On this episode of the Career Success Podcast we invited Minerva Acevedo to speak with us about the art of negotiation. Minerva has worked in consumer packaged goods in both marketing and sales roles, in the health and wellness industry with Johnson & Johnson and in the food industry with McCormick & Company. Through both experiences, she have been exposed to negotiations with large corporations such as Costco, Wal-Mart and some of the top Canadian retailers and media companies.
In this episode we discuss:
Negotiation vs. Selling – what are the key differences
Why many people feel uncomfortable with negotiation and how to overcome this
How to walk away from a negotiation feeling successful
Lauren: Hi, I am Lauren Stiebing and welcome to this episode of the Career Success Podcast. Today, we will address the topic of negotiation. Negotiation is a part of everyone’s day to day, whether in their personal or professional life. I’ve spoken with many individuals who feel very uncomfortable when negotiating. And for this reason, I’ve invited Minerva Acevedo to discuss with us how she has been successful in negotiations. Welcome Minerva.Minerva: Thank you so much for having me. Lauren: Thank you for joining us today. Why don't you share with us a bit of background on yourself and your experience with negotiation?Minerva: Certainly, I have worked in consumer-packaged goods in both marketing and sales roles, in global companies, in the health and wellness industry with Johnson & Johnson and in food with McCormick & Company. Through both experiences, I have been exposed to negotiations with large corporations such as Costco, Wal-Mart and some of the top Canadian retailers and media companies. I have received one-on-one training from top firms industry and also from business school. My experience ranges from contract negotiation, releasing a brand on shelf. As well, I have experienced challenges and business impacts from making assumptions about you know what the other party expected and not really understanding their motivations and objectives. Internally, I also negotiate every other day with supply chain marketing and finance, mostly on an ongoing basis and lastly at a personal level, negotiation has been key especially for example, at the end of my marriage, which was really not a conscious uncoupling experience like Gwyneth Paltrow. So, I tried to use some of my learning’s to ensure an outcome I would be satisfied with.Lauren: Okay. So you're using it both in your professional and personal life then?Minerva:Absolutely.Lauren: And what do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions about negotiation?Minerva: I think that many people assume negotiation and selling are the same thing and try to approach them in the same way while they are not. Selling is promoting the attributes of a product, service or an idea while negotiating should about you know, maximizing value and really involves a lot of planning, research, questioning, listening for what’s being said but also to what's not being said in order to have better control of the outcome. Also, some people think that negotiations are only for unions or heads of state or sales and procurement departments, major corporations conducting mergers and acquisitions but we all are involved you know, conscious or unconscious negotiations almost every day from buying a car, getting your kids to sleep at bed time or who's going to take the garbage out. To also negotiating a salary increase or even as a severance package really depending on the situation there might be value in taking the time to negotiate, but it's also important to know that not everything is worth negating.Lauren: Why do you think many people feel uncomfortable in negotiations?Minerva: I think it really is human nature and the perception that negotiations are about having conflict or maybe they fear that our proposal might be rejected by the other party which really feels very personal and it makes us feel vulnerable. It may seem like an intimidating process because we also have our egos and they get in the way and we let our emotions get involved. We tend to associate negotiations with being fair or about compromise when it really depends on the specific situation and how well we can control the process in order to achieve the outcome we desire. It's not really necessarily about winning.Lauren: Yeah. And what can be done to overcome these challenges?Minerva: Well, I think that we need to start by understanding our own position and the outcomes that we are striving for. Then at the same time, we need to identify potential trade-offs that provide value to the other party. We then need to get out of our own heads and into the other party’s head. This means doing research, asking questions to understand their strategy, their positioning and really more importantly listening to them to identify areas where we might be able to influence. Really creativity is very important. I think that maybe of the table at some point, may become a bridge to move through difficult negotiations thing; you know, carry this process forward. As an example, a contract doesn't necessarily have to be about financial value only, maybe improved delivery times or a reduction in packaging would help the other party in their effort to be more sustainable and it would be perhaps a welcomed proposition that can help deliver satisfaction to the other party as they send… as they get a sense of accomplishment.Lauren: mm-hmm. So in order to come out of a negotiation feeling successful, what would you say are the top three takeaways?Minerva: Well, I would say try to come out of every meeting with something even if it's only securing another meeting and do not be afraid of putting your proposal on the table first so that that's the one that gets talked about.Lauren: OkayMinerva: Second, once you're being comfortable… being uncomfortable, you get more clarity to choose the strategy and be flexible but never lose sight of your expected outcome and the kind of relationship that you want to have in the future after you're done negotiating. And finally, I would say embrace negotiation as a process to learn more about the other party, being curious and being genuine, being engaged; this is going to help create value not just for your own interest. Again, once the negotiation is over, continue to be aware of any changes in the other party strategy so that you're not caught off guard when their objectives change; it's an ongoing process.Lauren: Minerva, thank you so much for joining us today on our Career Success Podcast.Minerva: Thank you so much to you, Lauren.
