s really irrelevant. From the customer’s perspective, they look at what will this product do for me, how will it help me, help my customers, investors, and employees.
Michael Webb: You know, if you think about it from the perspective of the development of a person. Right? A human person. As a child, they’re all very self-centered, naturally. As an adult, to be effective with other adults, they have to develop some degree of empathy.
And we recently had some experience here with family members going through dementia, and end of life stages, and boy, they lose that empathy in a heartbeat. Right? So this issue of empathy and the ability to learn it, and the space to learn it, the respect for it is something that I agree with you, companies need to be aware of that. They need to create an environment where that’s respected and acknowledged, and I know I have not worked for very many companies that have done that.
I haven’t worked for any companies that did that, which is kind of why I’m off on my own. I’m basically unemployable anymore, but, I mean, have you seen that as well, I mean, what would you say?
David DeSantis: Well, I see that. And I’m going to take a little different view of that, because I do see companies that embrace it, and they also embrace it for some business reasons. And that reason is speed. When you’re truly empathetic, and you are able to open up a dialogue with others, faster and deeper, and at the end of the day, in a negotiation, it’s really all about getting as much information on the table as possible so both parties can find the best opportunity to work together between them.
In that sense, more information is better than less information. And when you allow the other person to feel safe, they tend to speak more, they tend to share more, and the best way to make people feel safe is to be empathetic and to respect them. To make them feel that they’re not being threatened.
And that comes back to originally when we started talking about the concept of trust. You need to genuinely have them trust you so they’ll share with you what they want. Once you figure out what they really want, then you can craft your offering to satisfy that need.
The part of the negotiation is to satisfy that need and not necessarily give them things they don’t want that cost you something. And that’s how the profitability of your agreements can increase dramatically when you take this approach to how you interact with people and how you can conduct your negotiations.
Michael Webb: Right, when I was a sales trainer, we had a partnership with a negotiations training company, and from what I could tell, it was good. I mean, these are good models that are used, and they’re productive and helpful for people. But you said a key word there, there’s a kind of a cost, there’s a …
So, doing any negotiation requires asking questions and spending time that might not be the normal course of activities unless the salesperson decides he needs to do that. So when he gets sales training, and, “Oh, I have to do this now,” it’s more work that’s being added to the salesperson.
And sometimes that could get in the way. Most salespeople don’t have time, they are trying to do this extra work on all of their deals and they end up sort of throwing their hands up and maybe only using a little bit of the material that they get. Have you seen that happen?
David DeSantis: I have seen that happen, and what we find are some of the key drivers for that behavior or that inefficiency of implementation is for a couple of reasons. And the first being, people go to negotiation, or any kind of a training seminar for one or two days and everything sounds great, and then they leave, and they forget what to do, or when the rubber hits the road, it doesn’t quite work for the example that they heard in the class. So they give up.
So, the first thing is, this is not easy work. This is hard work, and it requires some effort. Kind of like playing an instrument, or learning how to play a sport. You don’t wake up one day and become the masters golf champion, you need to spend your 10,000 hours of practice, and have some inherent skill. At least with negotiation or selling, this is a learned skill that you can learn if you put the time in.
As part of the learning, though, like playing a sport, if you get the advice of an expert, they can keep you focused on the activities and behaviors that actually work for that particular, we call it a human performance event. So, the poor sales guy who says, “I don’t have time to ask questions.” So what is their alternative? Not to ask questions? Or to ask bad questions? And how is that working out for you?
So you need the coach in the background until you master the system to help you stick to the system, because a lot of work will go into learning it, but once you kind of hit an inflection point, all of a sudden you become super-productive.
Michael Webb: Well, and I think that it also has to do with like prioritizing, sorting, the various opportunities, so that you’re taking your newfound, more productive talent and applying it in the most effective theater that you can. I mean you have to have qualified prospects before it justifies spending this time asking questions. Is that fair?
David DeSantis: Oh, absolutely. And I think that comes back to the mission and purpose of your own company and of yourself. So you really need to prioritize those opportunities against what is the mission and purpose of your company that you represented and yourself. And if you come up with an opportunity that may be high value, but it goes against your basic principles, you really should walk away from it, because you’re never going to get a good deal there.
You may be mesmerized by the high potential dollar value, but 90% chance you’ll never achieve it because it’s counter to what you do, and even in the event you do, the deal won’t stick. So you really have to be sure of yourself and what you offer and what you can deliver, and make sure that those are always part of the alignment process with your opportunities that you’re looking at.
