Ludovic Tendron on Unlocking Influence and Successful Negotiations

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20 years negotiating major deals with international corporations have sharpened Ludovic Tendron’s skills. Tendron has served as Legal Counsel for the Accor Group in Europe and in South-East Asia for 14 years after starting his career at Hewlett-Packard as an in-house lawyer. In 2014, he started his own business consultancy with the objective of not only negotiating and closing profitable agreements, but also sourcing valuable deals using his network and special abilities.

Fluent in French, English and Spanish, and enjoying academic qualifications from both French and Spanish universities, Ludovic Tendron is also an advocate of environmental issues, making an effort to use his skills to support sustainable projects in the hospitality and luxury industries whenever possible.

What led you to write a book on negotiation and influence skills? 

As a corporate lawyer, I felt I was an expert in my field, but I did not become a master negotiator because I knew a lot about contracts. Dealing with people and influencing them were still important skills to develop  Psychology plays an important role in negotiation. In pursuit of more knowledge on the matter, I embarked on a research of key factors that affect our performance in the context of negotiation, including how our brain works, our physiology, the impact of new technologies and other scientific findings that are unknown or ignored in the business world. I came across amazing things and decided to share them with others, starting with my clients.

You are French, how did you adapt your negotiation skills to an Asian environment ? What are the fundamental differences you have encountered when dealing with an Asian counterpart? 

Working with different cultures requires a global mindset. You need to be curious about other cultures and acquire a minimum knowledge of their background (e.g. history and habits). You also need to build a valuable international network. Making an effort to learn or understand foreign languages helps. That way you build bridges between your culture and that of others.

Asians have a different way of doing business. Generally speaking, trust must be gained before any contract is signed. Therefore, patience is often a virtue in Asia. Many Asian countries have not developed the same principles of fairness and equality as in the western world when is comes to business.  For example, a contract will often have less value than the trustworthy relationship you may develop. The legal system may not be efficient.  You can end up wasting a lot of time and money developing a relationship if you are not able to assess opportunities and size up people with a good level of accuracy.

Young entrepreneurs are often under pressure from the market and from their own investors / shareholders. What advice would you give the head of a start-up? 

Negotiation skills are crucial for entrepreneurs. Consequences can be as detrimental as not being able to sell your ideas/products or even losing control of your company. Some highly strategic decisions have to be made when a business is set up. It is imperative to start off on the right foot.

A good control of negative emotions (such as fear or anger) is also key. Entrepreneurs often experience pressure. Optimism can quickly give way to cash flow issues or a need for funds. New markets for products or services have to be found. It is easy to be caught in a negative spiral as an entrepreneur. Stress can easily get you overwhelmed. Your physiology and body language may end up betraying your emotional status, which gets picked up by master negotiators. Best decisions are usually made when people are positively energised. Therefore, maintaining a balance is important to remain focused, assess opportunities well and connect the dots. Controlling your body language and being well aware of your qualities and flaws should also give you an edge.

How easy to develop negotiating skills ? Aren’t these skills part of your original DNA? What advises would you give to someone who feels he has amazing ideas but is a weak negotiator? 

Master negotiators are not born, they are groomed. Some people may be more social and friendly than others, which can give them an advantage when it comes to building rapport. Others can be better listeners and be good at reading people. But these abilities wouldn’t be enough to make someone a master negotiator. Other skills have to be developed to reach this level. At the end, people can learn to be more social or listen better. For all these reasons, I don’t think you are born a master negotiator. A majority of people develop negotiation skills on the job.

You refer to both business as well as diplomacy in your book. One of your favourite historical reference is Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord known as “Talleyrand”, a French Politician at the turn of the 19th Century. What interests you in Talleyrand, why such fascination ?
I think the best negotiators reveal themselves in difficult times when they have to solve important issues. The amazing thing with Talleyrand is the longevity of his career (he lived until the age of 84 year old at a time where the life expectation rate was 40), the different political regimes he lived through and was involved in (from the times of the revolution monarchy, imperialism to the republic), the amazing network across Europe he managed to build at a time where means of communication were very basic, his human qualities  (patience, listening skills, intelligence, creativity)…For all these reasons, I consider him as one of the best negotiators France has ever had.

Donald Trump, Art of the Deal or Art of the No-Deal?

We can’t say that Donald Trump can’t negotiate. He has succeeded in developing a profitable business using negotiation skills.  However, I think that his success should also be attributed to the people he chooses to assist him (and solve the problems he can sometimes create). He is probably not the master negotiator he pretends to be. His approach of negotiation is very much win-lose. Deception is part of his strategy. He likes to negotiate with threats, throwing stones at people, etc. This is the opposite of what a wise negotiator should do. The best negotiators are those who can find leverage without using power.

Donald Trump should probably move from a competition mindset to a cooperation one.

The major idea or concept contained in your book that every business person should be looking for?

Developing self-awareness. An aptitude for introspection is an indispensable tool for a master negotiator. Yet a clear and honest self-awareness is a rare quality to possess and act upon. Those who embody honest self-awareness are usually humbler, which makes them more likeable, authentic, and, therefore, more influential. A self-aware person is better prepared to work with others.

Leaders who develop self-awareness tend to be more efficient and successful. They listen, observe what is happening around them, accept constructive criticism, and grow.  Many studies show that when you are self-aware, you are more confident, a better communicator, more creative, and more emotionally intelligent.

On a personal note, you are a champagne lover (you create the acclaimed event Singapour Fete le Champagne). Which part of Champagne is your favourite? What advise would you give to new visitors to the Champagne region ?

The Montagne de Reims situated between Reims and Épernay is my preferred region. I like villages like  Hautvilliers, where Dom Perignon first developed the champagne winemaking techniques. The hillsides there are Unesco World Heritage.

A section of the Master Key is dedicated to timeless principles, among which one has been adopted by princes and diplomats to develop rapport with others since the mists of time: sharing a good meal with a good bottle. As a true champagne lover, Winston Churchill would have been caught saying one day that “a glass of Champagne lifts the spirits, sharpens the wits, but a bottle produces the opposite effect.” It’s difficult to disagree with this wisdom.

I can only encourage people to visit the beautiful region of Champagne and some Champagne houses.  Ruinart and Pommery are probably one of the the most spectacular in Reims; and Deutz and Bollinger in Aÿ.

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