Always – the ideas, thoughts and words below are mine and reflect my viewpoints, not those of my employers or anyone else.
As the year comes to an end, it is genuinely a time to reflect on what has passed by, what we learned, and how best to apply this to the upcoming year that beckons us. First, before everything else, make sure to relax, recharge, enjoy time with your loved ones, and come back ready for 2019!
Much has been said of eCommerce and digital in our CPG world, and we’re all still in the middle of understanding, determining and landing scaled successes that both please and make us feel like we have command of this subject. Sales results often don’t look like what we anticipated, and innovation launches no longer seem like a blueprint can be followed. I’m not really telling you what you don’t know, but perhaps put into a simple article here, it helps – so, what to focus on in 2019? Let’s get to it.
Artificial intelligence: a much loved but misunderstood word. 2019 is the time to truly learn the impact this is having socially on consumers. Listening devices, the change in privacy anchored by opt in, the ability to vocally interact with technology, and experimentation across the board means it will become more real next year. Learn the basics, apply it to your products, and focus on the famous Alexa device as your opportunity. This simple yet bold article helps decompose the tech buzz around AI for CPG.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: AI continues to evolve but doesn’t really land impact at scale (yet).
The role of retail in your eCommerce / digital strategy: continues to evolve every single day. The questions come up routinely – where to focus? Omni, Omni, Omni – omnichannel has truly arrived and virtually every retailer of scale is adapting for it. If you’re not talking to, developing a strat plan, and not leading the way with your retail customer – you are genuinely missing the point. Take time to understand concierge shopping services – Instacart, Postmates and Shipt.
BOLD 2019 PREDICITION: massive attention shift towards omnichannel retail.
The role of Direct to consumer (D2C): if you are part of a large, scaled CPG universe, let’s admit it, this feels like a must have, we are still learning it, and we haven’t been able to figure out how to truly adopt it. Does the consumer truly want it directly, what value are we providing, can we create an aura of surprise and delight, does CRM truly anchor with you, and the value of data – these are on your mind and you’ve been trying…
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: it gets real! M&A becomes the true, tested, tried way to play this out at scale, other ways are finally understood as learning experiments, and played out for those reasons only.
1P vs 3P (where to sell): lately the word ‘CRAP’ has been in the news every day. You’re in this space you know what it means. This phenomenon started in several categories in January and will dominate 2019. Everyone should make a fair profit and this action is only to be expected. Your future as a 1P on pureplay will henceforth be welcome only with direct investments.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: the industry embraces 3P as its primary vehicle on pureplays. Yikes (this means you’re learning the art of being a retailer).
Areas impacted by digital reach: this is the year cross functional teams truly embrace and deliver support for this space. This means packaging, relevant SKU rationalization, artwork, innovation launch mechanisms, SEO anchored content, SEM paid search strategies all become the ‘NORM’.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: the launch of eCommerce specific SKU’s at scale across the industry for omnichannel rollout and scale.
Advertising shifts: far too long the industry has relied on amplified and scaled mass communication platforms that were expensive. LIVE TV was one of the most successful and influential platforms of its time. Streaming is the new TV period, short of a few LIVE events. Ask yourself if your ad strategy on streaming is focused on 1:1 consumer relationship development. You’ve exclusively depended on the retail outlet to build loyalty, this is a shared responsibility now. Custom and boutique work focused on 1:1 consumer relationship management is a reality. Are you in the middle of shaping it?
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: the rise of boutique and small agencies for scaled media buying on new platforms and relationship building, streaming TV is fully understood as a real must do platform.
The role of marketing mix: WOW! Have we seen changes in the mix model or what over the last 5 years? Wait, have you adapted and made the necessary adjustments, or is the well know mass channel data (easy to measure) your primary vehicle for developing your mix? Is your equity building platform inclusive of retail outlets and a well-diversified SEM mix? Think about this – audience attention span is diverse and if you’re not including these platforms in your mix up front – you’re not driving scaled equity in 2018 but merely driving it in easily measurable channels (50 % of reach approx..). Let’s reach the consumer where they are.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: MMX models become inclusive of SEM and paid media on retail platforms as a norm. (PS- the keyword here is retail platforms) PS – invest in media on Alibaba and don’t use the ROI excuse (this is the year Alibaba’s reach becomes global – are you ready for it? Yes, it will also reach Europe and US in 2019).
