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What You’ll Learn:

  • Leaders will mess up from time to time. Good leaders will strive to improve.
  • Read as much as you can about your industry. Knowledge is learned through books as much as it is learned through experience.
  • Have at least four people around you to help you grow. One mentor to look up to, one person you are mentoring, and two partners who enable growth.
  • Be it in negotiations or in marketing, remember who it is for. Knowing one’s counterpart opens the door to effective communication.

Watch Part Of This Episode On NEGOTIATEx TV

Executive Summary:

Welcome back to the NEGOTIATEx podcast! Our distinguished guest this week is Mike Farag, the CEO and Chief Strategist of Fervor Marketing. Through Fervor, Mike fulfills his passion for serving brands at the intersection of faith and business. His goal for the last 13 years has been to help nonprofits and businesses of all sizes to enable them to make a greater impact on the world. Till date, Mike and Fervor have helped 87 organizations to articulate their purpose through strategy and brand development, align their work with ongoing communication, and amplify their reach through marketing across many channels. It was a privilege for us to have him on the show, more so because he happens to be Aram’s brother-in-law! 

Like some of our other guests, Mike got his start in the corporate world but pivoted once he found his true calling. In 2008, Mike was at a difficult point in his life due to the loss of his first marriage. It was at this point that he started journaling (he recommends it for everyone) and realized that he needed to leave the corporate construct to make a difference. While on a mission trip to Haiti, he was presented with lots of marketing and strategic thinking pamphlets, and other forms of communication. Unfortunately, he found out the hard way that these communications would not serve him in the intended way out on the field in Haiti. When he returned home, his research showed Mike that many faith based organizations are not able to publicize the good that they do out in the wider world. This is how he found his passion for helping brands like the organization that arranged his mission to Haiti spread their message further and louder.

Marketing And Negotiations, More Alike Than You Might Assume

Some of our listeners might be asking: What does marketing have to do with negotiations? For Mike, marketing is all about understanding an audience and connecting a message to that audience. Any negotiation in its inception, starts from the same principle; understanding the needs of one’s counterparts. A successful negotiation requires understanding one’s internal needs and tailoring them to the needs and frustrations of their counterparts. In the marketing space, a successful campaign involves refining an organization’s messaging to the needs of their target audience, which essentially becomes the counterpart.

Mike has personally been involved in negotiating the sales of assets for his clients and donations of large sums of money. The ace up his sleeves is starting with the audience in his crosshairs, getting a full picture of their motivations and finally capitalizing on them. People fundamentally have different socio-historical understandings of the world based on their lived experiences. Mike gives the example of the word “theater” which would mean a cinema hall to the vast majority of people but to a person with a military background, it could mean an active combat zone. This is why marketing needs to put the audience first and get the messaging right from the outset. Profiling is important for the reason that the audience themselves can be an important factor in getting the message out. Advocacy is where they add the most value.

Mike gives the example of a client who started a charity named after the chemical formula for propane. With his team, he took this client down the road of an eight week long brand impact assessment to get the processes straight for advocacy and messaging strategies. During this time, he profiled the audience and found out that while many were drawn to support the organization, they were not really advocating for it because of the mixed messaging that the platform provided. Mike’s solution was to rebrand the NGO, put the mission first and the founder second, and saw the impact of doing so when its valuation soared.

The Challenges In The Space

Fervor has seen some pushback regarding their eight week long assessment. Mike attributes this challenge to the current start-up ecosystem that encourages companies to grow fast or crash. But in his experience, the leaders who put forethought into their marketing strategies succeed not only because their messaging resonates with their audience but also because they have a long-term growth strategy.

Finding creative solutions to problems can be difficult but like in negotiations, there’s never just one possible solution. Having multiple options on the table helps marketers to feel good about the work they do and for clients to feel good about their return on investment. A fun and interesting way to do that is to play a game called “High-Low” where the worst case scenario and best case scenario of an option are put to the test. By writing them on cards, Mike and his team create a mental model of the pros and cons of the solutions to be able to tackle them collaboratively. 

Conversations and negotiations have moved online, bringing with it its own set of challenges. Environments are harder to control so subtle things can affect the human interactions that take place. Mike believes that intentionality can overcome such challenges. Like in negotiations, preparation and follow-ups to meetings are key to having an effective campaign. Follow ups cannot be one-dimensional; using tools like geo-targeting and digital campaigns help to keep potential prospects on the radar. Even if they do not become full clients, the intentionality and commitment shown should turn them into advocates. 

Mike Farag discusses a lot more during his conversation with Aram and Nolan. Email us at team@negotiatex.com and let us know: how do you use negotiations in your own industry?

Thank you for listening


Nolan Martin : Hello, and welcome to another episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast with my good friend Aram, but Aram, please introduce your brother-in-law. Go ahead and ripped that band aid off for you.

Aram Donigian : Yeah. Is my brother-in-law so folks welcome, keeping it in the family today, as we like to say. We have the opportunity to hear from Mike Farag from Fervor Marketing. Why have a marketer on the show? Great question. We don't even know, but we think there's probably something that negotiators can learn from a marketing expert. Think a marketing as a way to influence and not only that, but also in the way business is done. And having Mike and had a lot of conversations over the years with Mike, I'm excited to kind of delve into this and see what we can learn. So let me tell you a little bit about Mr. Farag. Mike understands what it's like to find a vocation worth pouring your heart into because after years of climbing the corporate ladder, both sales and marketing, Mike discovered where his heart really was on a mission trip to Haiti after seeing firsthand, the very real difference that one organization could make in the lives of many.

