If your team isn’t trained to negotiate, you are quite possibly leaving millions of dollars on the table. Why? Because your customers and suppliers are trained. Mastering the art and science of negotiation is required for all businesses to stay competitive. Erich Rifenburgh, a B2B negotiation expert with over two decades of experience, has honed his craft against the world’s largest companies.
He and his team have closed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of deals, most notably a deal worth $200M with one of the largest companies in the world. He’s a practitioner and an educator, spearheading a transformative journey for his clients through his venture, The Negotiation Experience. In this exclusive conversation, we discuss Erich’s unique approach to building competitive advantage by making B2B negotiation skills a core competency and discuss the common negotiation challenges he helps his clients overcome.
Q: Erich, could you share a bit about your background and your journey to becoming a negotiation expert?
A: Certainly. My journey began with leading negotiations with some of the world’s largest technology companies. I have closed deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars using a structured preparation process. It has been a hands-on experience fueled by my passion for negotiation. Initially, I developed my skills through two MBA diplomas in international business. Later, these foundational skills were honed while having responsibilities in North America, Europe and Asia. I got lucky early on in my career when a mentor at Emerson gave me significant global responsibility at an early age. This experience and my education helped me understand how to apply theory that works in the real world and discard the things that don’t. I’ve had many of my client’s jobs, so it’s easy to relate to their challenges and add value to how they prepare for their negotiations.
Q: That’s an impressive journey. How have you helped organizations build a negotiation culture?
A: We start by training managers so that they can hold their teams accountable and help them prepare with our negotiation principles, vocabulary, and tools. Typically, we do this with a one-day masterclass.
Next, we focus on the lead negotiators in sales and procurement who are on the front lines of our client’s negotiations. The comprehensive training journey we offer includes principles that are proven real-world strategies. Our tools help our clients outprepared their counterparts, and our case studies bridge theory and practice. We also do a lot of roleplaying with expert feedback; in our experience, this is what changes behavior. Clients who get the best results continue with follow-up sessions, Micro Learning assignments, deal consulting, and a video archive of negotiation principles to complete the learning experience.
After training managers and lead negotiators, we believe educating everyone else in the company who is interfacing with customers or suppliers is essential. One of the biggest challenges in most organizations is that they leak valuable information to their customers and suppliers. I’m sure you can imagine how this can disadvantage our client’s lead negotiators. Because this third group can be quite large, we train them using a self-paced online course.
Q: Who are your ideal clients, and which organizations benefit most from your services?
A: Our ideal clients are publicly traded or privately held B2B companies. We typically interact with CEOs, business unit presidents, general managers, VPs of Sales, CPOs, CHROs or managing directors. We have been privileged to work with businesses in freight, manufacturing, engineering, construction, medical devices, material science, digital watermarking, oil & gas, electronics, consumer products, and even rock engines! The segment they operate in isn’t as important as their willingness to go with us on a learning journey to achieve long-term results. In our experience, clients committed to change from the top down see an ROI of more than 10X.
Q: Can you share some of the business challenges your clients face?
A: Of course. Many of our clients struggle with counterparts who are better trained. They sometimes focus excessively on price, give away too much, and often lack a standardized preparation process. Another common negotiating challenge we see is when clients fail to make proper discoveries and truly understand what their counterparts value. This failure causes negotiators to unknowingly give away leverage and miss out on high-value trades. It’s always eye-opening when we push our clients, to be honest with themselves about what their counterpart’s alternatives are. Oftentimes, they overestimate their counterpart’s relative power and, as a consequence miss out on creating more value for themselves.
Q: How did The Negotiation Experience overcome these challenges?
A: We promise to work together and win together. With our proven process, based on my 20 years of real- world experience, we enhance negotiation outcomes. Our training instills confidence, motivating teams to ask for more, give away less, and trade for higher value. For us, the focus is always on understanding customer interests and shifting from competitive to collaborative negotiations in the right manner. We align teams on a common negotiation vocabulary to bring long-term sustainable results.
Q: Sounds great. Erich, what makes The Negotiation Experience stand out among other programs imparting similar knowledge?
A: We’re not just trainers but business consultants who learn your business before we start training. We dedicate ourselves to our client’s business by personalizing training experiences to address unique challenges. We believe no negotiation is beyond agreement. We offer practical tools and proven methodologies based on real-world insights. Most importantly, we stick with our clients over an extended period to ensure their negotiators make lasting behavioral changes.
About Erich Rifenbugh and The Negotiation Experience:
In the realm of negotiations, Erich Rifenbugh is a renowned name for his hard-earned negotiation experience through years of negotiating against some of the biggest companies in the world. Through his platform, The Negotiation Experience, Erich is on a mission to transform organizations into negotiation powerhouses. He seamlessly blends theory and real-world strategies with tailored models to create a winning formula, empowering his clients to develop a culture of negotiation with confidence and control. Erich’s expertise goes beyond teaching negotiation to transform B2B transactions in the global business arena.
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