INSEAD Participant Interview

Learning to Master the Art of Negotiation

Frédéric Mertens

Past participant of the Negotiation Dynamics programme
International Business Development Manager
Sopra Banking Software

April 2014

"The teaching was outstanding thanks to a combination of great teaching capabilities, sincere empathy, show skills, in-depth knowledge and real life experience, etc."

Can you please introduce yourself?

I am currently based in Brussels and in charge of business development in the Middle East and Africa for a European supplier of software solutions (core banking systems) for the banking sector. I have significant private and professional multinational and multicultural experience (80 countries on all continents).

What made you decide to come on the Negotiation Dynamics programme?

My interest in negotiations led me to the Negotiation Dynamics programme. The excellent reputation of INSEAD was also a draw. I’m interested in negotiation because I have a natural tendency to look for consensus and fairness and I like the process of finding ways in which to reach agreements that truly meet the satisfaction of all parties. Moreover, I consider that a problem, or a disagreement, is always an opportunity for dialogue and improvement. I wanted to structure my thoughts about negotiation and I also wanted to challenge my assumptions. I knew that at INSEAD, I would find the best experts who would help me discover what negotiation really is.  

What were you expecting from the programme and were these expectations met?

I was expecting to come away from INSEAD with a good idea of what negotiation is. I wanted to get the whole picture and improve/challenge my knowledge. I thought this was necessary in order to apply it to my daily professional and personal life. These expectations were certainly met and even exceeded.

What were some of your key takeaways?

I learned what are essential for a good negotiation: preparation, strategy, organisation of ideas, openness, transparency, sincerity, good willingness, relationship, dialogue, empathy, creativity, value orientation. Using all these creates much more value than initially expected. And I think I also discovered that I already was applying some of the ideas taught by the programme, so it served to confirm that what I was doing with regard to negotiation was correct.

How do you anticipate the programme being of benefit to you?  

My job requires lots of meetings, with prospects, customers, suppliers, and colleagues. These meetings usually treat long, complex and expensive core banking projects and involve multiple parties from different departments (R&D, services, technical, functional, business, finance, legal, procurement, sales, etc.) and with different (sometimes opposite) interests. In other words these meetings always involve a great deal of negotiation. Thanks to the Negotiation Dynamics programme I approach these meetings perfectly prepared, self-confident, and serene with all items perfectly organised (goals for all parties, alternatives for all parties, strategy, rewards, risks, possible added value for all parties, etc.). I now quietly and proactively take the lead, transparently present the situation and the objectives, sincerely create a respectful, trustable and interdependent relationship and dialogue, discretely control the meeting from start to end and make sure that the other parties give me what I need and that I give them what they require (or even more). The result is that we reach great compromises that satisfy all parties and therefore lead to solid long-term win-win agreements that create extra value that was initially not even contemplated.

So the programme has already had a strong and positive impact on my life and is applied in all my relationships and communications.

What did you think about the teaching?

The teaching was outstanding thanks to a combination of great teaching capabilities, sincere empathy, show skills, in-depth knowledge and real life experience, etc. Also the teachers were very good at guiding us in the right direction so that we eventually were able to see what path was the right one in any given negotiation situation. Thanks to this, we learned from our mistakes and from the interactions between teachers and participants.

Did you find that you were able to learn much from the other participants?

Most of the other participants were great. It was a nice and interesting group of people. Whilst not everyone was at the same level of competence when it came to negotiation, their interactions with the teachers were definitely very interesting and useful.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing Negotiation Dynamics? How would you describe the programme?

I would describe the programme as exceptionally enlightening, challenging, entertaining, and essential for both professional and private life. I would add that the programme is expensive but that the return on investment might exceed expectations.

To find more about how you can also improve your negotiation skills, consult the Negotiation Dynamics webpage. Alternatively, contact the programme advisor, Perrine Wirth-Cezard on +33 1 60 72 45 27 or at perrine.wirth-cezard@insead.edu.

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