Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 30, 2012 1:28 PM

How To Get What You Want

Negotiations are the toughest part of the marketing business.

Whether you're negotiating a new contract, your salary or even a merger, getting everything to work out in your favor is never easy. How often do you hear someone say, "I got everything I was asking for... and more"? In fact, even reading that line someone just won the lottery (it's not something you hear all that often). There's an old saying in real estate that the best deals are those where the buyer feels like they paid more than they should have for the house and the seller feels that they got less than what they were asking for.

There are a few things to think about prior to the negotiation that will affect the outcome.

I've had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Herb Cohen on more than a few occasions. Cohen is widely regarded as one of the best negotiators. He's written a few books on the topic (You Can Negotiate Anything and Negotiate This!). One of his main themes to a successful negotiation is caring. He says: "You have to care... really, really care... but not that much." His point? You have to be willing to put everything you have into a negotiation, but you also have to be willing to walk away from it. If you're not willing to walk away from it, it's not a negotiation.

Finding your bottom line in two-parts:

  1. Non-negotiables. You have to choose the components of the negotiation that are truly non-negotiable to you. If, at this point, everything is non-negotiable, you may be better off looking for another deal that doesn't involve any form of negotiation. Meaning: haggling is a part of business, so you're better off setting up the rails (the unmovable ones) well in advance. The important part here is that the prospect should not know which parts of the negotiation are the non-negotiables. This gives you play room. One commonly-held belief is that price should never be negotiable. In fact, I would argue that in setting up your rails, never make price a non-negotiable. That sounds crazy, but if you demand other things but are flexible on price, this demonstrates to the prospect that you are negotiable, simply because the overriding assumption is that price is always the hardest thing to negotiate. When I do speaking events, one of my non-negotiables is how I fly (it must be business class and a member of the Star Alliance family on flights that are longer than two hours). Some see this as me being a snob, that's fine. The truth is that I spend a lot of time in the air and being comfortable is key to both my physical and mental health. I'm of no use to anybody if I'm constantly getting sick and I'm tired when I arrive to speak (or come home). People are spending good money to come and see me speak, and I need to be at my best. With over a decade of constant travel, I know my body and being comfortable during the travel portion is paramount for me. When someone asks for me to fly coach, it's a non-starter, but because I have rails, there are other components that are negotiable, so my class of flight has never been a contract ender. You have to be strong with your non-negotiables because the minute you break down and say, "fine, this one time..." it's over.
  2. Desired outcomes. Prior to negotiating make a list of five desired outcomes that you would like to have happen in a perfect world. It can be anything from price, to length to engagement to deliverables. Be very, very specific here. Write the list down, memorize it and hide it in a safe place. Once you get your final offer, compare it to your list of desired outcomes. Is it a perfect match? I doubt it. But, that's the point. Remember, this was called "desired outcomes" not "perfect outcomes." If the final offer meets three out of your five desired outcomes, my advice is to move the deal forward and make it happen. Your desired outcomes were a "perfect world" scenario and there is no perfect world. It will be hard to get to  - what I call - The Meat Loaf Scenario (aka Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad). Have five desired outcomes and getting three out of five makes it a "win" for you. The last tip, is that you shouldn't create your desired outcomes list knowing that you're going to accept three out of the five. Assume you'll get all five (just play along at the beginning), because you don't want any one desired outcome to have more weight and balance than the others (so make them all of equal importance). It always fun to look back and see which out of the three made it through.

Walk away.

The great philosopher, Kenny Rogers, once said, "you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run." Walking away from a deal is the hardest thing. I believe that most people wind up in bad deals because they didn't do their homework. They didn't define their non-negotiables and they don't have their five desired outcomes. I walk away from deals all of the time, simply because they were deals that weren't fair. I believe that negotiations are easy when the people negotiating know that one party is delivering a service of value while the other party is happy to pay for that service. The chasm is usually smaller than people think and it's usually the ego that gets in the way. Walking away from deals is easy for me because with the two-step process defined above, I can remove both the ego and emotion.

What are your tips for getting what you want? 

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Michael Noyce
    Michael Noyce

    I first cringed at the thought that you would actually be wading into the world of negotiations, but then I read the entire post, and said to myself "phew," at least he wasn't pretending to know what he was talking about. I don't know who to feel more sorry for: Mitch, you, for the business-class ticket example (to demonstrate the power of non-negotiables), or the rest of us for having to read it. This entire post is a shameful oversimplification of an enormous field (negotiations) that some of us have spent years examining and studying. Sharing the stage with Herb Cohen doesn't give you the bona fides to speak on this topic. Repeating his central point about the power of walking away is pretty meaningless, too. Your ability to walk away is just an ability, it does NOT define the negotiation itself.

