Hardnosed Negotiating as Executed by Steve Jobs

Jeff Cochran


If you have been paying attention to legal news, you know that by this point in time, the United States government is building its case that Apple – headed at that point in time by the late Steve Jobs – engaged in a nefarious price fixing scheme for eBooks in the iBooks store. The courts ordered the release of a series of emails between Jobs and a number of News Corp. executives, including Rupert Murdoch’s son. Beyond the legal implications of the emails, reading them over it becomes clear that Steve Jobs had mastered many tactics about negotiations that added to his success.

Here is what we can learn about the art of negotiation from Steve Jobs:

1. Listen Before You Speak.

If you read the emails carefully, you will be able to notice that Steve Jobs never once makes an assumption about Harper Collins or News Corp. without getting direct confirmation or clarification from a member of the News Corp. team. By taking the time to get adequately informed, Steve Jobs sets himself up to give his terms without the risk of getting surprised by his opponents.

2. Present the Options.

When Steve Jobs presents the options to News Corp., he is clear, concise and certain. In writing, Steve Jobs’ presented options look especially powerful because he numbers them and keeps each option to two sentences tops. By keeping the options brief, Steve Jobs is ensuring that News Corp. is aware that these options are the only options.

3. Speak Respectfully.

The incredible thing about the Apple/News Corp. emails is that, despite the fact that the conversation is certainly heated, Jobs is never derisive or disrespectful. At all times during the negotiations process, he is careful to remain courteous and level-headed.

While these three tactics added to his success, we disagree with his last tactic of backing them into a corner. He used the trick of slowly but surely backing the opponent into a corner where the only viable option is for them to acquiesce to your desires. While this may have added to his short-term gain, he could’ve improved by thinking more about the other side’s objectives to create a “WIN-win” deal that would’ve aided the advance of the relationship, deal, and further benefit both sides in the long term.

Steve Jobs will be remembered as a lot of things. He brought us the iPhone, the MacBook and A Bug’s Life. He is now also being called a “ringmaster” in an eBook price fixing scheme. No matter how this lawsuit shakes out, he should also be remembered as a good negotiator whose willingness to hold fast resulted in many successful business maneuvers.

Motivate and Support Your Sales Force

Jeff Cochran


Here are some troubling numbers for you:

– Fewer than 55% of all sales reps regularly make their quota
– 65% of all sales professionals give up on a sale after hearing their second “no” from a decision maker
– 7 out of 8 companies will never achieve profitable growth, despite having adequately detailed strategic plans.

If you are concerned that any of these statistics might eventually apply to you and your company, it is time for you to rethink how you approach your training, motivating and supporting your sales force.

First, take stock of your situation. Have you identified your star performers, core salespeople and bottom third reps? If you have not yet grouped your sales force accordingly, you are missing a valuable opportunity to appropriately motivate your sales team.

Super Sales Studs.

Some people are just that good at sales. These are your superstar salespeople. Typically, they make making their quota look effortless and they do it by selling ice to the Inuit. These people tend to be almost entirely motivated by financial incentives, but they are the first to leave when a ceiling if placed on their ability to earn.

Bottom Third.

If you have developed an onboarding program that instills your sales team with the appropriate habits and tools to effectively make sales quotas, your bottom third should be made almost entirely of new people. Your bottom third are the first to become discouraged and can often not be counted on to do anything more than show up in the morning.

Core Professionals.

Your core performers probably do not get that much of your attention on a day to day basis. Core salespeople can be counted on to make their quota most of the time. They show up to work and will accomplish whatever task you hand them, but because they are not struggling or rocketing to the very top, you often miss the fact that they too can benefit from coaching and motivation.

So now that you have figured out into which category each and every single member of your sales team falls, you can begin to coach them to be the best salespeople they can be. Here are some general rules and guidelines for being the most effective coach possible:

  1.  Find out what motivates your sales force.
  2. Apply individualized coaching strategies consistently.
  3. Allow your salespeople to invest themselves in their future with your company.
  4. Listen before you speak.
  5. Understand that small incentives yield big returns.

With the proper coaching, even your bottom third will see massive improvements to their sales performance. Make sure that you are taking time each day or week to individually coach and support your salespeople.



