Integrative Power and the Sales Negotiation.

I’ve been doing some work on my old Smartchive site, developing a mash-up of an online class from University of California Berkeley, Introduction to Non-Violence, the Claroline open source learning management system, Wikipedia, and Youtube. You can check it out, if you’d like. It’s at

Well, we all have times when we can take information from other disciplines, and apply them to our own. And this is one for me.

The lesson that I was working on discussed the work of Kenneth Boulding, who wrote a book called “The Three Faces of Power“. In his book, Kenneth writes of the three types of power:

  • Destructive: Power based upon force. The fist
  • Economic: Based upon the amount of resources a person/organization has. Using exchange to make others do things. The carrot.
  • Integrative: The capacity to obtain what we need and want, in concert with others. The handshake.

Some examples

I’d argue that most airlines actually use destructive power as much as they do economic power. The penalties for changing flights or high pricing for last minute flying is more than economic power. They airlines are taking advantage of the power they hold in being the most efficient way to get you where you need to go.

It’s interesting to see that when Southwest comes into an airport, the ability of the other airlines to practice this type of power diminishes greatly. If force is used, the oppressed will revolt when an alternative becomes available.

Wal-Mart is the king of using economic power with their purchasing department. If you want to sell with Wal-Mart, you are going to have to succumb to their hard core negotiation strategy.

I’m going to focus on integrative power for the rest of this post, because I haven’t been exposed to this term before, yet it is evident to me that it is the most important type of power for long term sales success.

Integrative power involves both sides working together for a mutual goal. The best outcome for an integrated solution is for both sides to win, the second best outcome is for both sides to suffer equally. Integrated power involves persuasion versus coercion, and because of this, both sides feel as they are on the same page.

I think integrative power is the Nirvana of a sales relationship. Your customers realize that you are in this for their and your mutual benefit, and your customers realize that if they squeeze every bit of profit out of you, you’ll either not stay in business, or resent having their business.

It’s funny, and totally organic, but in the 15 years I’ve been in sales, I’ve found that I’ve pretty much drifted away from all of the customers who have either used force or economic power in negotiations. When I have engineers or managers come from out of town to meet my clients, they often comment on how nice my customers are. Part of that is a by product of my customer base, Federal Civilian Agencies, but also it has been a part of a natural selection process that has driven me to customers who work with me.

I’m working on another post right now, but I felt it was more appropriate to add this here. One of the things I’ve seen is that in the long term, relationships based solely on economic values almost always fail as well. I think this is largely to desperation from the standpoint of the seller, who negotiates at such a thin margin that it becomes difficult to satisfy the customer after the sale.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 + 4 =