Negotiation Blog

Do you talk about your other negotiation options, or BATNAs?

By Thomas Wood

There is almost always a time and a place to talk about your other options if this agreement can’t be reached on mutually beneficial terms. Sometimes disclosure of your options pushes the parties to find agreement. But when and how to disclose your other options?

“It depends” is the most comprehensive response, but not a very helpful one. To make this posting easier to read, let’s refer to your Plan B, or other options, as BATNAs – best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Here are a few thoughts:

Never do this: Never reveal a weak BATNA

  • Assess the relative strengths of each side’s BATNAs. Yours may be strong, but is theirs stronger?
  • Weak BATNAs are not taken seriously, thus eroding your credibility.
  • Revealing a weak BATNA gives the other side confidence to negotiate for even better terms.

Timing: Pick a good time; don’t worry about the best time.

  • Regardless of the strength of your BATNA, it’s not usually wise to reveal it too early in negotiations. Why? It can be interpreted as a threat. This often brings out a more aggressive nature in your counter-part, and in a tense negotiation, can easily escalate conflict.
  • Once a major or difficult issue has been resolved to the parties’ mutual satisfaction, it is usually safe to refer to your BATNA. Your counterpart already knows you are investing the same effort and time to reach agreement.
  • When asked directly. But don’t feel that full disclosure is necessary to maintain trust. Acknowledging that you have other options (assuming you do) is appropriate, and noting a name, type, can leverage the power of your BATNA.

How to reveal a BATNA in Negotiations

  • Referring or hinting at a BATNA is often appropriate and rarely harmful
  • It’s ok to be vague. If pressed, it’s ok to say that you’re not here to talk about your other options, but to see if agreement can be reached.
  • A conversational tone helps to ensure you don’t sound threatening. The idea is to demonstrate your power without damaging a good relationship.
  • And it's almost never a good idea to reveal the details of your BATNA! If your counterpart knows those details, he/she is likely to offer you something just a bit better -- your Least Acceptable Agreement (LAA), and you are likely to take it. 

Remember

  • Your BATNA is only as good as your willingness and ability to execute!
  • BATNA bluffing is very risky, lest the other side backs off entirely, or discovers your ploy and loses trust in you.
  • And if you don’t have a BATNA, start building options for next time. 

Negotiating Tip

Debriefing key negotiations makes you a better negotiator. Reflection on what worked and didn’t is money in the negotiating bank.


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Don’t “Just Ask”: 3 Keys to Negotiating a Raise

By Marianne Eby

 

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, recently suggested that women should have faith in the “system” that will give them the right raise, rather than ask for a raise. He went further to call women superheroes for not asking. Nadella has since admitted that he was “completely wrong”. But in his mea culpa statement to Microsoft employees, Nadella got a few more things wrong, and that's where this blog begins.

In his original statement at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference (GHC), Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said that women shouldn’t ask for a raise; they should  have “faith that the system will actually give you the right raise as you go along.” He went on to say that women who don’t ask for a raise have a “super power” in that they know how to use this “good karma” of not asking in order to get what they want.

Every good negotiator knows that you have to ask for what you want, and certainly there’s been a lot said (BloombergCBCSalon, et al.) about Nadella's live interview comments. We can take some comfort in the fact that Nadella's other stories, and his post fumble tweet, give us some indication that he too can have his eyes opened and learn from mistakes -- the mark of a good leader, and a good negotiator.

Nadella was being interviewed by Maria Klawe, a Microsoft Board Director and President of Harvey Mudd College, who was very professional and passionate in disagreeing with this man she respects so much:

"This is one of the very few things that I disagree with you on."

She gave some examples from her own career, and then said to the audience:

Here's my advice to all of you. First of all, do your homework. Make sure you actually know what a reasonable salary is."

Klawe also reminded women to role-play, or practice, the ask.

Klawe was right of course. And Nadella acknowledged that Klawe was right when he issued his written mea culpa to Microsoft employees:

“And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, Maria’s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”

I want to share a negotiator’s perspective regarding what Nadella said in this more prepared written mea culpa. I want to talk about whether "deserving" is sufficient, and if the best way to go is to "just ask."

Deserve v Worth
Should you ask for a raise because you think it’s “deserved?”
Not exactly. You should ask for a raise because you are worth it.

