How Are Negotiation and Leadership Related?

This is a guest post by Steve Brown. Steve’s writing on various sites focuses on business related topics. Also he writes for the site The Gap Partnership. Apart from his writing, he loves to swim and hike whenever he gets time.

There’s a lot more to being a good leader than just being smart. People who have studied great leaders have identified certain traits that are common to these people, whether they are in business, politics, or any other field.  Some of these same leadership traits can also be useful in a negotiation.  Here are some of the ways in which wise leadership and wise negotiation converge.


A sense of fairness

A strong leader always treats people fairly, including employees, customers, and everyone else. If employees feel that they are being treated unfairly, it can create resentment and undermine the leadership. Ensuring that everyone is treated honestly and fairly engenders a greater sense of respect and loyalty; thus, this is an important trait of wise leaders.

This same sense of fairness is beneficial in negotiations as well. It can help you to establish trust during the process so that you can work with the other person to achieve an outcome that is fair to all parties.


Look for mutual benefit

Great leaders look for solutions that can satisfy everyone’s interests not just their own. By ensuring that the needs of customers, employees, shareholders, and others are considered, it creates an environment where everyone can be pleased with the decisions and the results.  In a negotiation, looking for this mutual benefit can change the dynamic from an adversarial one to a situation where the parties are looking for shared solutions that benefit both of them.  This is how you can achieve a win-win result that both parties are happy with.


Emotional detachment

Sometimes making a good decision means detaching the emotions so that you can weigh your options dispassionately and logically.  Good leaders know how to do this so that they can make wise decisions.  In negotiation, you also need to avoid becoming overly attached to a particular plan or outcome.  Instead, keep an open mind and be willing to consider suggestions and alternatives.  Bringing too many emotions into the process can cloud the issues and lead to poor decisions.


“Great leaders effectively communicate their higher purpose.” -Steve Brown


Have a higher purpose

Using Improvised Persuasion to Achieve Your Goals


One of my beliefs is that everyone can benefit from understanding sales techniques.  I simplify it to say, “We are all in sales.”

Whether you actually are a sales professional or not, you will find that successful people understand sales techniques and use them in everyday life.

  • Need funding for a new business?
  • Growing your platform? 
  • Need to convince your kids to eat more veggies?

Steve Yastrow is the author of Ditch the Pitch, a new book that teaches sales people to tear up the sales script and really understand your customer.  Steve founded Yastrow and Company and helps organizations improve results through sales and marketing techniques.

We recently had a chance to catch up and talk about persuasion.


“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears: by listening.” -Dean Rusk



A New Approach to Persuasion


Sales VP’s all over the world will read the title of your book Ditch the Pitch and wonder:  “The pitch is how we sell others our ideas,” they will say, “It’s our main way of selling.”  You say that the pitch doesn’t work.  Why?

If a salesperson determines what he wants to say to a customer before he meets with that customer, the odds that this message will be the right message for this customer, at this time, are one in a million.  We can’t possibly know in advance, even with customers we’ve known for a long time, what their current mood, situation, attitudes and reactions to information will be.

Additionally, customers behave differently once they detect a pitch.  They get defensive. They resist sharing information.  They start thinking about the next meeting they need to go to.

Instead of the pitch, you have a new approach in persuasive communications.  What is it?Steve Yastrow Headshot

Improvisation.  I teach people to gain the confidence to tear up their sales pitch and create fresh, spontaneous, persuasive conversations that are interesting, relevant and meaningful to their customers.

As you have taught this model to sales leaders, have you had any pushback or concerns?  How do you help overcome the desire for a canned pitch since it is comfortable and familiar?

Often people tell me that they are not good improvisers and that they need a script to keep them on track.  The fact is, however, that these people are already awesome improvisers. Human beings were born to improvise.  We evolved to navigate an ever-changing, dynamic, unpredictable environment.  Consider this:  Have you ever had two 10-minute periods in your life that were exactly the same?  Of course not.  Without improvising, human beings wouldn’t have been able to use stone tools, track prey or cross Main Street.

And the most developed human improvisational skill is conversation.  Notice the social conversations you have; they are all created on the spot, in the moment, based on what happens in that particular interaction.  Ditch the Pitch helps people take their natural human talent for improvisation and bring it into their customer encounters.


“Not brute force but only persuasion and faith are the kinds of this world.” -Thomas Caryle


6 Habits to Persuade


Your book outlines six habits to persuade others.  Let’s just touch one as an example.  Habit #6 is, “Don’t Rush the Story.”  Would you highlight this one for us?

Everyone reading this interview is knowledgeable and expert about what they sell.  Inevitably, this expertise helps us quickly diagnose customer situations and develop solutions.  The problem is that we will always devise these solutions before our customers are ready to hear them, and if we tell them to our customers too soon we will overwhelm them.  The idea is to be patient and bring information into your persuasive conversation at a pace your customer can accept.

Selling to the C-Suite

In a previous post, I shared my opinions on selling to the top of an organization and why it isn’t always the best route to success.

There are obviously times when selling to the top is not only smart, but it’s required. Recently, I was asked about how to approach busy professionals with an idea, product, or service. If you are selling to senior executives, here are a few guidelines that may prove helpful.


“Stop selling. Start helping.” –Zig Ziglar

Be prepared.

