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Oct. 7, 2022

πŸ“ Epic Engagement Adventure: Christine McKay, Negotiation (and Curiosity) Expert

Would you say you know how to negotiate? Are you viewing negotiation as a win-lose situation or as a "let's find an option that works best for both of us" situation? 🀝🀝🀝
Christine McKay talks about different approaches to negotiation and how curiosity can help.

Christine was born and raised in rural Montana. Christine has been negotiating for nearly 30 years and has negotiated with more than half of the Fortune 100 & hundreds of small and mid-sized companies across more than 50 countries. Christine founded Venn Negotiation out of a passion for helping small and mid-sized companies achieve even more success. She loves helping people ask for more of what they want and showing them how to get it. Her mission is to reduce business failure rates by helping people elevate their negotiation skills! Christine’s been married to the love of her life for nearly 30 years and is a proud mom of three grown children and has two fur babies (dogs).

Connect with Christine by taking her awesome quiz. Or text VENN to 26786.

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Interview with Christine McKay

RJ Redden: Hold on to your goggles. It's time for the epic engagement adventure.

Looks like I stuttered when I said hold on to your goggles. Hey everybody. Welcome. So glad to have you here today. I have an expert in the art, the science of negotiation, communication, something that we take for granted that we are doing all the time. We think we're doing it, but are we really, really doing it?

Are we really making a connection with that other person? Are we turning them off completely by what we say? Today I've invited a master to come and teach us. Christine McKay. Christine, welcome to the podcast.

Christine McKay: Thank you so much for having me, Rj. I really appreciate it. I'm so excited to be here.

RJ Redden: I am so excited that you are here because we've got a lot to talk about.

You've got a lot going on. Will you begin by telling the people who you are and what you do?

Christine McKay: Absolutely. So Christine McKay, I'm the CEO of Venn, v e N n, Negotiation. I would spell it cuz half of people like math and remember Venn diagrams and the other half don't. Um, and so , uh, I've been doing negotiation for 30 years almost, and have done a lot of work with large companies. I've negotiated with 68 of the Fortune 100 and almost half of the Fortune 500 across 55 countries. But I realized that there's a huge disparity in what small and midsize companies do with respect to negotiation relative to what larger organizations do. And so I launched Venn negotiation out of a passion for helping smaller businesses level the playing field in their negotiation. Learning how to ask for what you really want, getting clear on what that is, and providing tools and resources to do that through either training programs that we offer or consulting services where we help clients by leading them through a negotiation process.

RJ Redden: That right there. I mean, it's so needed, You know, people call 'em so-called soft skills. That ain't a soft skill at all. Mm-hmm. , what led you to want to do this for people?

Christine McKay: Well, I, it started, I mean, I start, I learned how to ask for things in a really bizarre way. I was an unwed teen mom, homeless, living outta the back of my car, and, um, had three kids at 22, um, was on welfare.

And after deciding to leave my first husband, uh, I needed some help. And I had to learn how to ask for help in order to get what I wanted. Otherwise I would've... when I went to the first time, I went to a welfare office and they said, What do you wanna do? I said I wanted to go to Harvard. And everybody laughed at me.

And, um, you know, that's a, a pretty lofty goal to, to have. Just quit living out of the back of a car. And, uh, 11 years later, my three kids walked across stage in front of me and got little teddy bears and I got my MBA from Harvard University. So the thing is, is that in order to make, you know, we often stop ourself when we think about needs.

We, we go, Okay, I need this. Right. I need this. And need is a survival thing. We need this to survive, but we don't give our self permission to explore more thoroughly what it is we want out of our lives. And in order to get the things that we we want out of our lives, we need to be able to ask. And I just had a great conversation the other day with somebody in a networking group and he was fascinated.

I. I've gone to Burning Man eight times. I'm a huge Burning Man person. And this year, um, was a particularly great year, but he was very curious about it and he said, I don't understand why giving economies don't exist more, more broadly in cultures. And, and my response was, because we're not taught how to receive.

We're taught that giving is a, is an act of power, and receiving is an act of weakness, and that is the dichotomy that we've set up and that plays out in negotiation all the time, that if I have to ask for something, we see it a lot in David and Goliath negotiations, where a big company, it's like, Oh my gosh, I, I have an opportunity to do business with, you know, with Microsoft, right.

Or Apple, or take your, pick a big organization and the smaller organization is like, Oh, may I have another, please? Right. Whatever, whatever, you know, big company is gonna give me, I'll take whatever they, they throw my way without actually stopping and go stopping and saying, Okay, well, Dollar of revenue is costing me a dollar 20 to do.

Yeah. And it's costing me employees and it's, you know, whatever it is, do, do they understand? Do people understand that equation? And generally what we find is the answer is no. People don't understand that equation. And so they think in terms of needs, they think, and which is a short term thing to think about. It's what we need is now and immediate, what we want is future. And so, um, we have to start blending those two to be more effective in our negotiation.