You can accuse me of splicing words, but maybe the words we use to describe why we want something are critical to getting it.

You may deserve more money for lots of reasons, but are you worth it?

  • To “deserve” more connotes that you have been cheated out of something. This leave the boss on the defensive, feeling the need to protect her/his own past decisions.
  • "Worth," on the other hand, connotes value; value gets the boss’s attention. The boss starts to conjure visions of success, reward, and what happens if you leave.

Also, if you think in terms of deserve, you may talk yourself out of asking for a raise if you think the system is not able to adjust based on unique talent or results. For example, if you are working in a system that is stepped, like a training program, law firm associate, government jobs, or someone who recently got this year’s compensation increase and is not due another one for a year, you might hesitate to discuss what you “deserve.”

But if you think in terms of worth, you are more likely to initiate the conversation anyway, because a “worth” conversation leads to ideas – like higher profile assignments, other positions, switching geographic or subject areas, meetings with key leaders, etc. When possibilities emerge, you and your boss can find ways to compensate you for your worth.

Master negotiators leverage the worth v. deserve distinction all the time. Don’t pay us more, or provide a higher quality product, or meet a shorter deadline because our company deserves it after we took a hit on the last deal; instead master negotiators say (and demonstrate with legitimacy sources) --  give us more in this negotiation because our product or service is worth it. Now the counterpart feels psychologically motivated to give more.

“Just ask” v. Plan your approach strategically

“Just ask” rubs me the wrong way too. If you are worth more to the organization, more than likely you will have to show it, not “just ask.” And to do that effectively, Klawe was spot on when she said you have to do your homework.

There are 3 main considerations that should be part of your homework – People, Data and Plan B:

People Support

  • Decision maker: Who’s decision will it be? Has that person been exposed to you, and if not,  how can you get that exposure before you ask for the raise.
  • Influencers: Who influences the person who will make the ultimate decision?
  • Peer relationships: What will colleagues say about you? If asked, would they say you are worth it? Have you formed the relationships that will reinforce your request?
  • Ego needs: Know the ego needs of the person you are planning to ask for the raise. Is her/his ego need to be respected, right, in control, liked, feared, etc? Uncover the person’s ego need and find a way to satisfy it before you make the ask. If you don’t satisfy the boss’s ego need, it may conflict with your ask.

Data Support

  • Market data: How does the market value your skills, talent, position? Would another organization pay you more to come to it?
  • System Comparables: What does the internal measures say about your worth in your position? Are they paying you low for your position, or are you in the wrong position? In other words, should your ask be for a raise, a promotion and a raise, or a different position?
  • Results: What data or examples support your worth? What did you do that brought value to the organization – leadership, savings, revenue, margin, strategic partnerships, risk avoidance, team building, etc.?
  • Fairness: If you believe you are being unfairly compensated vis a vis similarly/less talented/skilled peers who deliver the same or less results, this is a far more delicate conversation and needs to be addressed with the right people. Be prepared to make fair comparisons so your credibility is never at risk in the discussions. But do make the ask - you are worth it!
  • Read more on Standards of Fairness as you negotiate.

Plan B

What’s your plan B or BATNA -- Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement? If this raise doesn’t work out, what are your next steps? Don’t wait. Network, share access and influence, help others. Test the market. Begin working on your plan B, or BATNA, now.

Remember...

Any “ask” is the beginning of a negotiation – a conversation about how to address your worth. To be a real superhero, don’t “Just Ask “– Plan strategically to ask for your worth! And all my fabulous male negotiator colleagues -- this applies to you too!

One absolute positive from Nadella’s comments is that the ensuing discussion is loud and hopefully has legs beyond the tech sector.

The tech industry has 30%/70% workforce split of women to men. And as reported in the New York Times, while female computer scientists are catching up and making 89 percent of what men in the same occupation make, other professions in the tech industry may not be so lucky. For finance professionals across professions, for example, women make only 66% of what men make. And across industries, another study showed that in 2013, women working full time earned only 78% of what similarly situated men earned.

Raising awareness about women lagging behind in salaries and leadership positions is always a good thing because it propels change. I always opt for controversy over silence; controversy sparks conversation, which can lead to solutions. Similarly in negotiation, controversy (you want x and I want y in exchange) drives conversation, and that conversation leads to solutions.