He found a passion for serving brands at the intersection of faith and business about living out our calling through our work and about developing healthy organizational cultures so they can succeed from the inside out. And so Fervor was born; through this award-winning agency, Mike has been serving nonprofits and businesses of all sizes for the past 13 years, so they can have and make a greater impact in the world. To date, fervor has helped 87 organizations refine their messaging and brand identity through signature brand impact assessment. Currently Mike and his team serve faith led organizations in Kansas City and across the country with strategy, brand development, ongoing communication, consulting, and marketing across all channels and for a variety of industries. Under Mike's leadership, Fervor is revolutionizing the craft of health, helping organizations articulate their purpose, align their work and amplify their reach so they can do the most good possible. In addition to being Fervor CEO and chief vision caster, Mike leads Fervor’s business development efforts. He loves the outdoors and loves spending time with his amazing wife. And I'm not just saying that because she's my wife's sister. Okay. But she is quite amazing and their four beautiful children. So Mike, welcome. Thanks for joining us on the show.

Mike Farag : Yeah. Thank you guys Nolan, Aram. So good to be here. Thanks for that intro, man. I feel privileged, you know, have that said such a man as yourself.

How Did Mike Start On His Journey? [4:00]

AD : So Mike, that's the kinda, you know, online bio and we want people to kinda know who you are, but, but man, how did you get here? What's been in your own reflection, the, the journey from climbing the corporate ladder to entrepreneur, owning your own marketing firm.

MF : Yeah. No, I'm, I'm happy to share and, and certainly wanna make this relevant to the, the theme of what does real negotiation look like and what sort of value might we be able to add or I'm able to add it all. Gosh, I think that was, that started long, long before I started fervor in my corporate climb. I loved and was climbing as hard and fast as I could. Let's call it negotiating the best deal possible for Mr. Farag here. And I was, I was focused on that. It was a lot about what I could get from the corporate construct and they were really rewarding that. I mean, if you could figure out what, what you did for them and did well for them, and you're willing to put that sort of level of effort in, you got a really good coin in return.

And that was, that was my, my hard charging first half of my career until lots of things changed in my world. A big personal change with a loss of my first marriage sent me on a very different quest. I started journaling. And by the way, guys, if you're not a journaler, I don't care who you are, what you do in your career; journaling is a magic, magic thing. Retrospective is something we all can learn from. And when you journal, you get a chance to get a retrospective. And for me, this was really helpful. I started journaling at that kind of pivotal point in my life. And it became really clear to me that I needed to leave that corporate construct for something else. And I didn't know what that something else was. And so lo and behold, a mission trip to Haiti was what really got me started on this current path, July of 2008.

I remember it clearly. And I saw something that I'd always wanted in my life, and that was real joy. And I happened to go to Haiti to find that, and I thought I want a little bit more of that in my life. And I wasn't called to be on the frontline of the mission field. I was given lots of gifts, marketing, communication, strategic thinking. And I was like, I don't think that serves me really well in the front line of Haiti here. You know, like I just don't think it does. So, when I came home, I found out that there was a problem in the world and lots of organizations needed help being as good publicly as they were inside the organization. By the way, I think that's true for leaders too. We get in our own way a lot of times, and the public persona is different than what the inside heart of a leader looks like.

And I think that's true for lots of great organizations and it turns out they need a really great marketing communications firm to help them make sure that what is outside, what they say and do and feel and show is as good as what they and who they are inside the organization. And it turns out my favorite thing to do is to do that for organizations like the group that took me to Haiti. So nonprofits, faith-based nonprofits of all kinds and stripes are our target audience and it's who we help try to grow from the inside out, because we believe that's where great growth comes from. And that's what I get to spend my days doing. I got a great team of people. We get a chance to go tackle this, this, uh, this mountain together. And it's a blast most days.

AD : Mike. Thanks. All right. So let let's tackle the elephant in the room. Yeah. What do we have to learn from you? What, from a marketing lens and the way you approach the, the way you help organizations, what can we take from that, that would, that would help our, our listeners be more effective in, in negotiations they're involved in?

What Can Negotiators Learn From Marketers? [7:47]

MF : Yeah, I think at the core of what I get a chance to do every day- but what I believe marketing is about is understanding audience and connecting a message to the audience. And correct me if I'm wrong, fellas, but I'm pretty sure that's what negotiation starts with. Understanding who, what are frustrations and needs of the other end of the spectrum? Not just you, because we all have internal needs and frustrations and largely we're blinded by our own as opposed to really understanding what someone else needs. And in the marketing space, what we do all day every day is help our clients understand the audience, their target, their main audience. We happen to call them ideal advocates because we believe advocacy actually changes more than just what a target buyer persona might look like. And what we think from that perspective is that when you understand audiences and you understand their needs, their frustrations, and you craft a message that connects with them in a voice that can be understood and then magic starts to happen because now real connections, real relatationships starts to happen.