Michael Webb: Right, okay. I was thinking of the observable qualification criteria, and I mean, one of the reasons I’m doing what I’m doing now is that in all my years, seven years, with the sales training and consulting company and man they never, we just didn’t have a way within the psychology of a training company to help the client figure out how to solve that knotty problem of …
If we don’t have enough of opportunities what do we do about it? If we have enough opportunities, how do we tell … how do you make sure we’re spending the time on the right accounts? And there are some rules of thumb and BANT; budget, authority, need and timing. And still the productivity of the sales force didn’t change over time, and still there’s high turnover of sales forces, still there … only a few people are using the training or the CRMs that were brought to them.
I mean, and I’m not trying to knock training. Certainly not the company that you are working with. But how would you … I mean, what are your observations about that?
David DeSantis: Well, I agree with a lot of the things that you’re saying, and I think it’s not from lack of training, but I think it’s from poor training or training that’s not aligned with basic human behaviors, and also not aligned with what your customer actually needs versus what you want.
And the way we always teach people to go about this is first, everything that we do in a negotiation has to be conducted from the point of view of the customer. We call that the mission and purpose. So everything there … and that’s how we start the conversation.
So, it’s … the objective of this particular 15-minute session of negotiation is … and we share this with the adversary, the person on the other side of the table … our purpose is to provide you the opportunity to get product X, Y, Z because that’s critical to your needs and to do this on a long-term basis. That’s our objective of this conversation. Do you agree with that or not? And ask for a decision. If they say yes, okay, great. Now we have a bedrock.
So now everything that you’re doing is going against that mission and purpose, which is all in the world of the customer. Once you do that, you … and this is part of your preparation … is you identify the biggest problems that you see that are preventing you from providing that customer that opportunity.
And that then is the conversation that you’re going to have, and it’s very narrow. You focus on the big problems, and you kind of put guide-rails on the rest of the … when the customer tries to blindside you one way, “Yeah, but your price is no good,” and you say, “Well, first of all, we don’t even negotiate price yet because we don’t exactly know what you want, and what is worthwhile for you. So we can provide these services to you, so you can go back to that mission and purpose.” And so you really have to flesh out these ideas and these concepts before you get there.
You mentioned earlier that salespeople don’t have time to do that, and honestly in 20 years of experience, I found they don’t have time not to do it. Because when they don’t do it, they’ll be looking at 10 customers and not selling any of them, or one or two, when instead they could be selling five, and actually closing deals.
Michael Webb: One of the things … yeah, one of the things that I remember was the … I don’t know if need is the right word, but you talk about preparation. These companies that are involved in negotiation programs could prepare … like if they study all their legal, the times they had to go to the legal department to negotiate the contract, there’s probably a half a dozen issues that have come up regularly, but maybe nobody decided that, or figured out, what they are and prepared in advance a set of contract alternatives that could be used in the event that this one or that one was important to a given prospect.
Or in there … prior to getting involved in a negotiation, there are probably a predictable set of information that you would like to have about the client before we even decide that we’re going to enter into a negotiation and the company up until the time the guy involved in this initiative, nobody had ever thought about that, or structured it in any way.
And when you do that kind of systemic improvement, and make those tools part of the salesperson’s job it can resolve a lot. It can take away a lot of the time that they would have had to spend figuring this stuff out on their own.
David DeSantis: Well, absolutely. So you’re leveraging past experience. I mean, that’s one of the key points of having a robust system.
Michael Webb: It is. And it’s something that the salespeople cannot do by themselves.
David DeSantis: No, no, there are inputs to the system in that sense.
Michael Webb: Right, right. So when you say a robust system, what are you referring to there?
David DeSantis: Well, what we refer to in the words of a system is really the collection of principles and behaviors that when appropriately applied to the right situation creates the right environment and allows you to move a negotiation forward.
And so for us the principles are things like respect for the individual, the fact that everyone has the right to get what they want, but you don’t have the right to hurt others on your journey to get that.
Michael Webb: Okay.
David DeSantis: You have to know what you can deliver and how it benefits the other party. That’s a principle. You have to know that all people follow the same path for making decisions, it’s kind of wired in our brains. It’s primarily emotional and it’s sometimes supported with logic. You have to understand that. When you understand some of these principles then you structure your conversations that are consistent with those. Those are bedrock, they don’t really change.
And the tools that are the behaviors that you then exhibit, like always conducting your discussions from the point of view of the other party, never act needy for a deal, because the truth is the only thing you need is to eat, sleep, and have some companionship. Everything else is an add-on.
