Sitting Down with Jeff Cochran – Teaching Negotiations

Jeff Cochran


We had some fun asking one of our SNI professionals, Jeff Cochran, a master facilitator, some questions. From teaching negotiations abroad to how to survive living with four teenagers, Jeff certainly covers it all.

 1.      Where have you been recently?

 Last month, I was in London delivering training and consulting for General Reinsurance, but I have spent the bulk of my time this month in Florida working with a few different clients in the health care industry delivering negotiation skill building sessions.

 2.      Do you do anything differently when training abroad?

 I speak with an accent. No, it is a common misperception that negotiations have to be tailored to individual cultures, styles, and genders. While those items are important, I think that the concepts that we teach are applicable in every instance. So we’re certainly aware of the cultures in which we teach and of nuances that might change our approach subtlety, however our core tenants are going to be viable regardless of where and to whom we teach.

3.      How do you determine how to customize your programs?

 That’s interesting. That again varies depending on the customer. It has been as straight forward as telephone interviews. Yet, we sometimes do ride-alongs so that we can experience the same challenges that our participants face. In one instance, it was as in-depth as attending a cadaver lab and conducting spine surgery on a cadaver and an anterior hip replacement on another cadaver just so I would understand better what sales reps are confronted with on a daily basis.

4.      You teach negotiation skills professionally. Do you ever use it in your personal life?

 Yeah right now with my own children ages 13 and 14 and we’ve brought over my nieces from Nepal to study in the US ages 15 and 16. You can imagine having a house full of teenagers, consistently there’s opportunities to use the conflict resolution skills that are part of our negotiation training, especially in my house with my wife, two children, and two nieces. We have all three girls living in one bedroom so there are constant issues over space, clothes, hair bands, all that kind of stuff.

 One of the things that has been interesting in having the Nepali girls come live with us is how quickly people adjust and adapt to their new surroundings. Things that would’ve been seen as luxuries in Nepal are suddenly must-haves. You can imagine the correlation with negotiations. When people go into a deal, it’s very important to remember the things we really need versus the things we really want and making a distinction between the two.

5.      What celebrity would be a great SNI facilitator?

 An excellent facilitator would be a combination of Alex Trebek and Kim Kardashian. Alex Trebek because he always seems to have all of the answers. Kim Kardashian since there’s obviously an entertainment element involved in our sessions and I can’t think of many people who would be better to look at for eight hours. So, if we could combine those two personalities, we’d have a pretty good one.

Jeff Cochran at work.

Virtual Role-Playing Takes Center Stage

Jeff Cochran


SNI Co-Founder, Mark Jankowski, wrote an article that was recently published in Training Magazine online regarding four reasons role plays in virtual worlds may be equally or more effective than role plays in the real world. To learn how virtual world technologies can improve training and lead to less goofing off, improved feedback, increased realism, and dynamic scenarios, please follow the attached link to Mark’s article.

Click here to read Mark’s article.

Shapiro Negotiations Institute Invites You to Join Google+

Jeff Cochran


In case you weren’t aware, Google has just announced its Google+ social networking platform. With Google+, Google is aiming to improve and expand on existing social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Currently it’s in it’s trial period and open by invitation only. As an early adapter of Google+, Shapiro Negotiations Institute is able to extend individuals/companies an invitation to register before it is opened to the public. Please contact Bekah Martindale at bekah@localhost if you would like to receive an invitation. To learn more about Google+ please click here.

Sitting Down with Todd Lenhart – Training Trends

Jeff Cochran


We had a chance to sit down with our EVP, Todd Lenhart, and ask him a few questions. We found it valuable to take some time to reflect with Todd about current trends within the training industry, we hope you do too.

1.      What is new in the world of reinforcement?

One of the most effective ways to deal reinforcement in the current business landscape is to do so through social media. People have grown accustomed to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc, and if you don’t get them in 30 seconds, you’ve lost them. This has really forced us to rethink how we both package our content and effectively drive reinforcement options.

2.      What are you seeing in the sales training arena?

Even though we are in an online world, the only way to really change people’s habits is through self-discovery, which is still most likely to occur through live training. That said, we are exploring ways to recreate the classroom setting in virtual modalities.

3.      Where were you last week and what were you working on?

I have been in New York City working with an existing client, who is a worldwide leader in multimedia, building an advanced curriculum for participants that took our program last year. We focused on enhanced probing techniques, negotiating from a position of strength, and quarterbacking meetings.

Before that, I was in Boston working with a privately held financial services company to develop highly customized training focused on influencing without authority. The hierarchy of the company is a lattice structure, which creates a unique client culture. While in Boston, I also spent some time with a leading pharmaceutical sales firm who has engaged us again to provide a blended delivery platform utilizing Brainshark.

The Effects of Negotiation on a Brand: Ron Shapiro Interview

Jeff Cochran


SNI is excited about the opportunity our Chairman, Ron Shapiro, had to discuss the impact negotiations can have on brands. He covered both organizational and personal brands in an interview with MarketPoint, a marketing and branding service firm.

In the interview, Ron stressed the importance of relationships and the effect they have on your brand. He pointed out that a reputation can survive a few mistakes as long as it maintains its integrity. In addition, Ron discussed Donald Trump, how to deal with difficult people, being NICE while still meeting your objectives, the importance of listening, and how negotiation pertains to nonprofits and education. To read more, please click here.

The Bluff

Jeff Cochran


The Bluff is the single most difficult tactic to identify. It occurs when the other side says things such as: “I have no room to move”; “That is the best I can do” or “I have a competitive bid that is 20% cheaper.”

