Why Wonderland May Fall Short

Jeff Cochran


It is easier for a competitor in its early stages to promise many of the advances discussed in the last blog entry. Of course, large questions remain with regard to Wonderland’s ability to deliver on its promises. The challenges include:

Too Few Developers within Sun: Wonderland remains in the research phase and there are only 8 developers within Sun working on the project. (Recently fixes were delayed because the 2 developers working on the project went on vacation…)

Small External Development Community: So far Wonderland has not been able to attract an external development community comparable to OpenSim and SL.

Budget: Sun’s current business challenges (and possible acquisition by IBM) may stop the project in its tracks.

That being said, there remains a great deal of excitement surrounding Wonderland, and it is worth it to keep an eye on its progress over the next year or so.

Wonderland is Wonderful

Jeff Cochran


I just attended a meeting in Second Life where SunMicrosystems’ Nicole Yankelovich described Sun’s Wonderland 0.5, which is planned to be released this summer. While a 0.5 version in any software program demonstrates that it is in its earliest stages, Wonderland is trying to address many of the concerns corporate training departments have expressed about Second Life.

Some examples:

Firewall Issues: While SL is planning to release a version that can exist “behind the firewall,” Wonderland has been built from the ground up with the intention of existing behind the firewall.

Remote Access: In SL, employees who do not have access to a computer are not able to participate in meetings. Sun has addressed this issue by creating an inworld phone system where people can call in and attend the meeting. While it is obviously more beneficial to have everyone inworld during the meeting, this dial in approach at least allows employees to participate at some level.

Business Tool Focus: Because Wonderland is focused on business and education, it includes tools built specifically for those purposes and therefore incorporates powerpoint slides, white boards, Web integration and data visualization.

Multiple Conversations: SL started with text chat communication and then integrated voice. Wonderland has been built with a focus on voice chat. Therefore they have developed tools such as a microphone that allows front of the room speakers to extend the reach of their voice, while attendees can reduce the extent of their voice projection so that they can essentially conduct IM Voice Chats.

While these are interesting developments, Wonderland has a long way to go before it overtakes Second Life. Tomorrow we will discuss some of the limitations of Wonderland that may prevent it from reaching a 1.0 level…

SNI in SL: Learning in the Virtual World of SecondLife

Jeff Cochran


SNI has developed a presence in Secondlife to deliver content without the expense and hassle of travelling to a training progam. SNI’s founder, Mark Jankowski, has emerged as one of the industries thought leaders on using the virtual world to enhance the learning experience for SNI clients.

Listening Tips for Negotiators

Jeff Cochran


When we teach people to be more effective negotiators, we tend to focus on our Three Ps – Preparation, Probing and Proposing. Perhaps even more important than these threeskills is being a good listener. This area is often neglected because few people think that there is skill in listening, and even more believe it is inheritied and cannot be learned. It is assumed that if I hear what you say that I’m also listening to what you say. This is a bad assumption. Here are ideas and comments about listening that might help you improve your abilities in this often neglected area.

Learn Your Blind Spots – These are words, ideas, and topics we have strong feelings about and, therefore, tend not to be able to listen to very well. We become over-excited by them and stop listening. Alternatively, we become angry, frustrated, or simply refuse to hear and block them out. Try to identify three of these “blind spots” and consciously work to listen when they arise in conversation.

The “Rehearsal Effect” – Most of us are wrapped up in our own lives and we find it boring and painful to let someone else talk. We are absorbed in self-concern. I recall reading in Carnegies “How to Win Friends and Influence People that Dale Carnegie was regarded as a great “conversationalist” by a woman to whom he merely questioned and then listened to her responses intently. Try to enjoy the part of the conversation where you are learning about the other side!

Speed of Thought – The difference in the time it takes to talk and the time it takes to listen is another barrier to effective listening. The average speaker delivers at about 140 words per minute. The average listener, on the other hand, can listen comfortably at about 300 words per minute. Instead of using the time differential to analyze the speaker’s message, we tend to fade out, day dream, think about other things we have to do, or plan what we want to say next. The only way to combat this is to try and jot down brief notes when listening…this activity will use the remaining excess”bandwidth” in your brain.

Distracted by Speaker Behaviors – Most people do not talk in a very organized fashion. Speakers tend to “think out loud” and grope for the idea they want to convey. This process often causes us to give up trying to decipher their message. Other reasons listeners may tune us out include irritating mannerisms and talking a long time. Ask paraphraing questions thoughout, and summarize what you heard to fight this tendency.