        (Review information on Watershed's Advancing Women Negotiators workshop.)​

Negotiating Tip

Path to enduring agreements: build trusting relationships; share interests; create value as you address interests; distribute that value.


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Empowering Technologists at the Negotiation Table

By Leslie Mulligan

Courtship….not necessarily a word that springs to mind when describing a mega-deal taking place in America’s bastion of high tech – Silicon Valley – but that is exactly how Forbes described Mark Zuckerberg’s pursuit of WhatsApp in an article detailing the Facebook acquisition.  This seismic, $19B deal closed in less than a week once the principals sat down at the negotiating table, but only after Mark Zuckerberg and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum built a true partnership during the previous 2 years.

Technologists typically don’t contemplate relationship building as a cornerstone of their negotiating strategy, but that profound relationship is precisely why the Facebook-WhatsApp acquisition closed so quickly, once $ were in play.  Beginning in the spring of 2012, after Zuckerberg reached out to Koum for a casual lunch, they got together almost monthly- sometimes for dinner, sometimes to hike trails around Palo Alto. Not only did they share philosophies on business strategy and innovation, they built a trust that enabled rapid closure on terms, once Google stirred the pot and made overtures toward WhatsApp.    

Inventors and technologists usually have an innate curiosity – they push the cutting edge of their domain, fostering innovating thinking and breakthroughs in technology. Turning this natural curiosity toward your potential counterpart at the negotiating table, you can gain significant leverage before talking terms. Find or create shared experiences and build rapport – and you are on your way to earning respect and ultimately trust. Cultivating this trust is essential to spur your counterpart to reveal their underlying motivations and deeper interests.    

Once you know what is really driving them, rely on another natural skill of most technologists – creativity. Creativity – and flexibility – allows you to think through a set of alternatives that will meet some, or many, of the interests you have uncovered. If they reject one proposal, you have others ready to propose that might win the day.  But this powerful give and take during bargaining is only possible if your partner trusts you. The $19B WhatsApp deal was done in a few short days because Koum fundamentally liked and trusted Mark Zuckerberg.  

The Forbes article claims that once the deal was “done” - Zuckerberg and Koum had shaken hands on the basic terms - that Mark Zuckerberg broke out a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label to celebrate, as he knew this was Koum’s favorite Scotch. Now that is indisputable evidence that the Facebook CEO had done the work to uncover the real interests of the WhatsApp Founder!

To learn more about how to Empower Technologists at the Negotiating Table, listen to the August 17, 2014 IMI Tech Talk radio program, hosted on KFNX News-Talk-Radio 1100, when host Tom D’Auria speaks with Leslie Mulligan of Watershed Associates about this topic.

Negotiating Tip

Do you have a clean, funny story or joke? Tell it in a negotiation. Laughter relaxes people. Relaxed people are less confrontational and say yes.


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Leverage Used Outside the Bargaining Table

By Marianne Eby

Another company founded in a garage, Amazon.com is the world's largest online retailer, responsible for sales of one third of the books sold in the United States alone. Being that big and powerful doesn't make Amazon.com's negotiations any easier. Looking at the state of negotiations with one of its suppliers, Hachette Book Group, a billion dollar publishing house, we can observe the use of leverage away from the bargaining table to influence negotiations.

Despite Amazon's stock tumbles this year, or because of them, the giant online retailer is flexing its negotiation muscle. There are a variety of book titles that consumers are having trouble getting their hands on while being notified of delayed ship dates and being offered alternative titles from other publishers that can ship quicker. Those titles on the slow boat are owned by Hatchette Book Group, one of the top 5 publishers in the world, and a behemoth in its own right.

For example, if you want Mariano Rivera's memoir, "The Closer" which was published last week, and you go to your Amazon account, you may have to wait 2 to 5 weeks to get the book written by the guy with a 90 mph fastball. Of course you can go to a local bookstore for instant gratification, or order from another online retailer and get it in about 24 hours. But Amazon knows that we want to get it from Amazon, because that's where we get most of our stuff. As reported in the New York Times, Amazon has been down this road before and it gets the deals done.

Hachette Book Group out of France is no small player, as the world's third largest trade and educational publisher. And Hachette isn't taking this sitting down, but is getting the press out, letting everyone know that it's top requested titles are being held up by Amazon, not by Hachette. Does that make you want to go elsewhere to get your favorite Hachette titles? On the surface Hachette is taking the high road, and publically emphasizing the relationship of good will that it has built with Amazon.com, while letting the press have a field day with this turn of events.