We have common ground. And gosh, I think from a negotiation standpoint, I'm negotiating the sale of lots of things for clients or, or the donation of millions of dollars for clients. That takes a real keen understanding of audience and what message is gonna resonate with that audience the best. So from a target audience perspective, when I think about what do we have to teach anyone about negotiation, Gosh, I think we have a lot to teach them about negotiation. Because I think the best negotiators start with the end in mind and they start with their audience in their crosshairs. And when they have their audience in their crosshairs, the more they know about them, the more they've thought about them, the more they thought about how they got up in the morning, what do they drive to work? What do they care about? What are their current like real felt needs? This real visceral kind of, we would call this a physical need before we can a actually get to the negotiation needs. We've gotta cure the physical needs, which lots of times are what is the burning questions or series of questions in their minds. And they're not going to hear anything else until we've kind of already addressed those sorts of key issues. That's true in marketing for sure when we're trying to deliver our message, no matter what the medium we're trying to deliver. And I think it's true in negotiation, at least my current working hypothesis for you in terms of what we might teach is great profiles, great messaging probably leads to a great negotiation.

NM : Well, if I could jump in here, Aram, so I think what's awesome is that Mike you're really kind of highlighting almost like our process, but we're just, using different words in exchange here, you brought up a lot about communication relationships and how that allows you to uncover interest. Well, for us, that's essentially getting into the circle of value to be able to figure out those needs, to be able to start really answering those questions. And it all starts with good communication, good relationships. Aram?

AD : Thanks Nolan. You talk about ideal advocates, Mike. So I'm just curious, why isn't it obvious to the folks you work with that they need to do this and, and how do you put the sauce together? How do, how do you help them do that?

MF : Well, it's really hard. So, I mean, think about this. I mean, we all think in, in most cases, humans, we're pretty simple. We think the way we see the world is the way others see the world. And so when we walk in the room, we automatically start to have assumptions about, well, I, they automatically know what I know. And when I say things, it makes sense. The, the truth is read the same piece of paper and Aram and I, and Nolan and I, we're gonna read it and we're still gonna interpret that piece of paper, the same words on the page, differently. Same data in front of us, we're still gonna interpret it differently. And we're gonna hear different things because it's our paradigm. It's our story. You haven't been to the same places. I haven't been in the same situations as you.

And so we are automatically going to the words are going to matter when, when I say the word theater or in theater to a bunch of military guys, I automatically know that is a different modicum. And if they have been in combat, it's going to be a different modicum than somebody who's never, ever served a day in their life. Guys, it's the same words, but it carries with it very different weight and that matters. And so we have to know the audience, the better we understand the audience and, and their historical understanding more. We can measure a really good message to hit. Why don't they understand this? Because humans just naturally think we've had the same experiences when we walk in the room. And if I say in theater to you, you're gonna understand what I mean by it. I didn't mean combat, of course not.

We're not here. We're here in a theater. I mean, we're physically in a theater or something else, but the truth of the matter is you carry with it, all of your historical understanding and context. And that is what we really try to get clients to understand is that this isn't really about them. In fact, they think it's the field of dreams. And I love the Field of Dreams. It's a great movie. It is the absolute worst kind of marketing ever. And so you don't just get to write your message apart from your audience and then hope people come. You don't do that. Not if you want to grow, especially in a early stage organization. This is where I believe. Like we love Simon Sinek. He’s got a great kind of motto of, you know, why, how and what the golden circle.

But we think that misses the mark in lots of ways, because typically that means you've written it. And now you're hoping that just droves of people will show up because they will buy why you do. Well the droves of people never show up until you tell 'em and you have a chance to talk to him. And so what we've missed in this perspective is that, you know, he was profiling large organizations been around for years that have had a chance to like millions and millions, if not billions of dollars’ worth of ad budgets. And most of the organizations we work with just don't have that. And they're never gonna have that kind of platform. What they do have is advocacy. And they do have a chance to relate a real message to somebody. And so I think we start to, uh, show them that value of what that looks like, why don't they know what coming in and they're human just like you and I, and it's hard to, you know, shed your human qualities. When you walk in room, you just make assumptions.

AD : Mike, an example you could share of an organization you've worked with who was building it and hoping folks are gonna come kind of striking out. And then you come in, help them reframe their focus, do some hard work around ideal advocacy advocates and see a turnaround in, in the success they're having.

Why Advocacy Is Important To Grow An Organization [14:14]


MF : Yeah. I mean, well, we've got a bunch of these kinds of stories and I love that we do, because we've just been along some great organizations. And I would say lucky to serve some great organizations that are willing to listen and grow. The first one that comes to mind is the first one that I went with, you know, back in, gosh, it's, it's the inception story for us. They're now called the Global Orphan Project. When I went on that trip to Haiti, July of 2008, they were called C3 Missions International. Do you know why? Because the founder earned his money in propane. And he's a great guy. So let me just say this, like, Hey, publicly, I love man dearly. He is almost a family member to me, but he named his organization C3 because C3 H8 was the chemical compound for propane. That's how he made his money.