CES, Shoptalk, Groceryshop: this is your digital playground. See the future of devices and products in one, learn to market it at the next and how to sell it at the third. They are in chronological order. If you’ve never heard of these 3 – we have work to do, it’s a good day to ‘google’ them and get started.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: you will find a way to be part of one of these and lead by example.
The unprecedented availability of data: no longer are you constrained by the availability of POS aggregated projected data. Yet you are choosing to anchor your success on it even though it measures 50 % of what you do. This is the year, a serious effort needs to be put to understand what you already have, buy into, which vendors can help you, and how you can understand consumer preferences in a truly qualified way. Tech is way cheap compared to when you started this journey, leverage it.
BOLD 2019 PREDICTION: The industry acknowledges the availability of digitally influenced data sets and makes it habitual in every day analytics.
Your personal digital journey: by now, you are nodding your head in acknowledgement of the above, or I’ve provided you some good end of year humor, perhaps you will call out my bias for being an industry change agent. Whatever it may turn out to be, in 2019, you don’t have a choice as a CPG leader. You must lead by example. No more depending on individual heroes to lead the path for you. You are empowered and owe this to the industry. So, read up, ask questions, and lead this revolution from the front.
BOLD 2019 PREDICITION: YOU will author, create, co-create content, speak or motivate others in the digital revolution in 2019!
HAPPY HOLDIAYS YOU’LL…
This article was written by Sri Rajagopalan, Vice President of New Digital Business Models at Johnson & Johnson.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go with others”. Combine the wisdom of this old African proverb with the pithy saying that “Your network is your net worth” and you will get the essence of this article: Networking is vital to personal and professional success. And yet, so many of us just don’t realize how important this skill is, or worse, make no attempt to build our networks.
Rambo is only in the movies!
Human beings are socially interdependent creatures. This applies in the context of the families we are a part of, the communities we live in, the organizations we work in and ultimately, even across the planet as a whole. An organization’s success ultimately depends on how well different departments, teams and individuals perform their respective roles. In any field it is simply not possible to be a Rambo and realistically expect to consistently accomplish missions successfully. Networking helps to build an informal ecosystem that we as individuals can rely on for advice, assistance and support.
Networking is not just exchanging business cards
Networking starts with introductions and an exchange of business cards, but it certainly does not end there, as some people mistakenly believe. Their thinking is that “once people know who I am, what I do and how to reach me, they will contact me when they need my services”. This is an erroneous assumption because yours is only one among many cards that people will collect.
And unless you have been able to stand out from the crowd because of your gregariousness, credibility or knowledge, chances are your business card may not get a second glance.
Networking is about engaging with people who do not know you and building in them the desire to keep in touch with you. This happens only after you build rapport and mutual trust. In fact, real networking is about staying in touch after the initial interaction. During the initial networking interactions, you may not even know if- and how- the other person can help you; all you are doing is creating goodwill and trust that you can draw on as needed. Networking works on the principle of reciprocity, i.e. give-and-take. You may be called upon for assistance by others. If you are in a position to help, you should, as long as what is being asked of you does not violate company policies, your personal code of ethics and morals or the laws of the land.
You must network both inside and outside the organization you work in. Each provides different benefits.
Strong networks within the organization- both within our own departments and outside- can be valuable resources. For example, they can help us access people we may not directly know, but need information from. A quick “Hi John, Susan from HR wants some info about the Executive Search firm we use in Europe. She and I used to go to the same gym. I have asked her to write to you with what she needs. Appreciate your help” kind of voicemail/ email is likely to work much faster than you writing to John introducing yourself and then stating what you need.
More effective collaboration is another benefit of networking. Let’s say you’ve volunteered (or been volunteered!) to be part of a cross-functional team that has been formed for a specific project. If some of the other members are people with whom you have networked in the past, you need much less time to break the ice. Also, you can be more confident that your ideas will get a fair hearing (and even support, if they are good) during meetings.
In global organizations, mobility across regions is common, as companies seek to deploy their best people in key markets or divisions. As an expatriate who has to relocate in a couple of months, imagine how much easier your life (and job) could get if you reached out to colleagues from the new region and networked with them.
The key to successful networking is to identify possible common areas that can help forge a bond. Other than working for the same company (albeit different departments), maybe some of you live in the same community, or have kids attending the same school or playing in the same little league. Or perhaps you go to the same gym or place of worship. Such neutral meeting grounds are great to get early conversations flowing.
If you think you are not a “natural networker”, start honing your skills by building networks within the organization; the experience will make you more adept at external networking.