And there’s a lot of psychological reasons why when you show neediness to get something done, you put yourself in a position that can be compromised by the other side. So you’re better off just being open and honest and doing your best in trying to satisfy the other party. When you’re showing neediness, you’re also internally focused on what you want, and we said the number one behavior is focus on the other side, not on yourself.
Michael Webb: So, and if you work with clients, I’m sure you have seen various companies that … and there’s differences in the maturity that those organizations display around their sales process. I mean what are some of your observations about that?
David DeSantis: Oh, yeah. We’ve seen the entire spectrum, Michael, from people that want to hire us, and we refuse to work with them because their sales process is one of push, push, push, me, me, me, and that’s not what we do. We see other extremes where people want to be friends with everybody. They practice the so-called win-win strategy, and we come right up and say, “That’s not what we do.”
And they may ask, “Well, what do you mean, you don’t do win-win? That’s good for everybody,” and kind of our view on that is win-win, when someone says win-win, what they’re preparing, before they even start the negotiation is that they’re going to compromise, and there’s no need to do that, because you don’t even know what the other side needs yet.
The other point about win-win that we say, we really don’t support, is; how do you measure it? I mean, your whole process is about metrics and doing things that are measurable. Well, you may not see the results of a negotiation for many years, if it’s a long agreement. So, why in the world would you say you’re going to do something that you can’t measure and see the results? We would much rather say, let’s focus our conversations on making sound decisions, and getting inside the head of the other person, and trying to get them the best thing for them that is aligned with what you can actually offer and deliver.
And if you do that, the agreements that you make over time are most likely much better than what you’ve been doing …
Michael Webb: Interesting. So, do you have a way of measuring the quality of a negotiation or the quality of a deal from the perspective of the customer or of the seller?
David DeSantis: Absolutely. When we say, “We’re going to start every negotiation from the mind of the customer and what’s in their head,” we create what we call the mission and purpose statement. So, like I mentioned earlier, our objective is to provide you the opportunity to do this that helps you because it will help you. And in the background, we’ve done the same for ourselves. We’re going to do this deal because it supports our own internal mission and purpose, which is to create great products, help the world, make enough money for ourselves to further invest in our business as well as have whatever lifestyle we’re looking to have.
And if we satisfy both of those mission and purposes simultaneously, that is a successful negotiation.
Michael Webb: Okay, but if …
David DeSantis: -there’s no concept of money involved there, I have to get 10 dollars for this part.
Michael Webb: No, no, no, right, right, right, right, right. But I’m looking for a way … I mean, measurement is comparison to a standard. Right? And so you can do that and put things in a priority order. I mean, you can do that and actually use quantities. Right?
And so I’m curious, you remember how we did qualification criteria, and there was a number associated with the quality of every sales opportunity. Is there anything like that that you know of in the world of negotiation?
David DeSantis: Well, not as formalized as you do it, but I guess intrinsically, when we do this, when we’re in a negotiation, and it works and we’re inside the head of the other person … and by the way, we don’t push our products on them. If we do our job well, they ask us to take our products. And when that happens, that’s a yes. Right? And not everybody says, “Yeah, great,” they said, “Yes.”
But in our world, yes without how really doesn’t count. Though we may say something like, “Well that’s great, I’m glad that we’re at step one now of actually helping you achieve your mission and purpose. So now let’s get into the details of how that’s going to happen.”
So with your question of how do you measure this, I think an interesting way, and we haven’t done this yet, but it may be of good value, is to see if we have any faults. When we’re figuring out the “how” to implement, and we find that we miss something, or whatever the how was that we defined didn’t work, that would be, I guess, a black mark on that negotiation.
So that could be a measure. A key point is, though, if we’re always in the head of the other side and they know our intent was always to deliver on what we said, then at least we have the relationship where we can go back in and fix those over time. It’s not going to be … land us in court or something because that’s the method that we use.
Michael Webb: I see, okay. Very interesting. My mind’s looking for these ways of making … what goes on between the ears of the salesperson and the customer, more visible, more observable, more concrete, and more measurable. Not just measurement for measurement’s sake, but measurement so that you can actually be sure if you’re creating value. And so that’s kind of something I’m just always been on the lookout for.
And so, glad to hear that you … I mean, it sounds like a very, very proven sort of set of structured principles. I’m sure it’s been able to help a lot of people over time. Any other observations with regard to systems thinking and principles in management of sales and marketing?
