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Ethical Selling: Fair Negotiations

June 12, 2018 // R. Shawn McBride // No Comments »

***NOTE: This is part of a multi-article series on ethics in selling. The Our Shawn provides keynotes and other programs on ethical selling and he brings you some of his thoughts and findings here. Make sure you check out all of the articles at our blog. If you need more assistance call us for an appointment.***

What will you say in a negotiation?  What won’t you say?

This is a very interesting question. And it’s a real question or what is ethical in the negotiation context.

We all know it’s expected that you might lie in a negotiation. Everyone expects that the other party might shade information. For instance, many suspect the car dealer is having a coffee in the back when they are “talking to the manager.”

Even lawyers – who can get in professional trouble or disbarred for lying in other contexts – are allowed to lie in negotiations in most states.  More on that here. (Many of you know I am a lawyer).

So where do we draw the line in our negotiations?

Is lying unethical?

I think there is an element of personal style that is relevant here. Each person might have a slightly different take on negotiations – and how much lying is “fair” and “right”.  Meanwhile you must remember this because your counterparty might draw the line in a different place. They might, for instance, allow for more misinformation than you would think is fair or right.

Putting processes in place: my working rule

My personal rule is that I am open to hiding information that is mostly pricing information – things like my budget and ability to pay. I believe this to be normal because everyone expects to negotiate on price and neither side usually has access to the others’ financial statements.

I do not like to misrepresent service information – experience, abilities, etc. These things will be found out anyway and they are so fundamental to the deal they shouldn’t be hidden. Also lying about these will often be illegal (in addition to unethical).

I keep these rules and my personal ethical lines in mind whenever I negotiation for myself of my clients.

Beware of the slippery slope

One of the scariest parts of lying is whether lying will continue or get ingrained in culture. It’s easy to start with a small lie (the amount of money you have in budget) and start moving into bigger lies (like your ability to deliver).

For this reason you want to be very intentional in where your lines are and monitoring your actual actions.

And that’s why stopping and thinking about ethics is so important for you and your team. If you role play and anticipate potential slip-ups in advance you will likely have less slip-ups. But the converse is true too — without good simulation and preparation for likely situations you and your team might make bad decisions in the heat of battle because things are just moving too quick.

The time is now!

The time to get good and practice your ethics is now – not later.

Start thinking of the situations you are likely to face and how you will respond.

What are you doing to prepare?

If it helps you we offer training and speaking on these topics.  Give us a call or drop us an email and let’s talk about how we can help you.

The Our Shawn

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