Focus on Body Language – Approximately two-thirds of a speaker’s message in any conversation is not contained in the words themselves. It is instead conveyed by the speaker’s tone of voice, body language, and word tense. Listening only for the words and not for the feelings behind them is another common listening problem. So listen for the meaning behind the words and ask questions about what you observe.

Distractions – Disruptions in our environment can affect our ability to focus on what the speaker is saying. Some typical examples of disruptive factors in work environments which could impair your ability to listen effectively include ringing phones, slamming doors, people walking in and out, street noises, etc. If you are engaged in an important conversation, try to have it in a prvate area with minimal distractions.

We’re BACCCK! Negotiating in the Pharmaceutical Industry!

Jeff Cochran


Sorry about the long stretch since our last update…we have been on the road conducting research with some of our favorite clients – pharmaceutical companies! The prevailing opinion among the reps that we ride along with at the start of the day is that “We don’t negotiate! We’re not allowed to negotiate!” While we at SNI understand the FDArules and PhRMA guidelines (and the reasons they exist), we also know that negotiation is a process, not an event. Wenever recommend using the “traditional” negotiating techniques like quid pro quo (“I’ll buy you lunch when you start writing more _____!”), but we do recognize that other negotiation habits such as preparation, probing and proposing are vital tools for any sales professional.

There have been many recent changes in the pharmaceutical industry that make the use of effective negotiation skills even more relevant in today’s business marketplace for the pharma rep. Three changes that we have studied closely in our recent research are:

Recent restructuring makes the “feet on the street” approach antiquated and ineffective.

With thousands of pharma reps being laid off in recent months, most pharma companies are moving away from the “reach and frequency” model of sending one rep after another to keep the name of their product and the short clinical message in front of their target physicians. One reason is that there simply aren’t enough reps left to call on a doctor 2 or 3 times a week with the same message. Another reason is that pharma companies are hearing the cries of their customers….the physicians. In a managed care environment, doctors maximize their profitability by seeing as many patients as possible every day. The mere presence of a rep is an interruption to this business reality, and many practices are limiting access to the reps in order to keep patient “traffic” moving along. Doctors told SNI in recent interviews that one effective rep has a greater impact on their writing habits than having 2 or 3 reps repeating the same message over and over again.

Resources are limited and reps must capture value (market share, volume, etc) for value delivered.

With PhRMA guidelines abolishing the practice of delivering office supplies, personal hygiene supplies, and other product-branded materials to their customers, reps have to be even more creative about how they remind doctors of their products benefits after they leave the office. Many pharma companies are also limiting their samples and educational materials in an effort to contain expenses and manage their inventories more effectively. By using proven negotiation techniques, reps can leverage their resources to drive business in the most efficient and profitable way without offending the PhRMA guidelines (or, more importantly, the physicians and their staff!)

Mergers and acquisitions provide an opportunity to develop a shared, more effective sales approach.

Recently, mergers between former competitors (Merck and Schering-Plough, Wyeth and Pfizer, et al) have created an opportunity for these companies to come together and develop a shared sales model and culture. The benefit is that the reps will be learning a new approach together, saving the stress (and the accompanying sales “dip”) that goes along with abandoning old methods while adopting those of the other company. By jumping into a new model together, merged companies can tap into the strengths of both sides and start anew with a shared, collaborative model for effective sales. At SNI, we believe that the adoption of negotiation-based selling will prevent the sales lag while giving the reps new tools and techniques for moving forward in a more efficient, value-based sales culture.

Usually, by the end of a day on the road with a pharma rep, they acknowledge that they do negotiate…on just about every call! Whether it is for access, information, or when allocating their own limited resources. Our proven methodology has helped reps do more than just detail doctors – by building credibility, value and trust via effective negotiating…these reps have a clear advantage in an ever-changing marketplace.

In upcoming entries, we will share some of the specific findings from our 6-week immersion into the pharma world and provide some new ways for today’s pharmaceutical rep to maximize the opportunities that the “new world” provides.

Influencing: Communication with a Goal in Mind

Jeff Cochran


Influencing is communicating with a goal in mind. In essence, influencing is a requesting process. You are requesting that the other person (or group) do something or achieve an outcome.

Because you are making a request, there is inherently more accountability for both parties, thus more potential risk of tension, misunderstanding, defensiveness and conflict.

Often people use their every day communication skills when influencing, find that they don’t work, and wonder why. The reason is that the influencing process is different and requires different skills.

