Vice Presidents at one of the foremost global IT consulting firms brought us their negotiation challenges and a goal of implementing a consistent negotiation approach for the firm's entire consulting staff. The firm had undergone an international merger, and these VPs identified negotiation as a core competency for the new organization. The firm's consultants negotiated complex deals in the face of stiff competition for a wide variety of services; they faced the challenge of a worsening economy and industry-wide changes. Price cutting by the competition and customer pressure to reduce costs triggered a need to focus on value. The VPs determined that the firm's skills and professional development in negotiation were hampered by the lack of a common framework and the need for an approach that matched their global profile and complex client relationships.
At this firm, negotiation skill development is critical far beyond setting project price and terms. Key challenges include: day-to-day project implementation; changing project scope according to client desires; and internal staff and resource conflicts. Each client engagement involves critical strategic and financial value, and VPs face relentless client pressure. In pre-workshop interviews VPs and consultants identified a laundry list of manipulative tactics they face daily. Millions of dollars in current and future revenue are at stake as consultants struggle to talk the language of value while their clients concentrate on price-cutting. The firm has a strong incentive to dramatically transform its own negotiation methods and move from ad hoc transactions to a comprehensive system for managing client relationships with their shifting expectations and dynamic challenges.
Accordence worked closely with this firm to customize a negotiation framework and curriculum that would hit the mark with their demanding consulting staff. We aligned our negotiation framework with other account management methodologies in use. In our design, we paid particular attention to specific difficult situations consultants face. These include: clients who attempt to trap consultants in an “auction;” who demand concessions by alluding vaguely to larger projects in the future; and who make last minute demands before a significant commitment. The customized tactics discussions of the workshop allowed consultants to build strategic skills to immediately and effectively respond to negotiation challenges.
The firm designated a high-level team to take ownership of the development of negotiation expertise, and this team worked with Accordence during the curriculum design to ensure the workshop matched the needs and expectations of the VPs. Following the pilot workshop, several VP participants used the negotiation methodology introduced by Accordence to transform their clients' behaviors and demonstrate the power of seeking joint solutions to problems that arise in working relationships. For example, a major client in the petrochemical industry had consistently sought to manipulate the firm's ability to establish price and project parameters, while preventing the firm from realizing the marketing gains of their relationship. The VP actually presented her client counterpart with the Accordence framework, and succeeded in engaging the client to attack the problems, not the consultant. They overcame deadlock and agreed on resource pricing and creative ways to benefit from their relationship in the marketplace.
Initial programs throughout the United States have yielded quick results. Consultants from one of the trainings immediately applied the negotiation framework to one of the largest financial proposals made by the firm that year. Evaluation of these training programs rated them amongst the best ever experienced within the firm. This IT consulting firm has adopted Accordence's negotiation training curriculum for the entire consulting staff, and rolled out the program around the country.