Achieving Win/Win Outcomes With Partners

How often do you hear channel account managers or sales reps talking about wanting a Win/Win outcome with partners? But have you ever stopped to think what that actually means? A Win/Win means that the rep wins (ie. gets what they wanted) but also the partner gets what they wanted.

The problem is that, not only is this difficult to achieve without the right level of analysis and planning, most people approach an interaction or negotiation with misguided view of what constitutes a win for the other party. In fact, there are 5 other philosophies that negotiators adopt, sometimes without even realising it.

The parable of the orange

Let’s look at an example.

Two sisters walk into a kitchen one morning, to discover there is only one orange left in the fruit bowl. Both sisters reach for the orange at the same time, and subsequently an argument ensues about who should get it. One sister argues that she should get the orange, and the other sister argues that she should get the orange.

So how do you resolve this argument?

If you answered like most people, I’m guessing you suggested cutting the orange in half. But what if you learnt that one sister wanted the orange to make a glass of orange juice, and the other sister wanted the peel of the orange to use in making a fruitcake? Obviously now, with this knowledge, we could divide the orange in a way that both sisters got exactly what they wanted. That’s a Win/Win outcome.

In analysing this story, there are 2 reasons why we were initially unable to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome:

  1. The parties entered the negotiation with the view (or philosophy) that for one of them to win, the other must lose something
  2. Neither party invested the time to understand what the other party wanted as an outcome
Let’s explore this in more detail.

Negotiation Philosophies

Our philosophy describes the intent that we bring to a negotiation interaction. Our intent can be influenced by our style, beliefs, experiences, relationships with customers and current demands on our roles and business performance. This can influence the strategy and tactics that we adopt to negotiate our desired outcomes.

There are 6 different negotiation Philosophies:

Win – Win

We want to achieve our desired outcome, and we want the other party to achieve their desired outcome

Win – Not Lose

We want to achieve our desired outcome, and we want to make sure the other party is not any worse off

Win – Lose

We want to achieve our desired outcome, but for us to do that, then the other party must lose something, or be worse off.

Win – Not Care

We want to achieve our desired outcome, and we don’t really care what the other side gets (ie. they win, lose or draw)

Lose – Win

We set out to lose this argument, or we concede on an issue, to give the other side a win. This is normally a short-term tactic, in order to get the other party to consent on future issue – often referred to as losing a battle to win the war.

Lose – Lose

This is a case of sour grapes, where, if we can’t get what we want, we sabotage the situation so the other side cannot get what they want either. An example of this is a losing partner in a tender process discounting the price aggressively, forcing the winner to match it and end up with an unprofitable deal.

In the case of the orange, both sisters approached the situation with the belief that they could only get what they wanted, if the other sister missed out. Unfortunately, this philosophy is seen in many interactions between vendors and their partners, leading to compromises, or less than optimal outcomes.

Ideas for Achieving a true Win/Win Outcome

While the conflict over the orange is a far simpler example than the interactions that most account managers face, there are some valuable lessons that can be learned and applied to how we interact with partners.

  1. Don’t assume that every situation is a Win/Lose, and that a win for you is a loss for the other party. In many cases you have different objectives. For example, in a typical sale to a customer, the vendor is predominantly interested in the product revenue, whereas the partner is more interested in the services GP.
  2. Take the time to understand what defines a win for the other party. I often encounter reps who are afraid to ask the question, because they believe it may put them in a weak position if they are unable to deliver on that request. But if you don’t know what the other side wants, I guarantee you that you’re not approaching this interaction with a Win/Win philosophy.
  3. Approach every interaction with the view that you want to give the other side what they want, as long as you get something that makes it worthwhile for you. For example, a partner may want a higher discount than you would normally give. But maybe you could ask for something that could help you justify this discount (eg. a larger order, or ordering additional products, or a case study highlighting the success of your solution, or an introduction to a new account).

For more information about how to apply these techniques, feel free to drop me a note at, or visit our website to learn more about our Sales and Negotiation training courses