So why wouldn't he just name his charity C3? And you know, when I showed up, you know, I went on this trip, life changing trip. I was like, “Mike”, his name's Mike, “you say, this is the most important work you've ever done. And it does not look like it. It does not sound like it. And the story's about you is that what we want people to understand when you're out there serving widows and orphans that this about you and your money and how you made it, because that's from the very start from the very jump it's about you, C3.” So we did a brand well, we called brand impact assessment, which is a, a big eight week process for us to really do, ideal advocates, messaging strategies, et cetera. And we did this process. This was the first time I'd ever done this process, by the way, we didn't call it that then, I just knew the pieces in parts have been trained by the big companies to do it this way. And we added some different, you know, a couple of different flavors to this. And man, it was impactful. We profiled the audience. We thought about messaging and that led us to a need for a name change because it was, it needed to be about others. The audience wanted and needed. They were drawn to this organization in very profound ways, but they were trapped. They weren't really sharing about this organization. They weren't really ad advocating for this organization. Why? Because the messaging was really hard to understand the name was like nondescript. Like there was just so many challenges. And so the barriers for being able to share about the organization and actually have alignment were really high. So all we did, we took the barriers all the way down, new name, new logo, a strategy of communication for specific audience.

We typed the audience and it was, gosh, it's been impactful. So they've gone from a 1.5 million organization to, I mean, guys, they are pushing 20 in 10 years. They have for profit arms that are earning even more income that aren't even part of the nonprofit now. I mean, they're very innovative and they unlocked a lot of things. You should see the way they're using this brand today and we couldn't have planned it better. And by the way, we don't have anything to do with it anymore. When you unlock potential, it goes in directions you could never plan. And they are just off to the races. And I love it, Kim and I, my wife and I are very connected to this organization. We love it. And yet we have no idea, all of the places they've taken this organization now it's been fantastic to watch. And it started with an owner, founder being willing to, think a little differently. That in my opinion, that's what that's part of, what it for us to accept that what we think and, and something that we hold dear might be better if we open our hand up a little bit wider.

AD : And it sounds like you've gotta practice that too. So as you guided him, you're kind of practicing what you want your client to do with their customers or their advocates. You're doing that same thing it sounds like with your clients, it's not about you and Fervor. It's about understanding and listening to them.

MF : Oh, I hope so. I think this is, guys, this is a major negotiation, cuz let's think about it. I've tried to put it in your terms too. You know, largely what an organization like mine wants long term clients, you spend a lot of time getting, and now you want to keep 'em for a long time, right? But that may not be what's best for them. And if I really wanna practice what I preach and I think about the audience and their needs and frustrations and their heart's desire, gosh, I may be able to serve them really well for the next two years, get them out of their own way, give them some real good building blocks and then turn them loose on the world in different ways to a larger, a larger agency or an internal agency or, you know, you name it. And that's, I think what most of us get, we get in our own way, myself included. And, and so we try to take this pill of practicing what we preach as much as we can. And so lots of times, what we say is our main goal is to, we wanna make sure that there's always more impact with us than without us and the moment that changes, we wanna get out the way.

AD : So you, you talked Mike about the impact assessment, and again, I don't know how much of the end you can peel back there- eight weeks, how much resistance do you get from folks who are like, now we just need to get this moving faster. What are you talking about eight weeks of discovering, and doing, doing research and analysis? Which by the way, Nolan and I would be on your side coz we think there's a lot of good work to be done in preparing, uh, for negotiations. So anyways, what, what sort of resistance do you get on that?

MF : Oh man. I would think we're in lockstep on with you guys on lots of pushback on time invested in terms of what it really takes to come up with a successful outcome, lots of pushback. I mean the reason we've work with, you know, now pushing over a thousand organizations and just pushing a hundred of them have done our main processes because 10% of the groups that we've worked with have said, Hey, we're willing to do the full process. Let's make a really good cake. And most of 'em, we all wanna move fast and break things. And that has become, I would say that's also become, you know, the markets working against us in a lot of ways. The startup community and mentality is move fast, fail fast, as opposed to think critically. I wish we might think about a little bit of think critically. The old Axiom “measure twice cut once” is not what it what's in favor.

And so this is true for lots of our clients. Now the true innovators, they wanna move fast, but they also wanna move intentionally. And that's where we love kind of entrepreneurial innovative, nonprofit clients that sort of temper and tone means that they they're gonna look at an ROI and they're also gonna wanna plan and they wanna know where they're headed and they wanna know where they're headed before they really pull out the driveway. So they're willing to put a map together, a sum of map now, eight weeks still sell candidly, but man, it's been a lot of fun. Now we're at 89 times that, you know, somebody's let us do this with them. We're doing number 90 right now. We're in the middle of number 90 right now. And it is probably still the most fun I have because we really do get every sense of the organization. Organization, divisional, understanding, budget, understanding everything has to work to together if you really want to grow.

And really isn't that what marketing's about is growth. Usually they're asking us a growth question, even though it's under the guise of, Hey, we need a new website or a new brand or a new something or a campaign to help us. And the real question, once you peel back, a couple more layers is, Hey, we really have a growth need. Okay, cool. Share that. What's the next two years. What's the next 10 years. What's the real growth number. And then we devise a plan to help you get there. That's the most fun. Is it hard? Absolutely. Most clients, lots of most prospects, not clients. Once they become a client, they kind of drink Kool-Aid- most prospects are really averse to eight weeks of strategy and no execution. And they're like, that doesn't sound like what I asked you for. Can't we get a website in that time and isn't that gonna do it? Yep. That's not gonna do it. We would say we're much more the vitamin and we're gonna help you over time. It's the gym and the vitamins and you can't predict results. You can't go see results the first meeting, you can't see results the second meeting, but you know, going to the gym over time, you're gonna start to look and feel better. And that's what we are akin to: vitamins and gym over time.

