Did Bill blink first?

When I was selling phone systems and computer solutions I learned from a couple of very good sales people how to use the silent technique to close a deal.

It is very effective, and the technique I use is contained inside the sales training system developed by Brian Tracy. I paid for an expensive course and had CDs of the course to listen to in my car.

The most effective close technique I used was the silent close.    

[T]he salesperson must be prepared to remain silent after asking the closing question. The very best salesperson are masters in the use of silence during the selling conversation. Not only are they extremely good at listening to the customer and absorbing what he is really saying, but they are also skilled at remaining perfectly quiet after they have asked a key question of any kind.

The longer the silence goes on after you have asked a closing question, the more likely it is that the prospect will buy. But the person who speaks first usually loses during the buyer decision process. If you break the silence, out of nervousness, the customer will sense an opportunity to procrastinate on the buying decision or come up with another objection that cannot be answered at this meeting. It takes tremendous discipline to sit quietly while the prospect mulls over your question, but it pays off in the end.

I used this over and over again while selling. It made me a lot of money in commissions.

I continue to use the techniques I used from Brian Tracy to this day, even in politics. I have referred many, many people to Brian Tracy’s sales courses, even if they are involved in politics. They are very powerful techniques, if only more journalists used them they’d realise just how powerful they are.

Which brings me to all the media stories about Bill English winning the phone wars because Winston called him first, ahead of Jacinda Ardern.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

Let’s step through the actual sales process, or coalition negotiations as they like to call them.

The election results came in, all the leaders made their speeches. What happened next was where everything began from in the process. Bill English was in a position of strength, and on election night he was in the strongest position possible. He had maintained National’s vote, his shabby hit job on Winston Peters had stifled his vote. The Greens were torn and tattered from Labour’s hit job on Metiria Turei and Labour knew they didn’t quite have enough. This was the strongest Bill English was ever going to be.

What should have happened was for Bill English to immediately ring Winston Peters and invite him to form a government. Ask for the sale. National almost had a majority by themselves, Winston Peters had enough to make a strong majority with National and a diminished capacity to negotiate. Instead Bill English chose silence. He chose timidness over boldness. In doing so he handed the advantage to Winston Peters.

Winston Peters was playing the silent game now. Who ever spoke next lost. Whoever picked up the phone after a few days blinked first. That was Bill English. He couldn’t take the silence any longer and picked up the phone and tried to ring Winston Peters. Bill blinked and Winston gained the upper hand. To make matters worse Winston Peters ignored the call and rang back when it suited him. Bill English signalled then, to Winston Peters, that he really wanted to do a deal, that he was sold, they just needed to work out the finer details.

The problem for Bill English now is that he has signalled that. He now has to deliver, but there is another, not so well off buyer out there, but they are prepared to offer Winston Peters almost anything in order to grab power off National.

So, now there is a Dutch auction process underway, with two desperate leaders, and Winston Peters in command because it was him and not Bill English who took command of the negotiation process. If National are to govern they are going to have to pull out all stops to get across the line now. This is especially true now that the Media party has finally woken up to the fact that the cross benches is a worse scenario for both main parties, than actually going into coalition. That then leads to negotiations focusing on what we blogged about on Friday, BATNA, their Best Alternatives to a Negotiated Agreement. If they fail to negotiate an agreement then a cross benches solution beckons. That is a terrible solution for National as it will be debilitating, even more so than being in coalition with Winston Peters.

That hands the power in National, not to Bill English, but to his caucus and to existing ministers. As I said earlier in this piece, Bill English was at his most powerful on election night but now it is death by a thousand cuts and a slow debilitating bleeding out. He is going to have to cut at least five people from his ministry, and some of them are going to have to be his mates. Winston Peters literally has a gun to several ministers’ heads. Nick Smith and Paula Bennett especially. David Carter is already gone. So, Bill English is going to have to axe some of his mates. He is going to have to make compromises from which he cannot recover. In doing so his power base gets smaller and smaller. He has no alternative.

If he turns away from negotiations then he is either going to have to deal with an incredibly powerful Winston Peters on the cross benches, or he is going into opposition and whether he likes it or not he is a dead man walking then. He is a dead man walking now, and once caucus and cabinet realises that his days are numbered anyway.

The best thing National can do right now, for the sake of the country, is to give Winston what he wants and fast. Failure to act and prevaricate just hands power to Winston Peters. Someone in national needs to dust off the Te Kuiti bypass plans and rename it the Karori bypass.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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