Amazon.com probably wants the same trades any online retailer wants from its suppliers -- bigger discounts and longer payment terms, and other favorable treatment as a preferred customer. It can only do so much at the bargaining table. The real leverage is in its business strategy and risk tolerance -- how much of our allegiance is Amazon willing to wager?

There's no silver bullet to negotiating with a customer you can't afford to lose, and Hachette probably can't afford to lose Amazon.com. 

Negotiating Tip

The number one goal in collaborative negotiations and in avoiding/resolving a conflict is to make sure all parties maintain self-esteem.


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What do the NFL Super Bowl, Cheerios, and Puppies Have in Common with Negotiating?

By Marianne Eby

I admit to not  knowing much about football despite my son's love of the game. To me it looks more like a bunch of athletes who get paid a lot of money to ram into each other until one team trounces the other. Let's face it -  I’m a negotiator who believes in win-win more than win-lose. So it’s no surprise that I was paying more attention to the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII advertisements on Sunday than to the game. And what did this super negotiator see? The deal of the century!

And I’m not talking about one of the many deals in the $10B enterprise that is the National Football League (NFL). I'm talking about the now famous Cheerios commercial. Sunday’s NFL Super Bowl XLVIII Cheerios commercial taught in 30 seconds (and paid $4M for the privilege of doing so) what every good negotiator knows - trades come in all breeds.

Here’s how Forbes describes that commercial, a father at the breakfast table with his little girl, Gracie, using the addition of one Cheerios at a time to demonstrate that there is going to be a new family member (and thus one more Cheerio added to the pile):

“The Epiphany:  After the baby brother announcement, the subtle pregnant pause. Gracie’s actor qualities rise to impressive levels to tug at your heart at this point.  The frown-pause moment is followed by the epiphany, “and a dog”. Translated: ‘If he’s sweet talking me like this, he must want my approval. That must mean I have some bargaining power – (and what do I have to lose, the little guy his coming anyway). I can use this event to broker and barter a deal. If I have to put up with a babbling infant that cuts into my time and resources, I can now use my unprecedented leverage get what I want in return.’ ”

Opportunities to trade come in all sizes and shapes and sometimes out of the blue, so seize them when you can and everybody wins! The little girl seizes the moment and in her own way (by adding a Cheerios to the family pile of course) makes it clear that family tranquility has a price – a puppy she can call her own. Caught off guard, the dad declares “Deal.”

And Cheerios gave a final negotiation lesson before its 30 seconds of air time was up – the camera turns to the pregnant mom, whose priceless facial expression makes it clear that dad forgot to check with his stakeholders before closing the deal.

The NFL is full of high stakes deal-making in the mega-millions, but this deal has lessons for players, owners and viewers alike. Think about what the other side will ask for before you start negotiating, seize opportunities to get what you want, and always know your stakeholders’ interests before you close the deal. 

Negotiating Tip

 “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision.”  Muhammad Ali


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Hagglers in Paradise

By Marianne Eby

There are many places in the world where consumers haggle and would never pay asking price – like the souks of Marrakech and the Beijing Silk Street Market. But nowadays even the US retail stores are fertile haggling territory. Know how to extend your holiday haggling into the January 2014 retail sales bonanza.

Haggling is a cousin to serious negotiations. Haggling is the back and forth that is used to get a quick deal from someone you aren't likely to deal with again, like in the souks and flea markets. A 2009 Consumer  Reports survey found that only 28% of Americans say they haggle often. But by 2011, talk of negotiating price tags at retail stores became a common sport of savvy consumers who read Kiplinger advice columns. And now it’s so common that one click on wikihow teaches us how to do it.

As reported in the New York Times, what’s more interesting in this last holiday season is that retailers are both training their floor sales managers to haggle, and inviting the public to do so. This may be an attempt to turn the tide from consumers who use brick and mortar stores for looking, only to return home and search the Web for the best price on the same item. The retail stores are fighting back. One has trained its managers not only to meet competitors’ prices, but given them authority to beat them. And they’re not just focused on price, but are creative in offering you add ons (that may or may not meet your needs).

