Everything I Needed to Know About Negotiations, My Five Year Old Taught Me

Why Big Thinkers Often Lose at The Negotiation Table


Everything I Needed to Know About Negotiations, My Five Year Old Taught Me

I was so appalled at the title of my first read on how to negotiate: Winning Through Intimidation, by Robert J. Winger, that I nearly tossed the book from my library.

I’m glad I didn’t.

As with so many book titles, this one betrayed its content, this title conjuring images of the big bully brow beating his adversary into submission in his zero sum game of winning at any cost.

Actually, it was quite the contrary.

Here’s a pretty good assessment of the book by a reader at Amazon.com:

“Imagine my surprise to find that “Winning Through Intimidation” (which is a misnomer, “Winning Through Not Letting Yourself GET Intimidated” is a more appropriate, if less colorful, title) is filled with great fundamental, common sense advice for anyone in the field of sales. It is obvious that Ringer has spent a great deal of time in the trenches – he accurately points out many common mistakes made by salespeople (spending WAY too much time on a particular account because it makes you feel busy, as opposed to because the account will realistically ever actually buy anything, not realizing the importance of having all agreements with clients in writing and keeping a paper trail of your communications, believing that your client is ever going to have YOUR best interest at heart, thinking that “closing the deal” is the end-all-be-all goal of sales, when actually *getting paid* is far more important).”

Over the next 30 years, I listened to tapes, attended seminars, read books and even interviewed some of the great negotiators like Jim Camp.

Just Google Jim and you’ll see what I’m referring to when I say “great negotiators”.

What do “great negotiators have in common? They know what the other side wants and try like hell to get it for them… without sacrificing their own needs and goals.

This is why some big thinkers often lose at the negotiation table. They are thinking of what they want and need. They’re usually determined, focused and calculating, but it’s all about them.

I’ve been involved with hundreds of negotiations.

The negotiations I “won” were hardly a battle. They were more like a formality.
The ones I lost, every single one of them, can be attributed to a number of factors, but the consistent pattern in all my losers were all because I spent too much time and energy on my needs and not the needs of my “partner”: the guy sitting across from me.

Let’s look at an example. Big thinkers can see the big picture.

Putting the pieces together, a daunting task for almost any task oriented professional, is easy for the big thinker.

Connect A to B, B to C, C to D and so on until the picture outline is clear. Fill in the different areas with colored pencils and, viola’, you’re in business.

So why do so many big thinkers lose at the negotiation table?

They forget that the other party has his dots to connect as well. And his color scheme doesn’t match the big thinker’s at all.

This fact is simply illustrated by my daughter’s constant and always successful negotiations with her dad.
Here’s how the negotiation might look about me taking her and the family to the beach on day dad is just too busy:

“Daddy, can we go to the beach today?”
“Don’t think so, honey. Daddy is very busy.”

“Are you working on something special?”
“Yes, honey; daddy is hoping to get an account with an important physician’s office.”
“What will happen if you get the account?”
“Not only will I have a chance at getting other physicians to use my services, but we’ll have the money to take you and the family to the beach more often.”
“That will be great Daddy. I hope you get the account.”
“Thanks sweetheart.”
“If you finish your work early, MAYBE we can go to the beach?”
“Absolutely honey. Let me see what I can do.”

My daughter unknowingly filled out the big picture not just for her but for me too. We both wanted the same thing: she wanted to go to the beach and I wanted to spend time with my family.

Once she led me through the maze of importance and priority, she quickly had me on her side, motivated to do not just an effective job, but an efficient job, so we could spend some time together.

She genuinely cared for my work, even if that concern originated in selfish motives.

She was single minded. Let’s all go the beach.

She approached commitment slowly (MAYBE).

Usually to their own negotiating demise, big thinkers know what they want and want an answer NOW.

This is an enormous mistake. There are times when answers come NOW but in most cases, one party or the other has different pressures that require attention before a decision can be made.

Sometimes we have to go slow to go fast.

For you big thinkers out there who want to get to yes, remember to keep the other party’s goals in mind, their pressures and needs, before you address your own.

Don’t get distracted. One thing at a time.

Approach commitment slowly.

If you keep these basic negotiation principles in mind, it’s a day at the beach.

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