Don’t focus on what has been done in the past – wasting time and apportioning blame here is pointless.

* Concentrate on activities that can lead to sales in the future. Expand your resources in this area and if necessary enlist the assistance of other management and staff. Get professional assistance to quickly analyse your sales “inventory” of selling skills and resources.

* Immediately start a sales forecasting system, by customer, by product, by value and by month. Lock in sales that you are certain that you will be getting. Update this forecast on a weekly basis.

* Eighty-five per cent of business comes from existing customers, so start there. Contact all of your previous customers and start initiating sales activities. The 80/20 rule applies, so concentrate on the top 20 per cent of clients, but make sure that your proposition is well thought out.

* Fifteen per cent of business typically comes from new business accounts, and sales from this can be time-consuming and longer-term. It is a trap to divert more than 15 per cent of your sales resource to chase after people who have never done business with you.

* Don’t fall for the salespeople saying they need new systems and marketing material to be able to sell. There were sales before computers.

* Try to sell, not discount. Understand your gross margin and whether discounts will make you a profit. Too often, people equate discounts with more business, when in fact they become a false economy.

* Remember selling starts when the customer says “No” – otherwise you are leaving good money on the table. Anyone can give away products. Get fair value for your products, as every dollar in this market is worth three in a boom market.

There may be a tendency for a senior manager to start doing the selling himself or herself, or to get involved with major customers. If you have sales experience, then this may be an option. If not, beware, as creating the wrong impression can lead to a loss of business for a long time.

Whatever you do during this time, remember it and keep doing it when good times come again. Business cycles come and go, and you will ensure that the next time a recession comes you will have the tools in place to see it coming and to make the adjustments you need to ensure that your business does not end up on the rocks.

Back to Basics

Jeff Cochran


Relationship Value
SNI believes that Relationship Value is the product of:

1. The level of TRUST you gain from a person.

2. The level of CREDBILITY you have with a person.

3. The amount of VALUE that you deliver to a person.

Trust is defined as firm reliance on the integrity, ability or character if a person or thing. In business, trust is a hard won attribute and can only be achieved over time. In our programs, we emphasize that building trust is not an event, but a process that takes place over a period of time. To gain trust, you have to think ahead and consider the consequences of every decision you make in a business setting. What impact will my decision have on the level of trust I am trying to develop?

Credibility is the quality, capability, or power to elicit belief. SNI focuses on one’s personal ability to get a person/customer to believe that you are the best resource available at any given point to deliver whatever they need to be successful. In our programs, we teach that the best way to get what you want from is to help the other side get what they want. In a tough economy, everyone is looking out for their own best interests, whether it is saving money, extracting additional value or reducing risk. By being transparent enough to demonstrate that you care about more than the bottom line and confidently approaching objections and challenges with straight talk and follow through – you can increase your credibility significantly.

Value is receiving fair value in return for any investment – be it money, time or effort. Your products and services have to be perceived to have value in order to sustain a business relationship. Sales professionals are usually well-versed in stating a value proposition for their products and services, but the critical factor in building value is identifying what is most important to the other side at any given point in time. A low price might be a good value in most situations, but you may leave money on the table by failing to discover that quicker delivery, personal service or flexibility in payment terms can be more important in turbulent economic times. SNI teaches that consistent, effective probing is the only way to ensure that you fully understand the best value you can offer as the business environment changes.

SNI is a premier provider of customized business negotiations and influencing training to companies around the world. To learn more about SNI, please visit

Jump-Start Stalled Negotiations

Jeff Cochran


Negotiations deadlock for many reasons. When both sides refuse to budge, it’s time to be creative. Here are some guidelines to get the other side talking again:
Start Over. When Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev deadlocked during arms talks, Reagan reached across the table and said, “Hello, Mikhail, my name is Ron, and I think it’s time we talked about the arms race.” This broke the tension and led to meaningful discussions.
Keep a Secret. Some negotiations stall because negotiators want to please third parties (such as bosses). If you suspect this, assure the other person that you’ll keep the conversation’s details confidential. The negotiator won’t worry that something he says will get back to the boss.
Recount interests. Don’t talk about positions – focus on each side’s real needs. Say, for example, “It seems you’re most interested in delivery to meet your customers’ timetable.” If the other party agrees, ask, “What do you think are my main interests?” Highlighting the main interests, rather than side issues, helps you create room for new solutions.

Probing Past Positions

Jeff Cochran


Probing Past Positions
Probing effectively does not just work in fictional negotiations. Often, our seminar participants share their own success stories involving their ability to “probe and probe again” to get past the other sides positions and uncover their true interests.