As consumers, our job is to answer this call to action. You don’t need to be someone who negotiates deals at your day job; you just need to follow a few simple guidelines -- the fundamentals all master negotiators hone:

  • Prepare: get information so that you know why they should lower their price for you or what else they can offer you (or you them). It’s never been easier to do research on the price and quality of what you want before entering a store, or just use your smart device while browsing.
     
  • Plan your positions: Determine your opening request (what would be the most awesome deal, but one that you can defend), and know at what point you will walk away. Write those two positions down to prevent yourself from asking for less, or settling for less.
     
  • Have a planB, whether it’s foregoing the purchase, waiting for a big sales day, or going elsewhere. Having a back-up plan (referred to by business negotiators as a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, or BATNA) will give you the confidence to ask for what you want, and to engage in a conversation about the possibilities.
     
  • Do engage! Friendliness wins every time, not arrogance. Every master negotiator knows that people give the best deals to people they like. But don’t waste the retail staff’s time on lots of small talk about the weather and yourself; use sincere curiosity to ask themquestions about the company, the job, their long day, the product or service, the other customers, the market this year. Show an interest in them and they will show an interest in you.
     
  • Don’t make assumptions that prices and terms are set in stone. At a clearance sale at a high-end retailer the other day, I asked for help with the down coats (facing our first cold winter in years). I fretted over the high price which showed a markdown of only 20%. I then asked the sales person if she could try the coat on so I could see how it looked on someone else. I added in some flattery when I saw the coat on her, and only then asked if a further reduction was coming. She whispered that that there will be a pre-sale in 3 days with another 40% off, where shoppers can purchase then and pick the item up a few days later once the actual sale begins. Knowing I would risk losing the perfect down coat, I asked if I could do a pre-pre-sale – getting the extra 40% off now, but willing to wait to pick up the coat with all the other shoppers in a week. I’ve been nice and warm ever since!
     
  • Be creative: offer them something (like cash, buying in bulk, taking the odd size off their hands, a comliment to their manager). This is where your creativity can pay off, as you give something of value that costs you little or nothing but that they value, in exchange for something you want. What value can you find, beyond the price and the profit margin, to bring into the negotiation? Would using cash save them money? Will it go on sale soon anyway? Do they work on commission and would rather you buy from the now than from their colleague on another day? Would a referral, or a positive “Yelp” review be valuable PR?
     
  • Above all, respect your counterpart as a person making a living. Haggling over a retail price, if you engage in it, is a game which involves a short-term relationship. Insulting your counterpart or being a jerk will ruin the game and most likely, your chances of a good deal.  

Want more advice? Here's 10 Tricks for Haggling Over Price at Any Store.

One more reason to haggle in this January's retail sales?

Negotiation takes practice. The more you practice, the better you become at building rapport, asking for what you want, seeing possibilities, asking questions, and leveraging your willingness to walk away. The more you do it, the better negotiator you will become.

Have fun haggling in and out of your vacation paradise!

Negotiating Tip

What does it mean to be an emotionally intelligent negotiator? It means your brain controls your mouth, not your-out-of-control emotions.


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Negotiators use the Power of Alliances at Dubai Air Show

By Thomas Wood

The 2013 Dubai Air Show was the most lucrative in the history of the event, with more than $200 billion in transactions in only five days. We can only imagine the intense preparations for negotiations, and the trades and sparring that followed suit. What we can say for sure, however, is that a strategic approach used by a few of the airlines resulted in a win-win deal.

On my recent trip to Kuwait to work with management and their teams at a multi-national client on their negotiations, there was much talk about the 2013 Dubai Air Show, where Boeing alone received roughly $100 billion in orders for its new 777X “mini-jumbo.” This was a truly astounding accomplishment, lauded by its CEO as the “largest product launch in commercial jetliner history.”  This was definitely NOT "business as usual." But it wasn’t just the pure volume of business that made this feat "NOT business as usual."

Qatar Airways and Emirates Airline, long-time fierce competitors, joined forces to buy hundreds of Boeing’s new models – a groundbreaking development that has been heralded as a transformative moment for the industry. As the two largest airlines in the Middle East, the two companies have had a long history of suspicion, competition, and rivalry. Executives realized, however, that although alone they each lacked sufficient negotiating leverage to demand discounts from Boeing, together they could secure better terms.

