Choosing Your Negotiation Training Partner

There are a number of things to consider when you decide who to help you in your negotiation training


  • Are they negotiation specialists – or have they just tagged on negotiation as part of a vast range of other training topics?

Too many training companies assume that negotiation is “just another soft skill”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In most cases, negotiation is a business critical competency and improving executive capability is not just about tick in the box training.

  • How frequently do they update their materials

Our materials are frequently updated in line with best practise research and reflecting current real-world issues. One of the other large negotiation training companies has not updated their materials since 2008 – a lot has changed since then!

  • Is their advice based largely on anecdote and war stories or research

It’s easy to say “this strategy or tactic has worked for me” – but frankly that isn’t very helpful. We all have different approaches and preferences to conflict, and just because a strategy works for one person it doesn’t mean that it will always work or will be universally applicable. If, for instance, you don’t like highly competitive negotiations, explaining how this can often be successful will not help.

  • Do they use a validated behavioural framework to identify performance against specific descriptors

Focalpoint uses a behavioural framework that has been developed over the last 20 years identifying specific behaviours that guarantee negotiation success more frequently. Nothing works every time but our framework means that you will get better results more often. We can also use this framework to benchmark negotiators against other industries

  • Do their trainers work for the company – or do they use associates that work for a number of different organisations?

Although this isn’t a problem per se – you run the risk that the trainers are less committed to the organisation.

  • Have you met the person that is going to actually deliver the training?

How many times have you seen a slick pitch where the “A” team has turned up but you have paid a lot of money and end up with trainers that are really not of the same calibre?

  • Are their case studies and exercises tailored and relevant to your business?

In reality, negotiation is not about the context it is about behaviour. This means that standard case studies should work for all delegates but you run the risk that poor face validity allows the “it’s not like that in our business” pushback and you can end up with the training message rejected. In any case, it’s an expensive exercise so surely it’s reasonable to have the materials tailored to YOUR issues.

  • Are they insisting that you sign an exclusivity contract for a period of time?

As in all negotiations, you can’t blame people for asking – but why is this reasonable? It takes away your flexibility and gives the training company more power in the negotiation.

  • Is the course unnecessarily lengthy? Do they spend vast amounts of time reviewing videos that show people repeating the same mistakes?

There is some merit in reviewing videos of where people have gone wrong – but by the time you have seen three or four people make the same mistake the value diminishes rapidly. All it does is extends the length of the course – and for busy executives, this represents too much time investment. Anything over a couple of days is probably unnecessarily lengthy.

  • Do they involve your team in delivering and creating the training intervention?

There is ample evidence that if your executives are fully engaged in the training intervention you get better results. Your people feel that you are all in it together and the training is not in some way as a result of poor performance.

  • Do they use complicated models?

Frequently training is sold in to senior management with complicated frameworks that are rarely used after the training. Rackham found in his research that better-educated people did less well in negotiation because they over-intellectualise what is going on! If you can get your people to do the basics right and have a shared understanding of the process – a “company way of negotiating” the training is more likely to be effective.

  • How do they evaluate the training – real behavioural change or anecdotal ROI?

Determining results in financial terms is difficult to measure, is hard to link directly with training and remains largely anecdotal.

The reality is that most negotiation consultancies ask participants to quantify details of post-training financial successes – but in truth, it is virtually impossible to attribute financial success specifically to the training. The main value is for the training organisations to use these anecdotes to “prove” the value of their training when they are pitching for new business. There is of course value in focusing the team on the fact that the company has an expectation that training is likely to deliver some commercial benefit!

Read about Kirkpatrick’s levels of training evaluation here

  • How much real negotiation experience have their trainers got and how frequently do they negotiate now?

What is it Bernard Shaw said? Those who can do – those who can’t teach! It is important, in our view that the trainers are grounded in the real world as well as the theoretical.

  • Do they have any conflict of interest? Are they training your suppliers or customers as well?

Some of the large negotiation consultancies are so big that they end up training both sides of the table. While in a theoretical sense that isn’t a  problem – best practice is best practice – there have been instances of them preparing both sides of the table for the same negotiations. Probably best avoided.

  • How big are the groups?

The optimum size is about eight – any fewer and you don’t get enough interaction – any more and the whole experience becomes less experiential.

  • And finally how much does it cost?

Most of the larger companies charge a headline cost anywhere between £2-4000 per delegate. Some of the general training companies charge as low as £500 per delegate. In reality, the main cost for training companies is the cost of the trainer – so you can figure out their real economics quite easily. As soon as you have more than three delegates their costs are usually covered.

Additionally, there are sometimes hidden costs where you are you forced to incur extra cost – for instance does it have to be residential – and if so are you forced to stay at a particular venue?

Our model is that we deliver tailored training based on the cost of our trainer plus expenses at a venue of your choosing!