AD : Nice. You know, one of the things Nolan and I often say to, to folks is that negotiators just aren't creative enough. You are a creative, you lead a team of creatives. You hire creatives. This is probably never a problem for you trying to solve a problem, get more creative. You probably have too much creativity. How I, so I don't know. I mean is it ever with your clients, how do you foster an environment of creativity? Are there things you do that kind of help bring that to the, to the surface?

Solving Problems With Creativity [22:50]

MF : Hmm. This is a great question. This is, this is fun. So this is where I think, God, I think you might be right. I think lots of us, but by the way, I think this is true in lots of industries, we get a chance to see lots of different kinds of organizations through our doors. And by the way, solving problems creatively is the challenge for all of us. So I would say we do a couple of things. One, gosh, this is back for my sprint days, but we always, we require both our team and we want our clients to bring us the real problem. So don't bring us the solution, bring us the problem. And then with our team, we want them to bring at least three to five possibilities possible solutions, every time. They now know me as the option guy and my team says, oh, Farag’s the option guy. He's always gonna want options.

And my contention is there's not one way to solve issues. There's multiple ways to solve issues. And, and that to me is, is one of the maybe beginnings of starting to say, Hmm, maybe there's not just one possible solution or possible outcome here that is still a win that there might be four or five or 10 possible outcomes. That's still a win. And we're looking for both sides. We're looking for us to feel good about the work that we're doing and clients to feel good about the return they're getting and everybody to, you know, have, this is a good workable solution for both sides. I think this is true in negotiation. So multiple options are like kind of the paramount let's call it the 101. We gotta have that before we can have anything. Then we would start to say, I think this is another, you know, we've done this kind of scenario where we've said, Hey, we really want you to run it all the way to outcome.

So run option and run it all the way to outcome. So all the way, you know, take that sort of solution and then go three to five steps down the road. So run a outcome. What what are the possible outcomes? We run a game called high-low. Sometimes, you know, we try to just make it a little fun. Like, Hey, what's the, what's the top and the bottom side of this, like the worst case scenario and the best case scenario. And we run high low on lots of things on a regular basis, by the way, just sometimes retitling something and not saying best case, worst case feels different to the human mind. And so I am a big advocate of word choice. And if you just say, Hey, we're gonna play little game called high, low with the client, by the way, that doesn't feel like worst case or best scenario, like you've done in several boardrooms along the way.

MF : We've done a variety of games where we really try to gain alignment. Alignment is super key. I believe this is where negotiation can really have true alignment. And sometimes what we have is we talk about real issues. We do an issues card and we start lots of big meetings that have probably difficult, challenging things to solve in the meeting. And we'll ask for a pardon for two hours. No issues can be discussed for those two hours. Once they've been written down, we're gonna capture these issues. Used to be, Gus Sprint used to call this. And you've probably been in a room where somebody said, well, let's put that in the parking lot. You know, they'll write it on the whiteboard. This is a different version of that similar tactic. So we put 'em on cards, write 'em on cards. Everybody says, 'em got, we've captured. 'em we write 'em in a document capture 'em okay. We have your concerns.

MF : Now you can put 'em to the side for the next two hours of this meeting. No concerns need to be brought up anymore. You can pick 'em up on your way out. Feel free to pick those concerns back up on the way out. But what we've done is tried a mental model of putting them, you know, getting their barrier down. All we're trying to do is get barriers down so that, because I believe what's in the way you say creativity, Aram, what I hear is they're just in their own way. I think lots of us have innately gifted ability to see the world differently if we're given the chance to see it differently, but we're in our own way. We have those barriers, those blinders. And if we can get those blinders off in whatever way, we guess what happens? Man, new solutions, new creativity and we start to have a better conversation than we would've had before.

AD : Yeah it's beautiful. It relies a lot on process management Mike, you know, that the issues card piece and to get that those ground rules agreement so that you can, you can do that and create that environment where barriers are down. And I think that's a nice addition to our mantra about people being more creative, trying to think outside the box on these complex problems as you described, or holistic part of it is what's the process we're using to create the environment to do that.

MF : Oh man isn’t environment so key? if you walked in a noisy place to try to have a big conversation. I mean, if, if you were, if you had a deal worth a million bucks and you would go in a place that doesn't feel like a million dollars automatically, you're at 500,000, you know what I mean? Like just move it down by half. And I think that environment is a major contention. And we, when you enter that room, get the chance to set the environment and set the tone or reset the tone. And sometimes you have to reset the tone sometimes just process, to be sure Aram. And sometimes man, you're like, we set the stage a month beforehand because we picked the right room. We picked the right place. We picked the right music. We picked the right- I'm like those, these things are details that I believe have an influence and an impact on how conversations feel.

AD : Yeah. Roger Fisher, who is the founder of so much the thought around negotiation would be very intentional setting up a room with the people he wanted to sit next to each other for the conversations and avoiding the combative feeling of being across the table and fighting a lot of intentionality there to create, to create the right environment.