This joint effort – the first time the two regional giants had worked together in such a manner – shocked many analysts. The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, explained his thinking to reporters. “Don’t you think it is good to align with one of the neighboring airlines and order airplanes? It is good for the industry and also to show to the world that we are competitors, but we also work together.” Gulf News reported that Al Baker noted, "When you negotiate with a supplier, you get the benefit of economies of scale,” and those large purchases allowed Boeing to offer discounts without sacrificing its own margins. Negotiating teams on both sides seized the opportunity to think creatively and create value for all parties.

The negotiators also created strong working relationships that are likely to pay dividends in future deals. Gulf News also reported that Al Baker proudly informed reporters that “when we do a similar program in the future, yes I hope that we will be able to do it together.”

But alliances aren't built in a day, so let’s give Boeing some credit as well. As reported by the BBC, Boeing’s negotiators identified that lucrative opportunities existed in the Middle East market and invested the necessary time and effort to understand that market’s unique characteristics. While budget gridlocks are jeopardizing opportunities in Western capitals, for example, Boeing saw that business leaders in the oil-rich nations of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are racing to become a global hub for air travel. To take advantage of this, Boeing’s negotiating team members no doubt did their cultural homework before engaging with their Arab counterparts in Dubai. The UAE government published cultural advice for Western negotiators, stressing the importance of face-to-face meetings when building relationships, and properly conveying respect when greeting your local counterparts. Boeing’s negotiators apparently took this advice to heart and earned the respect, trust, and admiration of their Qatari and Emirati partners.

Strategically building alliances and creative trades resulted in Boeing walking away from the Dubai Air Show with more than $100 billion in orders, more than twice the value of orders it’s European rival, Airbus, received. The impact of that is far reaching. As reported on NPR, Boeing is now in a stronger position to head off competition from its main competitors in the highly contested mini-jumbo market throughout the next decade.

Boeing executives may also benefit in future negotiations with its labor unions. The International Association of Machinists (IAM) in Puget Sound voted down a recent contract proposal because it had too many give backs (frozen pensions, lower wages for new hires, etc). Boeing had been on the defensive in those discussions, partly due to the success of Airbus. Now Boeing may be able to leverage its triumphs in Dubai -- the guarantee of future work --  as a solid BATNA: sending that work away from Puget Sound if a deal with the IAM isn't reached.

I always counsel my clients to think more strategically about their negotiations. Leverage can come from many sources.

Negotiating Tip

Listen! It's the easiest and most valuable concession you can offer in any negotiation. You always get goodwill and information in exchange.


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Why did the negotiator cross the road?

By Marianne Eby

Negotiations are serious business, which is why it is important to understand, and build trust with, the other party. Great negotiators know that no matter how serious the interaction, laughter is often one of the quickest paths to trust; it can relieve tension, create a bond, improve everyone's moods, and foster the creativity you want for mutually beneficial agreements to emerge.

Researchers in many fields, from medicine to psychology to communications, are increasingly interested in the social power of humor and the physical and emotional benefits of laughter. Public speakers are trained to open presentations with jokes or funny anecdotes. Political candidates are now expected to demonstrate their sense of humor on the talk show circuit to improve their likeability. In 2010 Comedian John Stewart was voted the "most trusted man in America." His social power derives from the fact that he is knowledgeable and funny, which makes him seem more trustworthy.  

A sense of humor is useful during all phases of negotiation as well -- to signal confidence or shift power, to change the environment, to soften bad news, to avoid answering a question, to respond to a ridiculous offer, or to save face.

Telling a funny story or acceptable joke can also help you gauge whether the other party is on the same page with you. If the other side is not laughing, or even engaging in a joking conversation, pay attention: they are not where you hope they are. Not laughing in response to a humorous gesture is a sign of discomfort or disconnection.

So prepare with ice-breakers -- anecdotes or jokes that get a group to laugh before you begin bargaining.

Try these tips for opening an interaction with humor:

Tell a story on yourself: People love to laugh at absurd but real events. Carol Burnett famously said "comedy is tragedy plus time." A story you tell about yourself makes you more human.

Don't take yourself too seriously. Keep the humor light, and your expectations for laughter down. Nothing kills an attempt to develop rapport more than someone who can't laugh at him or herself. Mildly self-deprecating jokes imply trust.

