If you were to look up the word 'Conflict' it would only offer a negative description of people clashing and disputing. As a result we're taught to avoid conflict or use techniques to get around it. The reality is whenever we get into a perceived conflict or disagreement of belief, value or opinion we can instantly show up in a state that is not about whats right but who is right. That is a dangerous place to begin.
This blog is not about conflict management although that type of training is helpful today. This is about how to re-frame conflict so we can pursue outcomes that benefit all parties involved. Looking at conflict as the pursuit of truth (taken from Patrick Lencioni's book the advantage) means we can take the potential positive intention of the conflict and use it to deliver on outcomes.
In key account management or any sales there is no exception to the potential of conflict of interest, belief, value or opinion because business is personal. Its personal because it involves people and we can sometimes be irrational, protective and unreasonable.
You can have it internally with departments, managers, stakeholders, with your clients, their colleagues, departments and stakeholders.
As a key account manager, sales rep or manager your ability to effectively manage, mobilise and collaborate with others matters. You need to be skilled in bringing people together, to share one singular objective of delivering value to your customer and sharing in the overall business success.
This is easier said than done right!
Here are three ideas for you to explore that will help you re-frame conflict and show up in a more positive, problem solving state when bringing colleagues, teams or clients together.
Look for common connection with the people and parties involved.
This is an important factor. In your business or with your clients there will always be at least one common factor that connects all their interests. This could be recognition, growth or profit. Finding ways to create rapport through connection and show understanding reduces the emotional trigger of self preservation or 'me syndrome'. It at least gives you the chance to create a more positive and shared environment for collaboration and limits potential self sabotage.
Set expectations and make the central theme of the topic clear.
How often do we turn up to meetings and no one really knows what the point is? Even when there is a point it's not entirely clear what the outcome should be. That is a sure way for a meeting that's based on resolving or making a decision a disaster particularly if you know that are strong differences of opinion. Before the meeting happens and in it make the central theme and objective clear. Here is the key. Give the theme an object an outcome and an obstacle. For example Object (the customer) Outcome (decide on the best way to raise customer satisfaction level) and Obstacle (we have a week to find common ground).
Why these three. In a meeting where you know you'll have to deal with very different people and perhaps heated differences you need to direct the flow of conversation before it begins. Giving the object gives focus, outcome brings energy and obstacle diffuses posture and creates a common enemy that is not a person but an event, a feeling or process. You can choose. Once agreed you then have permission to keep things on topic if the conversation goes off track.
Focus on whats right and not who is right.
It can be very easy for disagreement to feel like a personal attack. The important aspect to consider is focusing on what the right thing to do is based on the central topic. Make sure you acknowledge questions and ideas but focus that contribution on thanking them for pursing the right thing based on your central theme. Everyone will appreciate your leadership and everyone wins in the end.
Action: When you consider your next strategy meeting, when you need buy in from multiple parties consider these three ideas and apply them for better collaborative success. Allow conflict to be the pursuit of truth of whats right and not the disagreement of who's right.
If you're a key account manager, consultant or sales leader who recognises the continued importance to master yourself, your sales and customer relationships, get connected with me at www.jermaineedwards.com
Founder of the Key Account Hack System - New Key Account thinking that transforms customer relationships and creates predictable sales growth.