MF : Yeah, absolutely. And today's day and age just is becoming more of a challenge, right? Cause lots of our negotiations or conversations are happening like we're doing right now. You know, they're online. They are they're screened. And so certainly environment is harder to control in some ways, because we are communicating digitally now more than ever. But it doesn't mean we shouldn't be intentional about how and what, in fact it probably means we have to up the game in terms of what we do and how we say and what our, for prep and after follow up looks like.

Advocating Through Prospects And Client [29:00]

NM : Hey Mike, I got a question for you. So we had talked about, once you get a prospect become a client, they're gonna drink the Kool-Aid. How do you cross that gap? What do you do going kind of taking it back to communication relationship here, how do you deal with someone who isn't necessarily drinking the Kool-Aid, but you're not ready to give up on 'em yet? Is there something that you can do to help sit at the stage for them to become more likely to become a client?

MF : Let me just ask a couple questions on, so is this they've already be, they've said yes, we're a client. We're engaged. We're doing work together or we're still prospecting?

NM : I think they're more in the prospect stage. Yep. I think they're in the prospect stage and, and we're trying to get them to become a client.

MF : Guys, this is where I think like, so I go back to sales and marketing roles that I had previously and then fast forward into like how today it works with our, how we coach clients and then how we might even practice this. But I think there is a real miss in multimedia. And by that, I mean, most folks that I talk to would tell you, oh, Mike sent us a handwritten note during the prospect. He called us. He emailed us, he got the team to do a video, saying, Hey, we'd love to have you as a client. They got follow ups on a weekly or biweekly basis. There was never a miss with us being available and followed up. Sometimes if he got our mobile, he even text us. I mean, like, we go like what we want to show a client that we're gonna do with their clients, which is multidimensional.

If your follow up in your communication is one dimensional, is that prime negotiation? I mean, I don't think that's prime negotiation. That's not how you would probably want it in return if anybody was chasing you down for something. And so like in this sense, we, we would try to practice that. Like we would show it client, Hey, we're gonna chase you down multi for some clients. Gosh, man. Even I would say, I'm just gonna share this public. We've even done like some digital campaigns around them. We've done some geo targeting where they're gonna get our ads when they go walking in their building, cuz we will fence their building and they're gonna get our ads like Fervor loves so and so. I mean I'm gonna be relentless and, and also showing two things, it does two things. It shows our digital practicum and our knowledge base and what we're good at.

And it also shows we're chasing them down. We want to be in relationship there and we're gonna do it in multi-dimension. We're not just gonna follow up an email and email and email. We're gonna do it multimedia. So there's one. And that's what I'm, you know, for our clients and prospects. The other is I think, gosh, we leave out a lot of option, post decisions. So like I think lots of times we let a client go or our prospect go way too early. We think a deal is done or a deal's dead or a prospect's dead way too early. And this is where I start drinking the long tail Kool-Aid on myself and I want our clients to do that too. Like this relationship, even if they're not paying clients for us, they could be an advocate for us.

So even if our relationship might only be a one year or two year engagement, great. But you know what? Most of my clients come from my previous clients. And so if I think about playing the long game, I'm just trying to make them advocates. That's really all I'm trying to do. Whether I sell them or not. I really wanna sell them on our thought process, our way of doing business more than I wanna sell them some sort of engagement because long term that will feed all of the families that I am in charge of not just one or two this year.

NM : No, that's great. I think the, the framing of just trying to make everyone advocates, even if they don't become a client, they can still say, “Hey, that Mike guy over at Fervor, is very persuasive timing just wasn't right. But it may be still good for you”.

MF : I tell the story, lots of times about advocates and in the marketing world, most of them are talking about buyer personas or an ideal buyer. They're not necessarily talking about advocates. What's the difference? I've got a good buddy here in Kansas City. I'm here in Kansas city. I've got a great buddy who owns a BMW repair shop. I do not drive a BMW. And yet last year, I'm pretty sure he's got 30 or 35 clients because I told him where to go. Now I'm not gonna be a target buyer persona for this guy. I mean, you're never gonna target me cuz I don't own a BMW. Here's what's wrong with, I think marketing and even maybe by the way, sometimes negotiation is we're too shortsighted in what we think is a good client, cuz we're defining it as a client for today.

Advocates, the reason why we don't call thema target clients is we call them advocates. Why? Because I want it to be a lifetime engagement in some way, shape or form or at least a long term relationship. And so my buddy doesn't care that I don't drive BMW. I mean, if I keep bringing him 30 or 40 people a year, you think he's gonna care what I drive? Nope. I mean, now he'd love for me to drive one, but that's just not in the cards, man. Four kids, that's not in the cards for a parent, you know. But it doesn't mean that I shouldn't be a target for him. Right. That I, that he shouldn't care about me and communicate with me effectively and regularly and follow up like, you know, I'm probably should be on his yeah. Actually to come to think about, I probably should be on his lunch man. You know like, so

AD : You know, Mike, so much of what you're talking about requires some perspective and it requires dealing kind of in a fair, reasonable just way with your clients, encouraging them to do with either the same, same with their customers. How else do you think about fairness? Fairness is a, is a critical component to our model. We think about standards of legitimacy criteria. Is that something you use as a, as a marketing tool?