    This post reminds me of a presentation I saw once entitled “The Top 10 Secret of Negotiations” in which the speaker, a supposed expert on the topic, went on to talk about the 10 most obvious, frontal things about negotiations. There wasn't a secret to be found, just bland generalizations.

    Your post title is a farce. The post itself is hot air advice at best, and I would seriously caution anyone using it as a guide to “get what you want”. Mitch, for your next post, why not cabinetry? That seems far enough out of your area of expertise.

    And by the way, for proofreading, the last sentence of your first paragraph is reversed, the old saying is that best deals are those where the buyer feels like they paid LESS than they should have for the house and the seller feels that they got MORE than what they were asking for. You’ll have changed that by the time people read this comment, but it just goes to show how you totally phoned this one in... from your business class seat, I’m guessing. Lord help us from the ascendancy of “experts” dispensing flawed advice.

    Reply
    • Hi Michael,

      I re-read the first paragraph and it seems fine to me. I guess we've heard this saying told in different ways.

      You're right, negotiations are complex and these were two simple steps that I have used over the years that made the process just a little bit less complex. They seem to be working fine for me (and others). You're also right that seeing Herb speak doesn't make me an expert (I never claimed it did). That being said, I've spent close to twenty years in business negotiating all different kinds of varied contracts and I would say that I'm happy with the general outcomes... and they are based on these two principles.

      Seeing as you saw this Blog post as a farce, let's step away from your criticisms. Use the space below to share with all of us the two key components (or more) that you have found to be invaluable. I'm sure over the course of the next few days, others will do the same.

      Reply
  • Posted by Euan Ramsay
    Euan Ramsay

    As a disclaimer, I do not profess to be an expert in anything, but having recently started a biotech company with some colleagues, formal business negotiations have become a significant part of my work.

    From my experience on the other side of non-negotiable, it is important to understand what drives this stance. We have encountered a scenario where a particular term in a contract is non-negotiable to a prospective partner and unacceptable to us. Rather than walk away from a great apportunity, we took the time and effort to understand why the term was non-negotiable and were ultimately able to mitigate the underlying concerns through, ironically, negotiation.

    In the future, we won't be walking until we're absolutely done talking.

    Reply
  • Posted by Scott Reyes
    Mitch Joel

    Ask lots of questions.

    Reply
  • Posted by Sass peress
    Mitch Joel

    @michael
    You needn't feel sorry for the rest of us. Pity is simply part of a wounded self image. As for labelling mitch's words "a farce", this tells me he's hit a nerve that you might want to have checked out, and I don't mean a physical one. Of course, this is just my story, as I'm sure that beyond this single post, you have a lot of leadership to offer us, yet it might be challenging for others to see through the microscopic view of one blog response.

    @mitch
    once again you find a way to start great conversations. Thanks for that. In your history, can you give us a couple of examples of negotiations in which the outcome was not viewed favorably by you, your team or people you might have negotiated with?

    Reply
  • Posted by Bhaskar Sarma
    Mitch Joel

    That last point about negotiations being the easiest when both parties know that they are negotiating over something of value is very pertinent.

    I guess that's why it's so tough to hawk a pearl necklaces to farm animals.

    Reply
  • Posted by Anonymous
    Anonymous

    "There's an old saying in real estate that the best deals are those where the buyer feels like they paid more than they should have for the house and the seller feels that they got less than what they were asking for." Agreed - and to your point, both sides need to feel they compromised, in order for it to be fair. (Conversely, if one or both sides feel they are getting away with something, it's not an equitable deal.)

    In the event that a deal cannot be reached - and before the gambler crushes out his cigarette and fades off to sleep - it's good to have a BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement). It could be a smaller deal, an alternate path to explore, or a simple transaction - as long as it's "better than nothing", it's worth having in a back pocket.

    Reply
  • Posted by Carl Brabander
    Carl Brabander

    "There's an old saying in real estate that the best deals are those where the buyer feels like they paid more than they should have for the house and the seller feels that they got less than what they were asking for." Agreed - and to your point, both sides need to feel they compromised, in order for it to be fair. (Conversely, if one or both sides feel they are getting away with something, it's not an equitable deal.)

    In the event that a deal cannot be reached - and before the gambler crushes out his cigarette and fades off to sleep - it's good to have a BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement). It could be a smaller deal, an alternate path to explore, or a simple transaction - as long as it's "better than nothing", it's worth having in a back pocket.

    Reply
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