RJ Redden: Well, and I'm fascinated. I'm fascinated by that part that you said where people just don't even really know what they want. Mm. How do you, how do you start, How do you start walking through people, walking people through the process of figuring out that question?

Christine McKay: Well, the big thing is, I mean, I always talk about the number one requirement for being an effective negotiator is unending curiosity. It is always a question leads to another question, which leads to another question. So, when I think about, you know, I often have people ask me about, uh, a job, right?

Because it's an easy, easy example. Um, you know, I want, I want more salary. Well, what do you wanna use it for? Um, Right. How you answer that question drives a whole lot of things. Uh, I bought, I went into a car dealership once and I, uh, offered to buy two brand new cars, but I only wanted to pay for one.

And I was like, I'll give you, I'll pay for one of 'em and you can give me the second one for free. Right. And I, and, and when I do, when I speak and I teach negotiations, I ask people, you know, using the car as an example, what's important to you when you buy a car? What do you care about? What are the things that you sign value to?

And people, you know, make and model gas mileage, safety, you know how fast it goes, you know, all sorts of things. But do you want it today? Or are you willing to wait for it? Because if you have to drive, you wanna drive it off the lot today that drives a negotiation model. If you're wanting, willing to put an order in and wait three years for it, that drives a very different negotiation model.

And so when we talk about what, knowing what you want, it's getting down to a level of clarity in detail. What's possible and what's important to you, because you wanna be able to look at all the possibilities or as many of them as you can think of and say, Which of these things are my priorities and which ones don't I care about?

Because the ones you don't care about, those things could be important to your counterpart, right? You wanna know what they are. You wanna know that they're not important to you, and you wanna be able to give those away. In the negotiation process, especially if they're important to your counterpart. But so often when I ask people, What do you want?

They talk in very high level generalities and the problem with generalities is you cannot take action on something general. You can only take action on something specific. And negotiation is all about getting clarity and specificity so that you can take action together to create a better future.

RJ Redden: Interesting. I, I really love that. I mean, because so many times, you know, when I, back in the day when I was a, a corporate, uh, person, you know, getting the job was everything right. Getting the job was everything. Um, I worked so hard in school for that. I still owe student loans. Uh, I, you know what I mean?

Like blood, sweat, tears went into that, and then it comes time to negotiate and I, I had nothing. I, I had a degree and a 4.0. That's what I had. Um, Those actually don't matter very much. Uh, not as much as you think that they would. Um, do you, do you find, you know, in your work that women have a harder time or is it about equal?

It's about the same for everybody?

Christine McKay: As, as negotiators?

RJ Redden: Yeah.

Christine McKay: So women statistically are more effective negotiators than men typically. The difference is, is that we, we confuse haggling with negotiating. So when it comes to haggling, so let's just stick with a car. You know, I'll ask people who loves to, who loves to negotiate and certain pop, certain population of people, like their hands get raised super fast.

Well, they're, they're not likely to love negotiating. What they really like doing is winning. And they think about negotiation in a win lose environment, and they're usually negotiating very narrowly. So there, there's a binary outcome in their minds about what they're negotiating or what they're, what they're haggling over. Negotiation is more complex. Negotiation is about having longer term relationships, building value over a longer period of time. The way that I define it is negotiation is a conversation about a relationship and you cannot win a relationship. Right. And you know, I hear all the time, I, I, I ask people this a lot.

Um, when I'm speaking, it's like, who believes in having a customer for a lifetime, right? And pretty much every hand in the room goes up. And then I say, Who in their your sales process talks about how you're going to renegotiate the deal in the future? Zero hands go up, and my response is: then you do not believe in having a customer for a lifetime, because the deal that I signed today is going to change.

And business changes, the environment changes. All sorts of things change. And if I care about having you as a customer for a lifetime, or you care about having me as a customer for a lifetime, then automatically we know that things change and our relationship is gonna change, and what's working for us today may not work for us in two weeks, two months, two years, or 15 years. Right? I know somebody who signed a, on a, a new lease on a restaurant space in on March 10th, 2020, and it was a 10 year lease and they had no out. Oh, they ended up going outta business and their investors lost their shirt. They had to file for bankruptcy, and now they're working jobs for somebody else, right?

Because they didn't pay attention to what was the environment that was going on around them, and they weren't curious enough to actually explore that, right? And so, but. Women are good at thinking women are... we tend to think more, according to the research, we tend to think more holistically and less structure less, um, checklist, less like a checklist. So a lot of people will negotiate like it's, you know, a shopping list. I, you know, I want this color car with these kind of tires, with this kind of mileage, whatever, this, it's this shopping list of things versus looking at the whole of a problem and looking for ways to kind of assign things.