Networking outside the organization is just as relevant. You could meet people at industry events or professional conferences, in airport lounges, on flights or even while on vacation. The people you meet could be functional experts, motivational speakers, leadership gurus or even potential customers/clients or employers. By networking with them, you could learn about industry developments-information that you can use in your own jobs. Or you could gather insights about self-development that will help you be more effective in your job. Or you could learn tips to manage your people better. There really are no boundaries to how networking can benefit an individual.
Knowledge apart, networking can enhance your personal brand. For example, at an event if you are a speaker or panelist or ask great questions, you will be noticed. Use coffee/lunch breaks to network, and you could discover potential hires for your team or even meet potential employers. You could even meet executive search consultants who could help you with that next career move or hire the kind of people you are looking to hire for your team/organization.
Even networking with competitors can be useful. You could gain insights into how your organization is perceived in the marketplace. Such information is very valuable as it can help shape strategic or tactical responses. Networking can also help make it easier to work with peers across companies to brainstorm collective responses to issues impacting the community or industry.
As you can imagine, a good networker can use his skill to gain significantly. But remember that those who are good at this craft are givers and sharers too. Sustainable networking is about giving others the confidence that you are approachable and willing to provide reasonable help- and then living up to the perception you have created.
The importance of networking is perhaps best summed up by Success Coach Dennis Waitley’s observation that “If you are not networking, you are not working”.
Here’s a list of conferences which I have gathered from my network that you may find useful, depending on what industry you are from or what functional role you play. These conferences are mainly around specific industries; however, most of them include sessions on HR topics, Leadership, Technology etc.
I have often been asked by family, friends, former colleagues and of course, clients why I chose to become an executive search professional. A few days ago, on a flight back to Barcelona, I gave the question deeper thought and even made some notes. As I reviewed the notes, I realized that I could actually identify and categorize the reasons and drivers into three distinct but inter-related buckets:
Who I am
What the job requires
How I benefit
The “Who I am” is essentially about the kind of person I believe I am. I see myself as a caring human being who likes to build relationships with other human beings. I genuinely like interacting with new people and getting to understand their experiences, aspirations- and often times, even fears. I enjoy change and keeping in touch with how industries are evolving under the influence of technology, regulations, customer expectations, business models etc.
Because of who I am as a person and the strengths I bring to the table, it perhaps becomes easier for me to be and do all that being a good executive search professional needs to be and do:
A good listener- to be able to understand people and assess their strengths and weaknesses
A clear communicator- to act as an effective bridge between the client organization and candidates so that information about the role, culture, compensation etc. is clearly shared.
Avid reader- to be aware of the many ways in which industries and organizations are evolving, and consequently, appreciate what skills and competencies are key.
Possess high emotional intelligence- in order to be able to separate person from issue, objectively evaluate people’s reactions and responses and remain calm through a process that can take many months and involve a series of emotional ebbs and flows.
Have a global perspective- because more and more businesses operate globally, and are willing to hire the best talent irrespective of nationality or ethnicity. Just as true is the willingness of talent to live and work in new locations far away from their home countries.
Digital savvy able to use a combination of resources to research candidates and thereafter, connect and engage with them. This also requires the ability to function effectively in an omni-channel environment, to choose the most appropriate channel to connect.
An innovator with the ability to connect even faint dots so as to identify talent for cross-industry roles.
A persuasive person who can convince organizations to give them the search mandate and then, persuade candidates that they are the best fit for a certain role.
For me, the how I benefit bucket goes far beyond the monetary rewards of successful placement. I derive immense satisfaction from helping people succeed and grow as professionals. There is also great joy from helping organizations succeed by helping them attract the right talent. This gives me the pleasure of knowing that I have contributed more directly to the client organization’s transformation than just helping them hire good talent.
There is also the fact that in the course of a day or week, one gets to wear so many hats and play so many roles. Being part of a boutique firm also means I share responsibilities for formulating the firm’s strategy, managing financial and human resources, driving expansion into new geographies or industry sectors and so much more. Each day is different because one gets to interact with different people and organizations. Each such interaction for me is an opportunity to learn. Sometimes, I learn to improve, and sometimes I learn how not to be. For an executive search professional, every engagement and every candidate is a unique story, although there are some similarities. So hey, what’s not to love about a job that enriches me in so many ways?!
Aristotle is believed to have said “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”. I would be lying if I claim to be perfect. But I can honestly say that I take pleasure in my job. With each passing day I strive to become a better head-hunter- and human being- than I was the day before.
October 29, 2018
LS International Global Compensation Survey
Check out the 2018 compensation survey from executives across the consumer goods industry.