When Negotiations Become Confrontational
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Strong negotiations skills are essential for retail dietitians to possess, as most services and programs you offer require partnership at some level. Previously, we have discussed getting comfortable with negotiation basics, which has given rise to questions from RDBA members on how to handle situations when negotiations become contentious. Today’s article focuses on tips for managing these complicated conversations.
Avoid an Emotional Response.
When I worked for Target, I would periodically receive provoking emails that where hot buttons related to health and wellness. While I could have fired off a sassy response, I established a rule of letting those e-mails sit for 24 hours before answering. This allowed me to remain calm and write a response focused on business strategies and agreements and commitments that had been made. No matter how others act, what strategy they use or what behavior they demonstrate, it’s essential to stay calm and in control. A reaction based on emotion will likely be regretted later.
If the contentious negotiation takes place in person, prepare yourself in advance. Walk through your key points, even writing them down. Imagine the other person’s response and what they could potentially say that would elicit an emotional response. Talk yourself through how you will stay professional and calm given various scenarios and before you have the conversation.
Proactively Confront the Situation
Retail dietitians often partner with internal colleagues who have been at the company longer, have a loftier title or are a higher paygrade. It can be nerve-wracking if one of these individuals makes a decision without consulting you or takes an action that impacts your programs and services without considering the consequences. You may feel too intimidated to respond.
It’s essential to face these situations head on, clearing the air, reiterating goals of programs, and agreements made about said programs. After all, avoidance rarely makes the situation go away, and in the long run, may impact your overall ROI and success metrics.
Stay focused on facts and communicate the success of programs and services being questioned. Remember that your work is important to the company’s business and hold your ground. If the other person is tough, maintain composure while being assertive in equal or greater measure. It’s important to be respectful and professional, but that doesn’t mean others have the right to walk over you.
Seek to Understand
The retail environment is a constantly moving ball of energy, making listening skills essential in all negotiations, especially confrontational ones. Hear the person out. Ask questions. Seek to understand why they did what they did. Then find the common goal. State your case. Aim to maintain the quality of a long-term relationship with this colleague without sacrificing your goals and objectives.
At the end of the day, all partners involved have the same goals in mind – driving sales for the retailer and meeting the shoppers’ needs. It’s essential to prioritize corporate goals, while at the same time, remaining firm in your nutrition program and services’ role in company success during difficult negotiations.