Um, and my easiest way of describing that. If I may, is a simple analogy. So I, I know this is weird, but I always have at my desk an egg, and you know, when I ask people, right, an egg is one of the most commonly used foods in the entire world, and I, and I tell people, I've got three people who want this one egg.

How do we get three people, this one egg? And most people immediately throw out things like, I'm gonna boil it and divide it. I'm gonna scramble it. You know, that's, that's kind of generally where people's minds go. But the first thing is you have to ask a question. What do you wanna use the egg for? Right? So what does each of the three individuals wanna use the egg for? Well, one wants to make mayonnaise, one wants to make an egg white omelet, and one wants to make a very decorative piece of art, and they need to have the shell fully intact. You can't crack the shell, right? So you have somebody who needs the oak, somebody who needs the white, and somebody who needs the fully intact shell.

So then the question is, how might we do that? How might we keep this shell largely intact and still have a yolk and a white separated, right? Well, you do it by poking a hole in the bottom and the top and blowing on it, and you get an egg white, an egg yolk, and you get an empty shell that you can then turn into a piece of decorative art, a Ukrainian Easter egg.

And this is the highest value use of an egg Yeah. Of that. And that's negotiation is how do I turn, how do I take something so common as an egg and figure out a way to create more value out of it and, you know, and, and that's, and that's really what negotiation is. Is and, and. and, and it's about how we ask, ask questions, how we dig deeper, how we get more curious about what we wanna do and how we wanna do things. And creating an environment where we're not telling people, but we're showing people things and we're asking to, for people to be collaborative. Now, are there always situations where that's gonna work? Not necessarily. I might not wanna have that if I was in a hostage negotiation situation. I might wanna be more manipulative because I have a binary outcome in a hostage negotiation.

But in business, we don't have binary outcomes very often, and it, and we have alternatives. So how do we get curious about what the alternatives are and what are the other outcomes that could satisfy our wants and our needs.

RJ Redden: Exactly. Um, the binary outcome. The binary outcome is something that, you know, uh, the mentality, of course, it's a win lose situation, right? Yeah. Uh, either we're in a win or we're gonna lose today, and so many people are, uh, demonstrating that that's the way it is in business. And what you're saying is hardly ever.

We can create a win-win most of the time if we're just curious enough to start asking questions. That's fascinating to me. Um, I would go and listen to your TED talk on this any day. Uh, just so you know, . Uh, well, beautiful. Um, well, I do wanna, I do wanna make available to everybody, um, you know how to get a hold of Christine.

Uh, do you wanna talk about the book and the background as well? You wanna tell us a little bit about.

Christine McKay: Sure. I mean, you know, the thing is, is that a lot of times I, well, I often say that the hardest part of every negotiation is actually asking for what we want, right? Because we get all this noise in our heads that tells us, Oh my God, if I ask for more money, that customer's gonna go away, or that investor's gonna not give me anything.

Or if I tell a supplier I need it faster, they're gonna do something bad with a, with the, the product, whatever it is, we come up with all. Ridiculous, insane stories in between the six inches of, in between our ears. And so the book is really about why not ask, right? We, the, the boogeyman is not gonna get us if we simply ask for what we want.

Right, And, and no is an invitation to ask another question. Except in sex when no means no, but, but it, But no, no is an invitation to ask another question. Right? I often talk about how seven year olds are some of the most gifted negotiators on the planet because they're fearless about asking for what they want and when they don't get it the way that they're asking it, they'll figure out a different way of asking for the same thing, or they'll go ask somebody else. Right? And as adults, we quit doing that because we learned that there were consequences to that. And so then we convince ourselves that people are gonna say no before we've even asked the question.

So like the two, buying two cars for the price of one. If I had told anyone that I was gonna go to a dealership and try to buy two cars and get one for free. People would've said, You're outta your mind. There's no way you can do that. I shared this story just a couple months ago with a car dealership owner in the audience, and he came up to me afterward and said, Oh yeah, that's totally doable.

Right? It, it's like, and, but we think that it's not because we have some story that's told us we've not. So the book really goes through the process of negotiation, how I have used my story, what I've learned on my road from homeless to Harvard and beyond. Um, to learn about negotiation, to really help the smaller, mid-size companies level the playing fields and get more of what they want because you all deserve it.

RJ Redden: Yeah. Well, and and the end all, be all. Some, for some people it's money. For me, it's not. My North Star is not a dollar sign. I've got other stuff that I want to do. So in these negotiations, can I learn to figure out what's really important for me. And when I'm dealing with, you know, some, some of my clients help help me get what I want, help them get what they want. I mean, it's, it's, it opens up so many things. And the starting stone to all of that is curiosity, it sounds like.