Collect a few jokes that work for you. They're easy to find or to collect. Good storytellers and comedians prepare material in advance, to avoid hitting the wrong note, and to be ready to hit the right one.

What to avoid:

  • Stories and jokes about race, culture, gender, religion, politics, or hometowns
  • Offensive material
  • Sarcasm
  • Targeting something sensitive about them you discovered by being empathetic (don't overuse empathy!)
  • Stories or jokes that require long, complex setups, or special insider knowledge
  • Telling a joke if you are not good at it
  • Jokes that rely on an exact understanding of your language

Sometimes puns (ambiguous play on words with multiple meanings) can be fun – just make sure your humor is understood. Let’s say you’re in a tense negotiation and everyone is frustrated. You might say:

“Does any one feel the way I do? Trying to figure out a solution that satisfies us all is like getting ready for a root canal – it’s unnerving!”

Keep these guidelines in mind for successful humorous stories and jokes:

  • Make them modest, not ambitious
  • Keep them short -- avoid a long setup!
  • Try to be topical -- find a story or joke that's relevant to the negotiation at hand, a recent press story, your travel, etc.
  • Be yourself!

Be real. Leverage your own style and personality. Be willing to laugh. See how it changes your negotiation results!

Negotiating Tip

Take a negotiating risk today: Ask, "Is there any flexibility on that?" where you usually don’t negotiate. Try at it work, at home, and in the mall. You will be surprised at how effective it is. What do you have to lose?

 


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Film Award for Best Negotiating Practices

By Thomas Wood

The lead up to the Academy Awards always gets me excited about seeing great films. This year Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" and Michel Hazanavicius’s “The Artist” were fabulous, and received 10 and 11 nominations respectively. But will they win at the 2012 Academy Awards? I hope it's not deja vu of the 2011 Academy Awards, when brothers’ Ethan and Joel Coen’s “True Grit” received 10 nominations but didn’t win. Well, True Grit definitely won Best Picture for Negotiating Practices among our team of professional negotiators here at Watershed Associates.
True Grit tested the “grit” of every character’s negotiation moxy in the various negotiations that transpired in this movie, and there were many.
 
The story is tried and true:  Teenage girl seeks revenge on her father’s killer, and pairs up with two strong willed lawmen-for-hire to chase down the killer in Indian territory of the 1880s. There’s an opening scene with Dakin Matthews playing a tough and crotchety old businessman and trader, Colonel Stonehill, and Hailee Steinfeld playing the vengeful teen, Mattie Ross. As Mattie prepares to set out on her adventure, she needs resources, and she comes to the trader to negotiate for them.
 
Before he died, Mattie’s father had purchased and paid for two ponies from the trader. Her father had paid for the ponies, but the ponies had not yet been delivered to him and are still in the custody of the trader. Mattie’s father also had his saddle horse boarded at the trader’s stable. Along came a thief who, upon murdering Mattie’s father, stole her father's saddle horse, and left behind the saddle, the two ponies, and the less valuable horse Mattie's father had lent the theif.
 
When Mattie approaches the trader, her astute preparation becomes apparent. The trader is quick witted from years of experience (and a great script), but has to determine whether Mattie has a strong BATNA (plan B), or is bluffing. Mattie uses just enough friendliness and legitimacy to her advantage, while also showing she is prepared and goal oriented (a picture perfect example of Watershed’s mantra: be firm, fair and professional). The trader is caught off guard by this shrewd teenager, and to his disadvantage underestimates her negotiation skill and determination.
 
There are lots of negoiation missteps, mostly on the part of the experienced trader. There are things the trader could have learned about Mattie’s need for resources if he wasn’t caught off guard and had asked better questions. Simply by using sincere curiosity and probing more effectively, the trader could have landed a much better deal. He focuses only on dollars instead, missing low cost/high value trades he probably could have made with the girl. He also makes other common erros in his haste, such as
  • responding to her offer in a way that makes it difficult to explore Mattie's interests,
  • negotiating against himself without waiting for a counteroffer when faced with Mattie’s various BATNAs/bluffs, and
  • declaring multiple times that this is his final offer.
And yet, the trader held all the cards from the start. At the opening of the negotiation, Mattie has nothing and the trader has everything – the ponies, the payment, the saddle, the less valuable horse, and the expertise. Mattie doesn’t beg or play the victim who needs charity. She uses many Best Negotiating Practices, among them
  • an assertive but defensible opening offer,
  • legitimacy,
  • persuasive analogies,
  • a strong BATNA, and
  • a tapered concession pattern.

