Negotiation Services offered by Lax Sebenius LLC

By: Lax Sebenius  09-12-2011

We have found over the years that training by itself is not sufficient to induce the kinds of sustained behavior change our clients really want when they think about training. Even seminar participants who are very enthusiastic about our approach to negotiation return to the same pressures, the same complex internal negotiations, the same (sometimes skewed) incentives, and the same habits.

To get significant behavior change, we have found that it helps if we help the client make some kind of process change (often minor) that increases the incentives of negotiators to do the right kinds of preparation and ongoing analysis.

This kind of engagement often targets a group of people who do related kinds of negotiations (or are part of the teams that work on similar negotiations) such as the people who negotiate large sales or joint venture relationships or large distribution contracts or business development or M&A (as well as those who work with them in support functions or who are part of related internal negotiations.

Customized Training Programs

In designing our programs, we identify people who are handling certain kinds of negotiations well and develop teaching material that enables us to then diffuse best practices throughout the group being trained.

We develop highly customized training material that uses past and current client negotiations as cases. We design a training program that matches the needs and challenges of the group whose capability we are seeking to improve. The training program combines our more general negotiation exercises and case studies with the client negotiations.

We find that applying our 3-D Negotiation™ framework and client best practices to actual client negotiations helps a lot of people make the leap from fascinating general concepts to things they are going to do when they get back to work.

Establishing Processes

We also look to make some kinds of small changes in organizational process that change the incentives and give people who actually want to apply the framework/best practices reinforcement or incentives to do so.

We have worked with clients to establish internal Negotiation Strategy Review Processes in which a manager works with his or her team to regularly evaluate progress in key negotiations, offers suggestions and where appropriate assistance, and facilitates cross-fertilization among the group.

By requiring some 3-D Negotiation analysis prior to meetings, establishing such processes encourages proactive analysis and planning for negotiation. In a similar vein, we also have helped managers run peer groups where they coach each other in negotiations.

How Clients Have Benefited

Our experience with clients who have gone beyond training to capability building is:

  • they get significantly more behavior change, and
  • this behavior change appears to lead to significantly better negotiated outcomes.

Below are several examples:

Higher Margins and Market Share Leadership

One client in the telecom business was having trouble closing major deals in the post-2001 technology bust. A combined advisory and capability-building engagement helped them develop a strategy and build skills that led both to higher margins and market share leadership. This included:

  • Interviewing and working with team members to understand their negotiations and give advice in some of them.
  • Developing several customized training programs that combined generic cases with their actual negotiations, either completed or ongoing.
  • The development of a Negotiation Strategy Review process that the division head ran weekly. His team members needed to do the 3-D Negotiation prep work to present to the team, which provided a strong incentive to do the extra work. We participated in the first two such sessions and the division head ran them on his own thereafter.

An Advantageous Deal with a Competitor

Senior management of a company in a partially regulated industry assigned a participant in our capability-building program to attempt to negotiate a deal with their biggest customer who was also their biggest competitor. They had never been able to negotiate a commercial deal with this company and had always fought things out in regulatory forums and senior management did not expect to be able to negotiate a deal. This participant followed our 3-D Negotiation with real precision and was able to negotiate a $1.4 billion sale that the CEO called the most important commercial deal in the history of the company.

Vibrant Partnerships with Retailers and Suppliers

The Estée Lauder Companies include several brands: Estée Lauder, Clinique, Aramis, Prescriptives, Origins, Donna, MAC, Bobby Brown, Stila, Donna Karan and Tommy Hilfiger fragrances, and so on. Led by Jim Sebenius, Lax Sebenius personnel have spent countless hours working extensively with top executives including the firm's Chairman, CEO, Brand and International Presidents, and others throughout the worldwide senior ranks.

This work has involved advising focused on specific transactions and a sustained effort to customize a series of programs to develop the negotiating capacity of hundreds of Lauder executives worldwide, especially with respect to creating vibrant strategic partnerships with retailers and suppliers.

Extensive Capability Building

We have developed an extensive capability-building program with an oil company. This includes:

  • Assessment of individual negotiators to guide them into appropriate training;
  • The development of an intensive 5½ day highly customized training program for very senior negotiators. As we shift to different business areas, we develop customized cases that highlight best (and ineffective) practices for those areas, often using videos. This program is delivered in Cambridge, MA so that we can draw on an array of outstanding faculty. While this program addresses all three dimensions of negotiation, its primary focus is on the third dimension.
  • The development and delivery of a relatively intense 4 day program for experienced but less senior negotiators. We develop customized material for this program as well as use material that has been used in earlier senior negotiation programs. This program focuses more on the second and first dimensions of negotiation but provides some experience with the third dimension.
  • Guidance on the development of lower level negotiation training that focuses on the first dimension but introduces the second and third dimensions.
  • Special, shorter presentations to the senior leadership team in the company so that they share concepts and vocabulary with those negotiating the deals. Otherwise, creative deals following our concepts might be blocked because “that is not how we do things,” which would lead to frustration among the deal-makers.
  • Deal Review Sessions for attendees of the senior negotiation program, from two to six months after the program.
  • Advisory work with a number of participants (and others in the company), which feeds into the development of customized material.

What Our Clients Say About Our Capability-Building Programs:

"After 2001, it became pretty difficult to sell equipment to telecom carriers who were reeling from the bursting of the tech bubble; we had lots of conversation but couldn’t close sales. While at Ericsson, I brought in Lax Sebenius LLC to help the $1 billion division I ran negotiate and close sales with carriers. Lax Sebenius delved into our deals, developed several highly customized training programs that excited and motivated my team, served as advisors on a small number of deals, and helped us develop a new selling strategy. Moreover, they designed a negotiation strategy review process that I ran with my team, which gave my team continuing incentives to do the hard work of preparing for their negotiations. Their efforts contributed to our success in both turning around an unprofitable division and simultaneously becoming market share leader and increasing margins."

- David King, Former General Manager and Vice President, Wireline Networks, Ericsson

"For many years, we searched for just the right firm and individual to find the best approach to enhance our senior executives' negotiating skills and after endless presentations of tired win-win and win-lose cliches, we began working closely with Dr. Jim Sebenius. His 3-D approach is in use at many levels of the Estee Lauder Companies with excellent results."

-William Lauder, CEO, the Estee Lauder Companies

"[Lax Sebenius’s] style and methodology is on the cutting edge of what is needed when you are number one in your field and working to maintain that position in a highly competitive global business climate. Our company and the executives therein have been given the tools required to achieve that end objective."

-Phebe Farrow Port, Acting President, Stila Cosmetics, Vice President, Worldwide Retail Sales Development, Estée Lauder, Inc., Dean, The Estée Lauder Companies at Vassar College, Dean, The Estée Lauder Companies at Oxford University

The information in this article was current at 06 Dec 2011