As a sales leader, knowing your own company and your product is a requirement.  Take it a step further.  You need to know our company, too. When someone obviously hasn’t so much as looked at the company’s Web site, he has already lost credibility.  Don’t flaunt your advanced preparation, but work in ways you think we will benefit from a relationship.

It applies on the phone, too.  I can’t tell you how many people who finally do get me on the line are not prepared.  If you’re ready for the gatekeeper, but not the person you’re targeting, here’s a hint:  Don’t make the call.  Do your homework.


“Timid salesmen have skinny kids.” –Zig Ziglar


Be clear.

Don’t launch into a stream of acronyms or nonsensical statements.  No, I’m not meeting with you for an hour to learn to “drive efficiencies throughout the organization, maximizing ROI and improving profits.”  Really.  We do that every day, and we know the business and you don’t.  So, be clear on what the benefit is to the organization.  Don’t use complex language designed to impress.


“Every sale has 5 basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.” –Zig Ziglar


Be crisp.

We’re all busy.  Don’t drag it out.  Most executives are incredibly busy and bottom-line oriented.  If you catch my attention, then you will have more leeway and time to make your case.

7 Brand Building Principles of the Best Brands

What Makes a Brand Great

Denise Lee Yohn knows what makes a brand great.  With twenty-five years of experience building some of the world’s greatest brands, she knows the strategies that work.  Whether Burger King, Land Rover, Jack-In-the-Box, Spiegel, or Sony Electronics, Denise has knows the principles that make a great brand. Her book on branding is a must read: What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest.

“Make the small stuff your business.” -Denise Lee Yohn


If you think branding is a logo or an advertising campaign, think again.  You may think you don’t “do” branding, but then you will miss learning some incredibly important business ideas—because corporate branding means more, and all of us have a personal brand.

start inside

Denise, when most people think of branding, they think of a television commercial, an internet ad or a new logo.  It’s ironic to me that branding itself is not branded properly.  Your book completely redefines what great branding is.  Why do most people have the wrong impression about branding?


“Great brands ignore trends.” -Denise Lee Yohn


Branding actually refers to the practice of putting a symbol on a thing – ranchers used to brand their cattle with a unique mark to indicate their ownership.  The practice was then adopted by companies selling products.  They developed logos to put on their products to distinguish them and to signal which companies made them.  Over time these symbols became cues of product quality and meaning – people would assume a product from a particular company had a level of quality consistent with the company’s past or other products, and they would attribute some meaning to it when they associated the logo with it.   Marketers worked hard to develop compelling logos and strong positive associations with them. DLYohn Headshot Portrait 2013

So technically the understanding of branding as a business practice is still correct, but it’s clear that the value of branding has diminished.  It’s no longer enough to develop a creative logo or to launch clever marketing campaigns to express what your brand stands for.  Companies must execute on their brand identities too.  Today’s savvy customers can see through a branding veneer, so a company must translate its brand vision into customer reality.

Let’s touch on a few of your branding principles to give a flavor for your unique approach to brand-building.  The first is great brands start inside—with culture.  Why is organizational culture the starting point?

Culture is the necessary first step when you want to define or re-define your brand because culture is what ensures your employees understand and embrace what your brand stands for and understand their roles in interpreting and reinforcing your brand.  So great brands rally their people around common cultural values and use their brands to focus, align, and optimize the inner workings of their organizations.

Saying More With Less


Have you ever tuned out in a meeting because the speaker is rambling?

Do you find your mind wandering when listening? 

What happens when someone does not get to the point?


Recently, I read BRIEF: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less by Joseph McCormack.  He is the founder of a boutique marketing agency, The Sheffield Company, with clients ranging from Harley-Davidson to MasterCard.  I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the power of brevity.


Talk to the point and stop when you have reached it. –F.V. Irish


I love the message of this book.  In my interactions, I am constantly asking for headlines and bottom lines. Or I am famous for flipping to the last page of the PowerPoint to see where it all ends.  Why is brevity more important today than ever before?

We have passed the point where people can handle the volumes of information that’s headed their way. The result is a divided mind that is highly inattentive and constantly interrupted. The average attention span is now eight seconds, which is one second less than a goldfish. People that cannot get to the point and command others’ (in)attention face the real risk of being ignored and overlooked.


Simplicity is the glory of expression. –Walt Whitman


You discuss what you call the 7 Capital Sins that interfere with the goal.  In your work, have you seen one or two that consistently rank the highest for busy executives?

The 7 Capital Sins are: cowardice, confidence, callousness, comfort, confusion, complication, and carelessness. They represent the subtle, and often unconscious, sins that can keep up from being succinct naturally, and I go into them more in-depth and provide strategies to circumvent them in my book.


7 Capital Sins

  1. Cowardice
  2. Confidence
  3. Callousness
  4. Comfort
  5. Confusion
  6. Complication
  7. Carelessness

Confidence and comfort, in particular, are two sins committed often by professionals, particularly senior executives. When people are knowledgeable and have authority, they tend to be so confident that they want to share everything they know. Given their position of responsibility, those around them have little choice but to buckle themselves in for a long ride. In a similar vein, executives are proud and fall in love with the sound of their own voice. They get so comfortable that it’s like a snowball running down a steep hill.


Get to the point or pay the price. –Joseph McCormack


Storytelling is powerful.  Why does storytelling trump persuasion?