Recently, we heard from a banker who specialized in real estate loans. He had a borrower that did not want to put up collateral for a loan. Rather than battling over the position of whether the borrower should provide the necessary collateral, the banker “probed and probed again” with questions like:

  • “In the past you have always provided collateral, why is it that you do not want to so this time?
  • “Is there something else you could provide us with other than collateral?”
  • “What is it about providing collateral that you do not like?”

In the end, the banker discovered that the borrower objected to putting up collateral because it was costly to do appraisals and other the administrative tasks necessary to provide this type of security. As a result, the bank was able to address the true interests of its customer and by waiving certain requirements, reduce the borrower’s cost of putting up collateral. By using the “probe and probe again” technique, the bank received the security it needed and the borrower was able to lower its expenses. A true WIN-win!

Here are two examples of how “probe and probe again” can help you circumvent common probing roadblocks:

ROADBLOCK: “That is all we have in the budget.”

  • Hypothetically, if you had the money in the budget, would you be willing to pay our price?
  • Have you ever had to get additional funding not in the budget? For what? How?
  • Are there other budgets from other departments that could supplement your budget?
  • When is the budget set? Could we spread payment to next year so we can include it in that budget?

ROADBLOCK: “It is company policy.”

  • Hypothetically, if it were not for the policy, would you be willing to do what we need?
  • What is the reason for the policy?
  • Has there ever been a situation like this before? What did the company do?
  • Has the company ever allowed you to violate any other policy? Why?
  • When was the policy formulated? Has it ever been amended?
  • Who in the organization has the power to override policies?

Negotiating from a Weak Position

Jeff Cochran


By Ron Shapiro
Co-Founder and Chairman of Shapiro Negotiations Institute

Often participants in our programs voice the following frustration: “How can you possibly achieve a Win-Win result when you are in a weak position? When the other side holds all of the cards, isn’t it impossible to be an effective negotiator?” I believe the most effective negotiators are able to use their skills, both when they have the leverage, as well as when they don’t. In order to be more effective when you are in a weak position, I suggest the following:

Check Your Assumptions:
If you perceive yourself to be in a weak position the other side will too. Do yourself a favor and check your assumptions. Do you need to know the other side’s strengths? Very definitely! However, if you take the time to identify their weaknesses you may very well discover strengths in your own position of which you were previously unaware.

Something else to consider…make a list and talk it over with a friend. By discussing an itemized list of your personal strengths and weaknesses (and those of the other side) you will benefit from someone else’s objective input and avoid make incorrect assumptions about your own position.

Expand Your Alternatives:
O.K. What if you check you assumptions and you find out that you are, in fact, in a weak position? What do you do now? I suggest that you immediately look for other alternatives. Is the other side the only person in the world with the product or service that you want? Seldom is there ever a single source supplier for a particular item. It might be more convenient to buy from this person, or maybe the quality is better, but in the end, there are typically many alternatives to choose from, even when your alternatives look limited.

Again, I suggest you write down your possible alternatives before entering the negotiation. This valuable preparation will give you greater confidence to negotiate a fair deal. In the unlikely event that you do not have alternatives, consider finding a way to delay the negotiation until you are able to develop the necessary alternatives to negotiate with greater self-assurance.

Change the Subject:
So now you have found your assumptions to be correct and your alternatives limited. At this point, I suggest that you try to focus the negotiation on issues other than the one in which you find yourself the weakest. What else can be introduced into the negotiation that might provide you with a more beneficial situation?

For example, you might talk about benefits you provided to the other side in the past. You might discuss future opportunities that could exist. You even might inquire as to what else the other side is interested in beyond the deal at hand. Seldom does a transaction consist of only one component. Find out what other items can be brought into the negotiation and see if you can establish an upper hand with regard to these issues.

Find Those Similarly Situated:
If you find yourself in a weak position, there are likely others very similar to you. Seek out these people and see if the sum is greater than the individual parts. Consider class action suits, where an individual claimant is definitely in a weaker position when compared to a large company. But amass several thousand injured parties, and you discover the power of banding together. If you think someone else holds all of the cards, try to find out who else is sitting at the table with you and see if you can work together to achieve your goals.

You can only hope to always find yourself in the position of strength while sitting at the bargaining table. In those inevitable situations where you find yourself in the unenviable weak position implement the exercises outlined above and you will be more effective in the most challenging negotiation situations.