Setting Objectives in a Meeting

The Importance of getting it right

Getting caught out at the critical decision stage…

Last month I was reflecting on my first National Account Manager role in conversation with a client. It was my first national customer, and they represented 30% of employers’ revenue. I wanted to prove myself quickly, and a major launch of 12 new products into my customer was my way to do it. My objective was simple, get my customer to accept the entire range!

I prepared, I rehearsed my sales presentation, and I was ready. My proposition was realistic, and it received a resounding “Yes”! My boss was going to be very happy.

Then my buyer gave me a myriad of challenges including conditions, expectations, timings, costs, support requests and other criteria I couldn’t write down fast enough. These all felt non-negotiable. My resounding “Yes” was quickly turning into a resounding “NO”!

I was unprepared for this and couldn’t think on my feet. I had no other objectives and certainly I didn’t have a negotiation objective. It was obvious that I had not considered these challenges, and that I knew little of the buyer’s commercial objectives.

Selling and Negotiating are two different skills. Both require clearly defined objectives which I did not have. It was naïve of me not to expect a negotiation after my presentation.

How to set an objective…

An objective can start off as a simple 3 tier structure:

  1. What would be a great outcome for your business?
  2. What would be a good outcome for you?
  3. What would be the minimum outcome you would be willing to accept?

With these 3 levels to your objective, you have direction and a range. But what about your counterpart? What about “the person you will be negotiating with”? An effective negotiator also thinks about the other party.

  1. What would be a great outcome for them?
  2. What would be a good outcome for them?
  3. What would be the minimum outcome they would be willing to accept?

By anticipating their objectives, you can start to consider both sides of the negotiation.

Negotiation is a two-way street

When dealing with customers on an ongoing basis, delivering mutually beneficial outcomes for both parties becomes a priority.

Often negotiations fail because of resistance by other participants affected in the negotiation. Taking time in your preparation to research all key stakeholders with a direct or indirect impact on the negotiation process can make a significant difference to the outcome.

Make it a part of your preparation to gather as much information by considering the following

Who are the people you will be negotiating with?

  1. What are their needs?
  2. How can you help them achieve these needs and meet your objective?
  3. What is important to the company you will be negotiating with?

If you can understand these external influencing factors, you can identify and create win-win solutions for each of the 3 levels of outcomes mentioned above. A qualifying table example below can be beneficial when dealing with larger or more critical negotiations.

Stakeholder Name
Impact on Result (Out of 10)
Stakeholder Role
J Bloggs
Senior Manager
Expansion into US
M Arty
Technical Assessor
Certification issues
I Gloo
Legal Approver
Patent approval

Negotiation is an acquired skill that takes training and practice. Employing research into the 3 levels of objectives outlined above form the base of a successful negotiation.

It appears to be time consuming and complex, however is immensely helpful and empowers negotiators with the ability to anticipate risks, present solutions, and ultimately identify the point where a bilateral agreement to your advantage is possible.

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Hexis Quadrant

Hexis-Quadrant is a boutique provider of consulting, training and coaching solutions for consumer goods and service based organisations.Our team has decades of relevant industry experience within blue chip