Most people trust that the other side is telling them the truth and if possible, drop their price. Ultimately, you may have to do just that, but most people would be more satisfied if they knew that the other bid was 20% lower and they did not just fall for a bluff. Here are some ways to test the bluff:

  • Ask for Documentation.  Most people feel very uncomfortable using this technique because they feel that if they ask to see information in writing that they are calling the other person a liar.  Obviously you do not want to do this, so here are some ways to phrase the request for documentation:
    • Apples to Apples.  Tell the other side that you need to see the bid to make sure that they are providing the same terms and conditions that you are.  You can say that “in the past” other people have undercut your pricing by using cheaper materials or by providing less service.  If you can see the bid, you can make sure that this is not the situation.
    • Blame a Higher Authority.  “I certainly believe you, but in order to get the decrease approved, I need to take the competing bid back to my partners and show them so that they know the entire situation.”
  • Ask for Clarification.  Rather than reacting to the bluff, you might want to ask for clarification.  You can ask the other side to give you some time to double check your information, and ask them to take some time to double check their information.  Allowing for some time might make the other side feel nervous about continuing with their bluff for fear that they have scared you aware.  Also, by asking for both sides to take time to clarify their information and assumptions, you have provided the other side with an easier “out” to come back and say: “I have double checked and there may have been some problems with my assumptions…”
  • Call the Bluff.  Sometimes the only way to test the bluff is to walk away from the deal.  When doing so, you should be careful to leave the door open.  You can do so by saying: “We would love to work for you, but we cannot under those situations, but please keep in touch.  If it does not work out with the other person, we would still be interested in doing business.”   Keeping the door open in this way will enable the other side to come back to you.  Otherwise, they might be uncomfortable coming back to you for fear that they would seem untrustworthy because of their attempt to use a bluff.

Controlling the Contract

Jeff Cochran


Imagine this: you reach an agreement in a negotiation and the other side says: “I will send you the contract.” You gladly accept as it means less work for you. Unfortunately many times the language in the contract may differ slightly from your understanding of the prior agreement. You suggest several changes and the other side acts startled that you are changing what had already been agreed to and now they claim that since you are making changes, they are allowed to re-open issues as well.

When two parties reach an agreement, many times it is codified within a written contract. Many people feel that the process is completed when the handshake occurs, but some people use the tactic of Controlling the Contract to gain extra advantage after the other side thinks that the deal is done.

To manage Controlling the Contact tactics, try to:

  • Write the Drafts of the Contract. If possible, at the end of discussions, tell the other side that you (or your lawyers) will be glad to write it up. That way the other side is reacting to your draft rather than you reacting to their draft.
  • Write a Memo Before You Write a Contract. By writing a memo or a letter in plain language, you will get both parties to agree to the main agreements before the lawyers start to confuse the issues with their own “legalese.” This plain language letter or memo can be a reference point back if the contract seems to be off course.
  • If Necessary, Manage the Lawyers. Sometimes lawyers can re-interpret understandings and get into discussions with the other side’s lawyers that may or may not reflect the original intent of the agreement. If you sense this is happening, make sure to re-establish your contact with the other side to reiterate your understandings before you let the lawyers continue to battle it out.

  • Personalize Communication. Where possible have major changes to the contract communicated via phone or in person. Often one side will provide comments to a contract that they feel are minor, but the other side perceives as re-writing the deal. It can escalate and trust can be lost if both sides continue to communicate by marking up drafts and sending them back and forth. Before you get yourself into a battle of the contracts, pick up a phone with the person who you worked with to cut the original deal.


Jeff Cochran


Recall when you were a young child gathered with your friends.  You’re all in deep discussion about what game you’ll play together.  Timmy suggests dodge ball, Susie offers a board game, and you too like the board game idea.  Thus, your and Suzie’s democracy votes board game, while Timmy angrily refuses.  Eventually, Timmy gives you the ultimatum, “if we don’t play dodge ball, I’m going home!”  It’s a temperamental withdrawal tactic that people continually use throughout their lives – usually with a little less immaturity.

This is where your counterpart, often dramatically, will exit the discussion hoping you’ll fear a no-deal or no-conclusion and make a concession just to bring them back to the table.  By doing so, they gain a concession without giving one.  You’ll often see a hasty change in demeanor and location, and hear a “fine then…” or “this is too much…” or “this is ridiculous…” or “we’re getting nowhere…”

Consider the following techniques to manage the Withdrawal Technique:

  • Use a Hypothetical.  Let’s say someone says something like, “I have told you that I do not think that I can get this proposal agreed to by my Board, so I am going to have to stop these discussions entirely.”  While this sounds like a Withdrawal, the fact that the other side provides a condition regarding getting the proposal “agreed to by the board” provides an indication that the withdrawal may not be a withdrawal.  To test the other side, you could ask: “Hypothetically speaking, if you were able to get it past the Board, would you be willing to continue the conversation?”  If the other side agrees to continue the discussion, then you have prevented the Withdrawal.
  • Offer Mutual Concessions.  Rather than making a one-sided concession just to get the other side to the table, propose a resolution where each side makes a concession.  This approach gives the other side a potential reason to return, but it does not provide them with a unilateral gain just to bring them back to the table.
  • Focus on Previous Progress.  Rather than conceding to get the other side to the table, try to get the other side to agree that there has been substantial progress made in the past and that momentum may help remind them that although there is frustration at this point, the past progress you have made should justify that the other side not just walk away at this point.