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how to create win win situations in business

Using Workplace Culture to Forge Win/Win Business Solutions

Your employees are clamoring for fewer days working in the office. Suppliers are pushing back on delivery schedules. Customers are resisting the price increase you put through last month. You want to satisfy everyone but must consider your own business needs. How do you find win/win solutions for your company’s problems?

Examine your company culture. Instill a culture where employees learn to think from others’ perspectives. This includes their coworkers, vendors, and customers. Encourage employees to find out what the other party needs. Then find a way to meet those needs while meeting those of your business. A win/win results when you collaborate, not compete.

All Winners, No Losers

Business negotiation has always been about winners and losers. We think we win when we wring the last penny out of a sale. We think we win when we purchase an item at the supplier’s cost. We think we win when we hold a vendor's payment back for an extra week. While these actions help your P&L, they don’t help the relationship.

Consider how you felt when a customer or vendor squeezed you on a transaction. It sure didn’t make you look forward to the next encounter. The “I win, you lose” approach helps one party in the short-term but does nothing to help the long-term connection. That mentality works in sports, but it seldom results in a real victory in business relationships.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, describes a win/win as

“a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win/Win means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, and mutually satisfying. With a Win/Win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan. Win/Win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena.” 

An agreement where both parties are pleased with the outcome and committed to the next steps is likely a long-lasting resolution. Spending the time to develop a win/win solution pays off because you’re laying the groundwork for future opportunities to work together. 

Cooperation, Not Competition

Collaboration means both parties win and feel good about the result. Conflict management consultant Dale Eilerman wrote in a blog post,

“Striving for collaboration requires a mature, open-minded perspective that believes in the “greater good,” in the abundance mentality – that there is enough for everyone, and that more can be gained from cooperation than from competing. A disagreement that starts with sides in opposition to each other can result in constructive agreements when the parties involved choose to work together to find a solution. The parties must move beyond their emotional drive to compete and win at the expense of the other.”

But in business, we often compete with our coworkers, customers, and suppliers. Eliminating the competitive mindset may be easier said than done. Some people are wired that way. But to take the win/win approach, you must go beyond your ideas. It also requires looking beyond the other party’s ideas. Instead, together you develop the best way.

Effective collaboration is not easy. It takes time. It’s much faster and easier to demand what you want or expect without regard for the other person’s needs. But to pursue the win/win, you must be creative, resourceful, and focused. You cannot view the other party as your opponent. You must be willing to trust the other party and be committed to their success as well as your own. Open communication and effective listening are essential. Eilerman adds,

“Efforts by participants to support and confront proposals with integrity and respect can create an atmosphere that will ultimately result in an outcome that everyone can actively support.”

Think from the Other’s Perspective

The first step to effective collaboration is learning to think from the other party’s perspective. In sales, understanding the customer’s problems requires a concerted effort. You must begin from a place of openness to their situation.

CultureWise CEO and author David J. Friedman wrote in Fundamentally Different,

When we put ourselves in the position of our prospects and truly understand their problems and what’s necessary to solve them, then we’re in the best position to succeed. We win the sale when we help the prospect win.”

Do you know what your customer truly needs? Or do you only think you do? INSEAD professor Christoph Senn noted in a Harvard Business Review article,

“Many failing sales organizations offer value propositions that prioritize their own products and services over collaboration with buyers, taking a one-sided perspective that lacks critical customer input.”

Rather than fit your existing customer offerings into their current needs, think about how you could work with customers to develop new strategies. Consider unique ways to meet your customer’s requirements. It helps to consider this as a long-term relationship, not a one-off transaction. Encourage your team to be creative and find new approaches to both companies’ problems.

Learning to think from the customer’s perspective involves curiosity and a desire to know more. It necessitates good listening skills – asking questions and carefully considering the responses. Dr. Russell Grieger, writing in Psychology Today, describes this as,

“to listen without judgment or censorship, just to understand. That is, you listen to exactly what each other wants without the intrusion of your own wants or values.”

Good listening is not simply “not speaking.” Don’t think about what you will say next or what current product you offer might fit the bill. Forbes contributor Pia Silva suggests,

“Strive to be positive and helpful. Ask the prospect questions that spark conversation and get them to share their needs and pain points. You’ll gain invaluable insights that will help you close the sale later on, but you’ll also help those prospects feel like they are actually cared for.”

Showing the other party that you care about them and the resolution of their issue demonstrates business empathy. Empathy involves walking in the other’s shoes, understanding where they're coming from, and their emotional as well as business needs. People’s views are shaped by their values, responsibilities, and background. Look from others’ perspectives and let them know you respect their opinions. You’ll have a much better chance to develop a long-lasting solution.  

Embed it into Your Culture

When employees routinely show empathy, think from others’ perspectives, and listen, they take these qualities into their negotiations. They will seek a low price from a vendor while also respecting their need for profit. They will approach sales prospects from the perspective of not just selling what you have to offer but understanding what the customer truly needs. When they advocate for their desires with management, they will think about the impact on the company, not themselves.

Your company culture reflects the behaviors that are reinforced within the organization. Does your culture emphasize:

  • Listening to understand
  • Speaking straight to one another
  • Investing in relationships with coworkers, vendors, and customers
  • Finding a way to make things happen
  • Innovation and creative thinking
  • Doing what’s best for the customer, not what’s best for you
  • Walking in your customer’s shoes


Contact a CultureWise specialist today to learn more about reinforcing win-win behaviors in your staff and take the next step to significantly improve your company culture. Visit our website to see all the value CultureWise can deliver to your organization.