Saturday 22 October 2016

'I would generally advise against accepting a first offer: there's usually more available'

Mark Higgins, senior managing director, FTI COnsulting

Mark Higgins

Published 04/09/2016 | 02:30

Mark Higgins
Mark Higgins

Not all customers are created equal. Living by the mantra that "the customer is always right" can be a recipe for failure - if you haven't figured out what separates a valuable customer from a non-valuable one.

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When selling and pursuing deals, much time and opportunity cost can be spent bringing the proverbial horse to water, without them ever intending to take a drink. In that case, it pays to get to 'no' quickly. Seek customer feedback: if you're serious about maintaining your competitive edge, this is a must. The message will not always be positive. When it's not, consider what you receive objectively, within the context of what you're trying to deliver as a business. Although sometimes a bit painful, these can be some of your best development opportunities.

It's a cliche, but in business, the quality of your team directly underpins your success. The experience of building a high performing team, where people 'have each other's backs' but can also challenge one another constructively is for me one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.

In order to both achieve and maintain this, it takes constant focus. While basic technical competence for a given role is mandatory, I have learned to favour attitude and potential over knowledge and skills. I can invest to cater for knowledge and skill gaps but addressing problems with attitude and raw potential is far more difficult. Linked to this is the design of the right set of incentives - measures that focus on results and behaviours, not volume of activity and time served. You tend to get the behaviours you reward; an obvious point often overlooked in my experience.

You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. I'm not saying a person should be cut-throat, because the best deal is where all parties feel they've done well. Know your value and approach negotiations with a few rules of thumb. I'd generally advise against accepting a first offer. There is usually more available.

Also, when getting down to brass tacks in a negotiation, never make two concessions in a row. If you concede on something, it's then the other side's turn to do so. Know your 'walk away' point - it helps greatly if you have another option in your pocket to fall back on.

Sunday Indo Business

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