Christine McKay: Absolutely. You have to be curious about yourself. You have to be curious about your counterpart, and you have to be curious about the situation in which you're negotiating.

So we always talk about how you have to be curious about you, them, and it.

RJ Redden: Yeah. Uh, very good. Um, now I do wanna ask cuz this is, uh, the epic engagement adventure, uh, for all of my coaches who are out there listening, what is a really great experience with engagement, engaging your audience? How have you done it that in the past? What would you have to say about?

Christine McKay: So I'm kind of old fashioned, so I, I'm a country girl as born and raised in North Central Montana on a, on a farm in, in a farming ranching community. And one of my favorite things to do, still to this day is to send people handwritten cards and included in them because I love flowers, I love gardening. I often put a package of, forget me not seeds in, in that. And the stories that I get back from people on what, you know, oh my gosh, I planted these with, with my grandchild or, you know, my wife, my wife loves these and, and that's just so, I like to do things like that. And I have one, somebody on my team lives in Guatemala and she, she's here in Los Angeles and she brought me a bunch of little worry dolls, right? That you, you essentially in, in Guatemala and tradition, you speak to the worry doll and you put it on your bed and it carries your worries away while you, while you dream, while you sleep. And so that's something that I'm gonna start to, to do.

So I like to do things like that, that, that, that are, that are representative of me, that are, that are, that are something that I care about, That's something that's important to me in my life, and I find that that is the most effective way of engaging because I'm trying to engage, not for volume. I'm trying to engage for building a deeper relationship.

RJ Redden: Absolutely. Uh, engaging for volume, uh, for, you know, that's really important to some folks. For me it's finding out it really helps me. Like really red flag, paint it red. These, these are my people. Mm-hmm. . Absolutely. The people that respond back and go, This was awsome. Um, and uh, and that helps my business grow more than anything because every time someone is added to that group, I think about those characteristics.

I think about that stuff that they have in common with the others. And I think, How could I reach more, You know, how can I reach more of these? And the other thing that I really love about your response about the seeds and the Forget me nots is it's a pattern interupt and not too many people see it in seeds.

Christine McKay: No. Exactly. It is a and and that's also very negotiation. It's very much the, the notion of a pattern interrupt is huge in negotiation. And, and so it's consistent with, it's consistent with who I am, and so I give things that are consistent with me. I, and, and it, it does. You know, it does pattern interrupt to move somebody away from a strong position and a negotiation is hugely valuable tool to use.

RJ Redden: I could talk with you all day. Unfortunately, our schedule simply will not allow. Uh, but I do wanna say, I wanna thank you for coming on. I mean, negotiation, it's one of those things we just don't really, we don't really think about. But if you, if using that simple tool really well, you can make your life so much better and so much more enjoyable.

Uh, I can't wait till your big book comes out cuz I'm buying it, you know, that I have to have the book. Uh, any final, uh, words of wisdom perhaps enough to string into a pearl string? I don't know. Uh, any final things to share with my people?

Christine McKay: I mean, the big thing to to know is that conversation is... a negotiation is literally just a conversation.

It's a conversation about what's gonna work for you and what's gonna work for your counterpart, and finding the intersection point of where that makes your life better, right? It's all about how do you create more value. And, um, and just so just remember, negotiation is a conversation about a relationship and you can't win relationships, but you can get more value out of it.

Make your negotiations an egg.

RJ Redden: Beautiful. Uh, I love that you used that analogy too, because forever, uh, I'm going to remember that egg story. Uh, I might not remember the particulars of everything, but I'm gonna remember that egg story. Um, I just wanna thank you again for coming on. We will have you on again.

Um, book you were saying is about about January. You guys are gonna start kind of pre getting the word out there.

Christine McKay: So this one, Why Not Ask a Conversation About Getting More is available on Amazon. Now we're gonna be releasing the audio book in January, so that book is available. Um, our second book, How You Ask Matters, will be coming out, um, next year.

RJ Redden: Okay, beautiful. Folks, uh, you know, avail yourself of this knowledge. Do it. You will never, ever regret it, I promise you. And, uh, that's it for today, my friends. Uh, gosh. Uh, thank you audience. You are absolutely wonderful and lovely. Please do reply into comments if you've got comments or questions. And, uh, that's it for now.

Bots of love.

Christine McKayProfile Photo

Christine McKay

Born and raised in rural Montana, Christine has been negotiating for nearly 30 years and has negotiated with more than half of the Fortune 100 & hundreds of small and mid-sized companies across more than 50 countries.
Christine founded Venn Negotiation out of a passion for helping small and mid-sized companies achieve even more success. She loves helping people ask for more of what they want and showing them how to get it. Her mission is to reduce business failure rates by helping people elevate their negotiation skills!
Christine’s been married to the love of her life for nearly 30 years and is a proud mom of three grown children and has two fur babies (dogs).