Fairness And Legitimacy [34:21]

MF : Yeah. I mean, I think, gosh, I think the, the theology, if you will, for us is absolutely grounded in a fair and equitable approach, both sides. And whether we're doing a deal with a client, we want an engagement, whether we're trying to put together a program and an approach for a client at market level external or we're dealing a lot with their internal dialogue and paradigm, in lots of times, this is happening I'll just share like in the nonprofit space, this happens all the time between the board and the, you know, executive team. And I think this sort of negotiation, board to executive is a regular occurrence for us to help negotiate because really the exec might bring us in and they are trying to figure out how do they grow? They've got a growth plan and then they've gotta kind of go sell it to the board.

And lots of times there's a real need to, what's real fair. What, what do I control? What do I have authority to control and what do they control? And they have the authority to control and this sort of dialogue and even sometimes discourse is real palatable. I mean, like I'm in the room a lot of times with this I mean, I've just kind of recanting or recounting this to a group this morning, I think I've attended something like 500 board meetings in the last 13 years. And so I've had a front, you know, row seat to both good and bad fairness approaches. And I think this has gotta be one of the paramount like guys, it's almost akin to trust. And if we don't trust the other party that they're gonna do what they said, they're gonna do that.

They're not gonna in good faith approach me and approach others. Then I don't necessarily have the sense to be fair because I'm gonna get what I need from me. And then we go back to protection modes. Then we go back to me. Then we go back to corporate days of Farag. Like it's not, what's in it for others. It's, what's in it, what I can get now? And that is short it's and it's transactional. And it does not last very long. In fact, sometimes it doesn't even last, you know, the, the inks dry and that's about the time that it starts to demise. Yeah. So I think fairness as a paradigm and trust as a paradigm have to be the theology of standing. There's some, there's some foundational things that must be at play.

And so I think some of this is in the sales process or in a prospecting process. I think some of this is in dialogue pre dialogue, before you get to, you know, kind of final negotiation point or final deal points that has to be sussed out. Do we have some sort of our team at our team? If you ask our team to call it chemistry, do we have chemistry, Mike, is there chemistry there? And what they're saying on the surface is a surface description of what do we feel? Do we like, do we have alignment? Do we trust them? Do we think they're going to be good and fair to us? And when that's broken, we use a process called Fetch. I'm in a CEO mastermind group and they put together a little process to have really tough conversations, crucial conversations, critical conversation.

I mean, there's a whole host of books that we've read, our exec team and myself, like we would employ kind of this crucial conversations to bring both parties together and say, Hey, this is not how we operate. In fact, our team just had one of these for the client this week. This is not how we operate. If we did this to you, we would be admonishing our team member, and you did this to us and we need, we feel like we need to bring it forward. And guys, I think that's a lost art, uh, by the way, it's biblical, you know, so for me, this is a, a biblical paradigm too, for me to come at and say, listen, we need to come together and we need to work our differences out or, or work out how to not be together doing business because one of the two is not gonna be good for our heart and our organizations.

AD : Some of what you described there too, as you talked about understanding your clients' internal dynamics, it sounds like you do some of that work ahead of time. You, you understand some of the places and sources of resistance or, or the challenges they're gonna face to communicating internally. You've thought about that. And that's part of your plan to help them as well.

MF : It has to be to me, Aram, at this point 13 years in, I don't know any other way to do it. So maybe I'm just, this is just, you know, but gosh, if we don't understand internal dynamics, we walk into a, we can walk into a real mess with our eyes closed. I'd much rather walk in understanding what what's, what's what, so we plan and prepare doesn't mean we don't walk in. Sometimes it does. Sometimes we push the eject button. We're like, that's too much. And sometimes we just walk in with our eyes open, we understand it's gonna be a messy situation, or we understand that, you know, what are the landmines? And we try not, we're trying to avoid the landmines. So, I mean, we got a survey and I think that's, you know, that's my partly my responsibility is as the, the front, you know, kind of the front person to, to sus out and say, Hey, what, what are the things?

How's the board interaction? How's the executive team? Do they, do they run on a, on a system? Are they doing scaling up? Are they doing EOS? Are they running a system? Do they, do they have regular meetings? Do they have a strategy document they're all bought into? When I ask their question about mission, vision values, can they say it? These kinds of things are, you know, tell, tell of like how an organization health and wellbeing is going. So the more we know the, the easier it is and better it is for us to be able to, you know, help them get over, get around and, and grow.

NM : And what I like that you addressed there, Mike is, um, we always kind of talk about hard, hard bargainers and, and negotiations. And you had said that, Hey, I'm not gonna allow you to, to kind of talk to us that way. We need to figure out work through our differences, that we can continue on this path of our relationship. So I just wanted to highlight that there, that that was a great example of how other companies can deal with hard bargainers and negotiations. So good job.

MF : I think it's a scary place to be sometimes because you know what you're doing when you do that, you're putting it on the line and you know, that relationship ship. If it, if that conversation doesn't get negotiated well, if it, if it doesn't get done well, the client may not be a client anymore. My contention is I, I, I, and I love clients. We are here to serve clients, but guys, we operate under the theology that our team comes first and I have to operate that way all the time or else I am, uh, an absolute hypocrite because I believe we went inside out. And if, if that team knows that I got their back, they will walk through the wall with me. And sometimes for me, and I will do the same for them. And that means that, that we love our clients and we wanna help them grow, but they come second, our team is first. And I think when you come in into it with some sort of baseline theology or baseline understand, then you already know, you know, okay, it's okay. We, we, we gotta do this because this is values based decision making. This is how we're gonna make. We're absolutely in our, we don't have a choice really, because we're gonna, if we're gonna live our values, then we're gonna do it this way.

