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Agent to Agent: The Art of Negotiation

David Connolly Photo - 200x250px.jpgBy David Connolly
Founder, iQ Consulting

As agents, we are required to negotiate frequently as a natural course of doing business. We negotiate every day of our lives with clients, prospects, underwriters, marketing reps, and agency personnel.

We negotiate on everything from rates to coverages, and services to deadlines. We also negotiate internally with agency staff to get what we need to win and keep business. By the time we get home to our family, we are just plain “negotiated out” which explains why our kids are spoiled. Children are relentless negotiators from age 3 until they develop a conscience and some empathy for Mom and Dad.

If you are like me, they didn’t offer electives on negotiation in college, and you’ve probably never received any formal training or education on negotiation. Most of us have learned basic negotiation skills from the school of hard knocks. The education process has been difficult, frustrating and costly. Negotiation has been elevated to an art form by guys like Trump and has taken on an almost mystical status.

All of these factors, real or imagined, have transformed negotiation from a learnable skill that applies the disciplines of preparation, positioning and strategy into a “secret discipline” that is understood by only the astute few. Most of us enter negotiations with a pit in our stomach and this hesitancy and fear typically results in poor outcomes. Embracing negotiation, as an effective tool and a learnable skill, will significantly improve results, revenue and relationships.

Let’s take 5 minutes and discuss the key components of negotiation. First let’s address the universal laws of good negotiation strategy.

First: Never enter negotiation without preparation. Preparation = Understanding & Control = Better outcomes. The preparation process involves understanding the position and interest of the other party, and then establishing an approach that makes them feel that they are winning or at least not losing. This involves asking questions, taking notes and dis- engaging to prepare. ALWAYS’s disengage, think about it, plan for it and re-engage.

Second: Don’t negotiate too soon. We often give away much more than we need to by negotiating before we've been asked to give anything. Understand that an objection or concern does not require that we go into negotiation mode and begin to give ground.

Last: Don’t lead with price. Always begin negotiation by understanding what it is the other party is wanting, and explore options and alternatives other than price to bring more value, vs. committing to price concessions. The goal is to create an atmosphere of cooperation and a feeling on the part of both sides that we are working together for a win/win solution.

In the preparation process always start by evaluating potential outcomes, and what each looks like. There are always 3 potential outcomes to any negotiation.

  1. Win - Win
  2. Win - Lose
  3. Walk away

The goal is always for both parties to walk away feeling like they have a good deal, and have not given away too much. The very best way to accomplish this is through transparency and honest business conversations. Honest business conversations lead to solutions and to partnership instead of adversarial conversations.

Once we have established our objective, which should be: “What a win -win looks like for us” and we understand the other party's position and interest, we can effectively prepare for the negotiation session.

Key’s to preparation are:

  • Knowing what win – win looks like
  • Knowing what a lose looks like for us
  • Knowing what concessions we are prepared to offer, and what they are worth
  • Understanding how to prepare and deliver value propositions
  • Knowing when to walk away

Anticipation of issues and concerns helps us prepare effective solutions. Anticipation of objections, help us prepare value propositions that lead to more effective, constructive conversations. Think through the potential issues, concerns and objections uncovered in initial conversations, think through options and approaches that address issues and objections and then:

  • Rehearse
  • Engage
  • Restate position & interest – Changes?
  • Introduce considerations
  • Value propositions
  • Give and take
  • Close

Books on negotiation:

  • Getting to Yes – Fisher, Ury
  • Getting More: Diamond
  • Difficult Conversations: Stone, Patton, and Fisher

David Connolly is the founder of iQ Consulting. They work with the top 100 agencies and brokers in the US and Canada and have trained thousands of insurance professionals.

Want to learn more about negotiating? Join PIA and iQ Consulting for our June 17th webinar on this topic or purchase the archived recording if the webinar has already taken place. This webinar is presented as part of the PIA Agent Success Acceleration Program. PIA and iQ Consulting have created this sales-focused, e-learning program for insurance professionals in CO, DE, IL, MA, PA, RI, SD and WV and a growing number of states.

To learn more about the PIA Agent Success Acceleration Program and to register for the next webinar, Win-Win Negotiation, to be held on June 17, please visit

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