4 Mistakes Salespeople Make When Prospecting

Jeff Cochran


Prospecting is arguably the most underrated part of the sales process. What many salespeople fail to realize is that putting in the proper time and effort into prospecting can make all the difference between a wasted week and a killer sales period. It is crucial that our partners develop the right systemic approach to prospecting. Here are four critical errors to avoid when it comes to prospecting.

 1. Your Salespeople Are Not Prospecting At All.

A disturbingly large number of sales professionals fail to do any prospecting at all. It may be due to “call reluctance” or even a skewed belief that proper prospecting is ineffective, but really, any prospecting is better than no prospecting at all. If your sales force is reluctant to prospect for whatever reason, you need to instill in them the right habits and tools to properly prospect.

 2. Your Salespeople Talk Too Much.

Generally speaking, salespeople need to feel comfortable talking to new people in order to succeed. However, many salespeople, especially young salespeople, make the mistake of talking too much when they are meeting with a prospect. Whether they are jumping right into the pitch process instead of asking the important questions, or attempting to preempt objections by overwhelming the prospect with information, if your salespeople are talking too much at the prospect, your company is losing sales.

If you suspect that your salespeople are tanking their relationships with prospects by talking too much, there are a few valuable habits and tools that you can coach them on. First, you need to ensure that your salespeople are familiar with active listening and how to employ it to put the prospect at ease. Second, you need to coach them on your firm’s expectations for relationship building with the prospect. There is a time and place to hard sell, and the first time you meet with a prospect is definitely not the time or place.

 3. Your Salespeople Make Presumptions About the Prospect.

There is no quicker way to lose a prospect than by making unnecessary assumptions and presumptions about the prospect’s business. If your salespeople rush in to say things like “I can help you!” or “I know exactly what you need!” they are essentially disrespecting the prospect’s authority as a decision maker. Once again, if your salespeople are making this critical error, you may need to coach them on active listening as well as the proper way to point out the utility of your products or services.

 4. Your Salespeople Forget the Goal (or Do Not Have One). 

What is the goal when you meet with a new sales prospect? Arguably the goal is to make a sale, period. More often than not, however, the right goal for a first meeting with a prospect is to create a personal relationship on which a sale can be built later. If your salespeople are not approaching a new prospect with a concrete goal, they are at risk of damaging the relationship with the prospect. Remind your sales force that they must be goal oriented in their prospecting.



6 Leadership Best Practices

Jeff Cochran


There’s no mistaking the simple fact that leadership styles differ enormously from person to person. There are, however, a number of shared traits that successful, effective leaders possess. Research has proven that these traits of sense and success are deeply linked to the thriving of effective leaders.

Good leaders are immediately open to new understanding. Leaders do not necessarily understand complex concepts immediately, but they must be open to learning efficiently. Effective leaders are constantly asking themselves how to make sense of something new, and how to do it quickly.

Good leaders create safe spaces. In order to lead effectively, good leaders are warm and welcoming, rather than intimidating or aloof. By allowing room for other people to speak up and share their thoughts, perspectives, and opinions, good leaders can use their inherent executive power to create an empathetic environment that encourages colleagues to approach them with tact and professionalism, knowing that they will be heard.

Good leaders approximate, and this is because they have to. Not every project will provide every single snippet of detail that may normally be considered necessary to move forward, but leaders are able to continue to inspire their colleagues to progress without having all the information. Rather than charging blindly ahead, leaders are able to foresee what effect each step will have, whether or not they have all the information right away.

Good leaders are accountable. Everything about being a leader means being available and open to feedback, but that does not mean leaders are doormats. In fact, accountability is quite the opposite: by being accountable, effective leaders are able to implement feedback they receive to more effectively move forward individually, and to help the entire team move forward.

Good leaders are self-aware, and this means that they are also aware of others. In order to effectively build a team, they must understand the effects of their own actions – before they implement them. As such, they must complement the actions of other teammates, and they must be able to act well on the actions of others.

Good leaders act fast. In cases where there are a lot of unknowns, leaders have to move forward with limited information. This usually happens under a time crunch – after all, if there were more time to act, then leaders would be able to wait on implementing projects until they have all the information. Rather than waiting around, effective leaders move forward with whatever they have.

The workplace is a highly unpredictable space, especially when things are constantly happening on a tight deadline. Nonetheless, with good leaders in place, projects get done – even with limited resources. As a leader, the best way to start is to ask the right questions – both of yourself and of your colleagues.