“I’ve realised it’s not just negotiating, it’s dealing with people. I took a week out of my year to observe my negotiation style – it was like an out-of-body experience.”
If Ravi Bhansali were describing his own negotiation style before taking the Negotiating and Influencing Skills for Leaders programme at London Business School (LBS), it would have been “effective, yet bullish”. But after putting his new toolkit to work, it’s becoming more “win-win”.
Ravi’s fresh and more collaborative approach to deal-making is central to his work. He’s a director in his family-run business, Rosy Blue, which specialises in rough diamond sourcing, cutting and polishing as well as jewellery manufacturing. For the sourcing part of the business, Ravi influences people of all levels, every day. “I deal with everyone from junior miners to global, senior executives,” he says. In fact, Ravi is a seasoned negotiator – his skills have been polished over 12 years and include “daily hustling”.
So, if he’s already great at sealing the right deal, why come to LBS? “To see if my style was as effective as my results,” he says. He discovered from the pre-programme survey analysing responses from people he deals with regularly – miners, account executives and internal staff – that he can sometimes be perceived as “ruthless”.
“I learned a lot about myself from the survey results. Most people called me an extremely effective negotiator. But they also found me coarse. They said: ‘He would do anything to win.’ I ranked highly when people were asked: ‘Would you like Ravi to negotiate on your behalf?’ But when it came to, ‘Do you think he would negotiate to benefit both parties?’ I scored low.”
Ravi’s main challenge was his own mindset. “I would get very frustrated and agitated,” he says. One of his respondents describes why best. “A peer pointed out that my mind works fast. I’d interrupt people’s flow midway, because I’d already have arrived at their meaning before they’d said it all.
“The programme taught me that interjecting leaves a person feeling they haven’t been heard. It’s better to allow the other person to take you to their idea at their own speed, in their own time. That’s something I’ve put into practice, and I’ve seen good results so far. People feel I’m more receptive to them.”
Now, Ravi’s meetings don’t end on a sour note, which is helping him to take care of his all-important stakeholders.
“One of the people I deal with regularly is a senior executive at one of the world’s leading mining houses. He has now also become a good friend of mine; we deal together all the time. But from the pre-programme evaluation I understood that while he likes and respects me, he felt I had a selfish attitude. I didn’t know that before. The process helped me realise that, if I wasn’t careful, our relationship could have gone in a bad direction.”
Ravi still drives a hard bargain today, but he does it while creating value-adding partnerships. Ultimately, he’s focused on strengthening the relationships imperative to his business.