Performance Reviews for Negotiation Success

Jeff Cochran


Performance reviews play an integral role in the success of any business, helping both employees and management to assess strengths and weaknesses and target areas for growth and skill development. One critical skill that is often overlooked by performance reviews, however, is negotiation. Rather than assessing negotiation, many companies subsume the skill under such headings as “persuasiveness,” “emotional intelligence,” or overall “effectiveness,” while others overlook the rubric altogether. At the same time, many companies are establishing negotiation training or influencing training programs. How can a business assess the success of such programs when they fail to review employee negotiation skills as part of their central performance review process?

Identify Negotiating Styles

When businesses fail to properly address and assess negotiation skills, they put themselves, their employees, and their business at a disadvantage. Negotiation takes place continuously throughout professional life, not only when trying to close the biggest deals. One key part of assessing negotiation skills is to determine the negotiating style of each employee. By naming negotiating styles, management is able to quickly sketch out a general model of each employee’s negotiation skills and weaknesses. One employee may have a distributive style, working hard to make sure each side receives as much of what they want out of negotiation as possible, while another may be conciliatory, able to close the deals, but often giving too much away. Knowing and naming different types of negotiation styles is the first step towards establishing a long-term review process.

Establish Skill Development Benchmarks 

Of course, companies cannot simply institute negotiation as part of the performance review process without preparing their employees. When adding negotiation to the performance review process, employers should start by establishing and explaining negotiation benchmarks for their individual company. What skills are expected of each employee when it comes to negotiating a deal? This can be a great time to perform negotiation training because the process can allow management to mark the level of negotiating skill an employee already possesses, providing a starting point for measuring growth as a negotiator over time.

Creating Great Negotiators 

The best negotiators know how to manage differences in ideas and values, make exchanges that increase value for the company overall, and focus on the overall goal of the negotiation without losing sight of the needs and desires of the client. These negotiators come prepared, communicate clearly, and continuously add value for their company through the negotiation process. These skills are within the reach of any employee with the proper training and oversight. For business success, now is the time to embrace negotiation skills as a central part of the performance review process.

Improve Your Voice, Improve Your Negotiations

Jeff Cochran


A UCLA study shows that 93% of communication is non-verbal, and nearly 40% of it has to do with tone of voice. To negotiate well, speakers must practice their vocal tones to project a positive image both in person and over the phone. To achieve the desired pitch and tone, here are a number of methods a person can employ while practicing their speeches:

Sit up straight:

Keeping proper posture expands the diaphragm and loosens the throat muscles, ensuring proper airflow. This allows your voice to resonate more than if you sit slumped or with your head down.

Use your abdominal muscles 

When you inhale, breathe in low so you can feel your abdominal muscles expanding. When you speak and exhale, expand your abdominals so the air doesn’t only come from your throat. This increases the volume and strength of your voice to give a more powerful sound. While you may not be talking like James Earl Jones or Michael Clarke Duncan, you will certainly have a more impressive sound.

Eliminate nasality

People who have a naturally more nasal voice tend to be less impressive in the boardroom or around the negotiating table. If your voice has a nasal quality, it is because the air is escaping through your nose when you speak and not exiting through your mouth.

To practice changing this, feel the difference between the positioning of your tongue and mouth while practicing different sounds. For a more nasally sound, keep your tongue on or close to the roof of your mouth. Lowering the tongue will simultaneously allow more air to escape through your mouth instead of your nose.

Practice your accent

 If you speak with an accent that is naturally more difficult to understand, then try modifying it slightly to connect better with your audience. People respond with more enthusiasm when a speaker sounds familiar, as they feel a subconscious kinship with him or her. Make use of this curious quirk of human nature, and if possible, modify your voice to sound more similar to that of your audience.

Lower your pitch

Persons with naturally low voices are generally perceived as more powerful and more trustworthy than those with higher pitched voices. Sean Connery, Morgan Freeman, and Clint Eastwood all speak in lower registers and are all famous for playing strong characters. Morgan Freeman is particularly noted for playing characters that sound sincere and trustworthy.

By strengthening your voice and sounding more powerful, you will portray the appearance of authority. Cultivating your tone and timbre will allow you to communicate beneath and through the words you use, leaving a much deeper impression on your audience.