David DeSantis: Yeah, I think a big thing is during the learning process when it’s new to a lot of people, they have to have a little faith, and they have to trust the system. And we see that many times, for example, we … in our system, we always say, you know, you want to move the project forward somehow. And if you get a no, that’s okay, because that’s a clear decision.
No is really the start of the negotiation. It’s not something that stops you. Think of it, like when you get a no, you know you hit a boundary condition. If I get a yes too early, well you may be well away from that boundary condition of what’s possible. So you’re better off getting noes because then at least you know you’re kind of pushing the envelope a little bit on what you’re trying to achieve. And then it opens you up to ask the question of to the person, “Well, what else can I do? What would you like me to do to get beyond that?”
And when you ask questions like that, more often than not they will tell you what to do, and they’ll tell you from their own perspective, which is much more valuable to you than you broadcasting what you think they should do. They instead, tell you what to do.
And so if you follow that system, and that’s hard for people to do because we’re so … been so conditioned to avoid the word no, we think it’s bad when actually it’s good, and we’re also predisposed to broadcast as opposed to listen. And when you get over those things, you do much better.
I’ll just give you a small example. We coach people in many types of deals, many big deals. So we’ll coach CEOs who are selling their companies. We’ll coach people who are trying to build relationships with other parties so maybe they can do business in the future. And they think that they need to write a five-page letter of introduction so the other party will be impressed with what they say. And what we teach is that it’s really not important, what’s important is that you ask direct questions, and ask for a specific answer, “Do you accept my request or not?”
And that’s scary for people. We’re so conditioned to kind of playing it soft and hopefully that they read between the lines, when the truth is most people don’t have much time and they don’t even know what you’re asking them when you think you’re so subtle, you’re much better off being direct, asking a short, very focused question. And you’d be surprised how often you get the answer that you’re looking for. And when you do that, you’re able to move forward.
Michael Webb: So it’s back to that idea of empathy. I mean, there’s a lot of energy and thought and art into developing that empathy and most of the time, we really don’t understand the other person’s point of view as well as we think we do. So if you don’t ask the questions, then you’re making assumptions, and we all know how that turns out.
David DeSantis: You got it. One of our principles is, it’s impossible to know what the other person is thinking. Because the other person’s thought, and the other person’s … the basis for how they make decisions is a function of their biology, which is really fight-flight, and they’re going to process things, “Is this going to hurt me or is this going to help me?”
All the way through and including their life experiences, well maybe they were trained in calculus and you’re asking a question that requires that. Or maybe you’re asking a question in German language, and they don’t speak German.
And all of those things are incorporated into how they then generated emotion, “Do I know this, do I not know this?” Which then leads them to making a decision. So because everyone’s life experience, habits, biases, biology is different, there’s no way that any two people would come to the same decision for exactly the same reasons.
Which just leads to the point, that’s why you have to ask questions and figure out what’s in their head, because there’s no way you know it yourself.
Michael Webb: Then it applies to leaders and managers inside the company who have to work with each other just as much as it does to the people in the company who have to be …
David DeSantis: Oh, absolutely, Michael. To your point, principles are universal. Right? So these are principles for dialogue between people. It could be salesperson to customer, it could be you to your boss, it could be you to the people who work with you. The principles are the same.
Michael Webb: Totally agree. Well, very interesting. It’s been fun to catch up with you after, what is it? 10 or 15 years almost when we-
David DeSantis: Yeah, how about that?
Michael Webb: -when we talked before, we’re both getting to be old guys.
David DeSantis: Wise.
Michael Webb: Yeah, right. Well, and it takes a lot to learn principles. I’m just thrilled that you had a chance that we could get this scheduled, and have this conversation. I know that there was a lot of stuff in there, that there’s a bunch of people out in the world who’d like to be listening in on this kind of conversation, and I really appreciate your time.
Is there a way, if people want to know more about what you do and Camp Systems, is there a way that they can get ahold of you?
David DeSantis: Yeah, sure. They can go to our website and see a little more detail of what we do and what we offer, and that URL is www.campnegotiations, that’s C-A-M-P, negotiations plural, .com, and that will get you to the site.
So, we also have a special offer for the listeners of this podcast, they can go to www.campnegotiations.com/spc.
Michael Webb: Okay, super. Well thank you for that, and thank you very much for your time here today, and you taking out of your schedule. So, we’ll have to do this again at some point soon, really appreciate it.
David DeSantis: Yeah, that sounds great, thanks for the opportunity, Michael.