Mattie has almost no power in this negotiation, but she leverages something much more potent – her skill as a negotiator – her true grit.

And that’s only one of many negotiating scenes in the Oscar nominated movie from 2010.
 
See True Grit again or for the first time, and test your “grit” as a negotiator by spotting all the missteps and Best Negotiating Practices interlaced in this great film.

 

Negotiating Tip

Commitment is what each side agreed that it will do or not do. Commitments should be Practical, Durable, Understood by all, & Verifiable.


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Negotiation Blog

Check Your Negotiator Blind Spots

By Thomas Wood

Did you ever have a negotiation where you felt well prepared going in, but during the discussions you became frustrated? For most of us, frustration brings out our worst instincts and behaviors, ultimately leading to a poor outcome.

Here’s a quick quiz to help you see if you were held back by any of the common negotiator blind spots.

Answer Yes or No: 
  1. Are you good at picking your battles?
  2. Do you consider it a successful resolution if you get everything you or your company wants without making concessions?
  3. Do you think that usually the best solutions come from the options offered by you or the other parties at the start of the negotiation?
  4. Do you tire of listening to the other side’s version of events and perspective on their own needs, and prefer moving forward with the agenda?
  5. Do you value objectivity and pride yourself on sticking to the facts in your negotiations?
  6. Do you act in a certain way to ensure people know you are a strong negotiator?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of the questions above, you may be suffering from one of the common negotiator blind spots. While teaching our negotiation workshops, we have found that participants often fall prey to these blind spots:

Battle Alert: He believes that it is important to pick his battles because negotiations are battles. He does not believe that a win-win outcome is actually possible, and thus approaches every interaction as a competition.

  • Attitude is everything in collaborative negotiations! Enter your next negotiation as a discussion, and you may find the battle never was.

Give nothing/get nothing: She figured out what was fair long before the two parties started talking. She wants to achieve her goal, and show that she is a strong negotiator by giving nothing away.

  • Negotiation is about getting, AND giving. Good negotiators come prepared to give concessions. You may get everything and give nothing, but don’t fool yourself. The party that feels "taken" will find a way to get it back.

There’s only one way to skin a cat: He has an idea of what will satisfy his counterpart, and has listened carefully to his counterpart’s idea. Both ideas were part of the opening offers. One of these ideas will win the day, or perhaps parts of each idea. Let’s decide and move on.

  • The best ideas result from discourse, not solo genius. Very rarely does our first idea prove to be the best. Take comfort in knowing that the 3rd crazy suggestion might lead to a novel approach that is more mutually satisfying to the parties.

Can you hear me listening?: She has listened so much that she tires of the other side talking. Her counterpart feels that he hasn’t been heard. Was she listening loudly enough?

  • Listening is not a silent or passive activity. It involves attitude, body language and follow-up that convince the other side you wanted to hear what they had to say. Sometimes, active listening – sincere curiosity, leaning forward, obvious contemplation and asking relevant follow-up questions – is the largest concession you will have to give.

Just the facts, ma’am: He prides himself on his objectivity. The numbers tell it all. We just have to stick to the facts and the negotiation will progress.

  • People, not institutions, negotiate. People have history – his-story. Some stories are personal (ego, mood, fears), and some stories arise from circumstances. Ask for your counterpart’s story, and tell yours. Stories engage, leading to more open discussion and mutually satisfying solutions.

Never let ‘em see you sweat: She feels intimidated by her counterpart’s experience or reputation. He’s known to get what he wants. She intends to show him from the start that she’s no pushover and is tough as nails.

  • Reciprocity is an ancient concept. You be bad and he be bad back. The best way to set the tone is to prove yourself as a worthy negotiator. Prove you did your homework. Prove you came to listen, learn, and give. Prove you can be creative. Prove you can be trusted. Your best leverage is your skill as a negotiator.

These natural inclinations and defenses can blind us from success in our negotiations. See clearly now.

Negotiating Tip

Ask "why" to understand interests. Ask your counterpart’s advice on how to achieve shared goals. Be sincerely curious.


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