AD : Well, Mike, just one more question. You know, so much you've talked about today is about leadership, right? We, we're saying it's from a marketing perspective, but it's leadership, right? And, and we think of negotiation as a critical leader skill, right? You can't separate as a leader. I negotiate as a negotiator, I'll be more effective than I see myself as a leader, as you work with the leaders of organizations around brand and reputation and, and, and identity and persona and all these things. And for our listeners, what's, what's some nuggets of advice from a leadership, like just a leadership frame to be better.

MF : Well, I think that, uh, the last line that you just said, Aram is probably the, the biggest line, uh, at least for me. And as I get a chance to work with lots of leaders and I love them, um, we're all broken, you know, we're all trying, but if you're not trying to get better, then I already know a lot of things about you that are probably not in the positive category. The, the leaders that I see and that I, the kind of leader that I want to and aspire to continue to be is a, a leader that wants to keep getting better. That will mess up. That will only the, the, the mess up, but will always strive to improve and get better. And that, you know, until they put me in the ground, that is, I hope what I will continue to be doing.

And I don't think you arrive, you know, at whatever age or whatever length of time, or what size of your business or size of the organization. I just don't think that's true. I think you just get, you just get bigger. So whether you got a hundred people or whether you got a thousand people, you got 10 people, you got people and, and you are, you are probably as messed up and making bad decisions. And, uh, as any one else, uh, no matter the size, unless you're willing to learn from it. And that is the first, so start there. So, and there's lots of great organizational books about kind of, you know, leadership mentality. And, and I certainly love reading. I think that's a, another thing that I see great leaders doing, this is not news, but this is something that I see great leaders doing.

They're reading a regular on a regular basis. That's part of the continuing aspire to learn and grow, right? Like is the, the outcome, the action that we should see is, you know, you're in groups, but here's the thing that I think for me, that I would tell every leader that is, that has been the, I mean, a main turning turning point for me. And I, by the way, as a man, as a father, as a husband, uh, not just as a business owner or, or a, you know, a business leader wise council around you, the number one thing that I think leaders can do. And I be, I think this is true for everybody, by the way, not just leaders, but it is especially true and needed for leaders. If you don't have wise council around you. And by that, I mean, I had a guy at fellowship of Christian athletes, tell me one time.

And I I'd love to give this had credit. I don't remember the, the man's name, but he said, Mike, you should be able to put four boxes, a box above you, somebody that's mentoring you a box below you, somebody that you're mentoring and two boxes next to you, two brothers in arms, and this should be at least a minimum. Those four, you should have four names and those boxes and you should be, you should have those at all times. It may be more names. That's great, but at least those four, and guys, I would tell you that I, the leaders that I see that have wise counsel around them, that, that make it intentional to put people around them to speak truth, to help them grow, to challenge them, to make them better are the leaders that are doing a, a, a great job at growing and leading and the ones that don't have that really, really tough.

NM : Hey Mike? No, I think that's awesome. Insight. Is there anything else that we haven't asked you that, that you need to address right now that is just weighing in, on your chest? It's something that we should have asked you, but we just didn't.

MF : Well, I think we covered this a little bit, but I always love to remind people that I have a very simple, but effective question, no matter what kind of Mar marketing or communication or negotiation they're in, remember who's it for, and when they can answer that question, who's it for lots of other things start to fall in place. I think that's true in negotiation. It's certainly true in the world of marketing communications.

NM : Yeah. I appreciate it, Mike. And, and thanks for coming onto the show today. I just wanna be the first to say that, that you definitely have helped frame this. I think every time we bring on a listener from a different industry, it's able to provide a different lens, a different perspective on what Aram and I are trying to do here. And that's to a elevate people's influence through purposeful negotiations. So thank you so much. I'll turn it over to Aram.

AD : Yeah. Mike, I'll just echo the, the thanks. Appreciate you taking the time. I, I think, yeah, we answered the question. We kinda negotiator, uh, learn from a marketing expert. And as I think about it, the power of journaling, the power of, uh, retrospection to know, you know, who's it for, what's the key, why that I'm trying to answer hard to get better if I'm not doing that. And so I appreciate that challenge for us all, to go back, learn, and, and be, be reflective to read, to, to get, to surround ourselves with helpful, uh, partners in, in our efforts. And then really take the time to, I just from impact assessment. I think the takeaway there that I remind folks is take the time to get the stuff right. Do your homework. You have a greater chance of getting it right in the long run.

MF : Yeah. Hey guys, thanks for having me on. This has been a fun conversation. I always like giving grief and feels like, you know, this is a good, this is a good place to do that. So thanks for letting me, uh, come talk a little bit. It's been fun.

NM : Absolutely. And for everyone, listen, thank you so much for, for tuning in to today's episode. Greatly appreciate it. If you have any questions or comments, you can send that to us at team@negotiatex.com. We'll be sure to cover it there. If you could please write a review and subscribe to the podcast, we'll greatly appreciate it. And we'll see you in the next episode.

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