5 Tips to Negotiation Training Online

Jeff Cochran



Using a virtual environment for leadership and corporate sales training has a proven success rate, but some still question whether it adequately communicates the necessary leadership qualities. Making sure communication, trust, and management skills are properly taught is necessary to achieve success. If you think your company is ready to take negotiation training into a virtual environment, we have some tips and ideas to ensure you accomplish your goals:

Give information in chunks.

When a person opens a website or a training page that is stuffed with text, they are immediately intimidated. Even if the text is simple and refers to interesting concepts, the sheer volume of words on one page can discourage people. By presenting the information in smaller portions, a few topics per page, with slightly larger font and more white space, it makes readers more receptive.

Use images correctly.

Images are great for drawing the viewer’s attention and emphasizing a point. Too many images, however, cause a page to look crowded and make it difficult for the reader to not become distracted. When inserting images into a training document or slideshow, make certain they are tasteful and relevant instead of random images that only serve the purpose of breaking up text.

Make sure the speaker’s voice is audible.

One of the most insufferable parts of an online class or online training session is when the teacher or instructors voice is too hard to hear. It’s audible when all is quiet and still, but the slightest noise can cause you to miss an important piece of information. Often, the problem is not due to any sort of technological glitch but rather the volume of the speaker’s voice.

When this is the case, the simplicity of fixing the problem and the fact that it hasn’t been corrected are a mark against a company. It is important to ensure when conducting or preparing negotiation training that all technical volume issues are worked out and the speaker is projecting at an appropriate volume.

Ensure the speaker is understandable.

If the instructor giving the training has a hard to understand accent or speaks quickly or with any type of speech impediment, it causes numerous problems with negotiation training. As with volume control, making sure the audience can hear and understand what they are being told is imperative to successful virtual training. Clarity is one of the more important aspects of negotiation training.

The instructor should be an effective speaker.

Being an effective speaker and communicator is more than proper enunciation and speaking volume. It involves communicating a sense of authority and assurance to the audience. By lowering the pitch of his or her voice, a speaker impresses upon the listeners a sense of power and trustworthiness. Similarly, modulating the tone and pitch of one’s voice leads to a more engaging presentation.

By following these tips and being aware of feedback from audiences, your company will greatly improve the efficiency of its virtual negotiations training sessions.

Meditation: The Surprising Leadership Skill

Jeff Cochran


The modern business environment is fast paced and high stress. However, there is a new practice that is becoming increasingly popular with top companies and competitive business schools that can cut stress, improve focus, and make you a more effective leader. What is this new habit transforming the corporate world? It isn’t a new habit at all, but rather a timeless practice derived from eastern traditions – mindfulness or meditation. Mindfulness and meditation offer a variety of benefits for business leaders, helping improve focus, energize leadership, and even improve physical health by reducing the deleterious effects of work-related stress.

More Mindful = Less Stress

One of the primary reasons that meditation and mindfulness are being introduced into business environments is that they are valuable for reducing both physical and emotional stress. In part, this reduced stress is a factor of setting aside time to clear away all thoughts of work, but there are other factors at play here as well. For example, one common factor in meditation and mindfulness practices includes control of the breath. Taking just a few deep breaths and focusing on that process can ease the effects of mental strain and interpersonal conflict. Other meditation activities, such as guided meditations or progressive muscle relaxation work to guide your body through a series of states or scenes that are intended to relieve stress.

Get Some Perspective 

As a business leader, one of the most valuable skills that meditation and mindfulness can hone is the ability to take the perspective of others. Business leaders who practice these skills find they are more open-minded and more empathetic. Being able to fully take on the perspective of another can help professionals to lead their team towards the best decisions, reduce intra-group tensions, and come to an informed consensus. Businesspersons who are only able to see a problem from their point of view work at a disadvantage to those who can mindfully embrace a range of viewpoints.

Time for a Change 

Perhaps the real common denominator for all businesses today is that the world is changing rapidly. The constant turnover and shifting balance of the business arena can be unsettling and a major challenge for some to meet. Those who practice meditation and mindfulness have been found to be better able to adapt to this rapid pace of change. In part, this is a feature of radical acceptance – leaders with mindfulness experience are able to accept that the world is one way in one moment and another way in the next moment. When things change, these flexible leaders are there to change with them, keeping adaptive corporations ahead of the curve.