By George Lucas, Ph.D.
The research I have done with my The
One Minute Negotiator: Simple Steps to
Reach Better Agreements co-author Don Hutson has convinced us that "negotiaphobes”-
people who fear negotiating - have left enough money on the table to pay off
our National Debt! In every organization
that depends on successful business development of new and existing accounts
this affliction can create serious top and bottom-line pressure on any
organization. So why is it that today so
many salespeople are reluctant to advance their skills and engage in
We discovered that this reluctance to
negotiate is due to several important factors:
- First, a desire to avoid what is wrongly seen as confrontation. In reality well-conducted negotiations minimize
conflict; not increase it.
- A fear of leaving money on the table
is second. In reality there will almost always be some money left on the table. The key is to make it pocket change, and not
what we call down south, "folding money.”
- Third, the rush to just get a deal,
any deal, done sooner rather than later.
If you can’t manage to handle some ambiguity you will be somewhat
limited as a negotiator.
- Fourth, a lack of skill development
with regard to the negotiation process.
I am constantly shocked that in a room of professional salespeople or
buyers, only about 20% have ever invested time and money to advance their
- Finally, negotiaphobia is caused by a
willingness to simply live with the status quo.
"Better the devil we know,” is an all too common mindset today,
particularly after the some of the recent challenging years where in many
companies the mindset switched to "any business is good business”.
Our experience clearly shows that any
change in your organization’s negotiation culture simply has to start at the
top of the organizational chart. I have
worked with many managers who openly admit they are not great negotiators, but
still expect their people to be good at this increasingly important skill. Leaders today must demonstrate the characteristics
sought by the characters in "The Wizard of Oz.”
They must show the brain the Scarecrow was looking for, the heart sought
by the Tin Man, and the courage the Cowardly Lion so desperately needed. Your team members need to see you ensuring
that your facts are collected and accurate, you have empathy for your team
members in their negotiations, and you have the courage to stand your ground
both in front of and behind them.
There is very good news for all of you
reading this article: Negotiaphobia is a disease that can be treated. This treatment is actually pretty simple, and
it involves learning various negotiation strategies, as well as the skills to
deploy them. We have developed an
E-A-S-Y three-step process which will get you and your team on the road to
being better prepared and mentally ready to engage and succeed in negotiating
for your desired outcomes.
E in E-A-S-Y stands for engage. Most negotiations are won or lost before the
first words of communication between parties even take place. Ask yourself, "Is
this an encounter where a negotiation is likely or possible?” You also must understand that a negotiation
is not an event. Instead, it is an ongoing process. You are always in one of three phases:
- Pre-deal: Collecting information and monitoring the
ongoing results from the prior deal, with the decision made by one side or the
other that the current agreement needs to be continued, changed, or ended.
- Deal: At the point of exchanging ideas and sharing
needs and positions in an attempt to either keep or change the status quo. This is what most people consider the only
aspect of negotiating. It is actually
more in line with bargaining.
- Post-deal: Reinforcing the terms of the agreement,
communicating impacts, and leading to the next pre-deal phase if this is an
ongoing relationship. Mistakes are often
made here as one side or both share information about how overly-happy they are
with the deal that was made. This leaves
the other side feeling that they left money on the table.
you should always quickly review the four viable negotiation strategies. These strategies are:
(reactive and low cooperation);
(reactive and high cooperation);
(proactive and low cooperation); and
(proactive and high cooperation).
of these four strategies have their place in the various negotiations we face,
and thus proficient negotiators know when and how to use all four of them.
second step, "A,” prompts negotiators to assess their natural tendencies to use
each of the four strategies, as well as the probable tendencies of the party
they are negotiating with, to follow one of the four approaches. As you read this article, consider what your
negotiation style is as it relates to the strategies mentioned. Experience shows that the best read on what
strategy someone will use in negotiating with you is how they have negotiated
with you in the past. Nearly all people
are "one-trick ponies,” reflexively using the same approach every time. They are like a software program in that they
come with default settings that they never take the time to change. If you learn to adapt your style to the
situation at hand, you will enjoy greater success.
leads us to "Strategize,” the third-step in the E-A-S-Y process. Based on the significance of the situation,
one’s own tendencies, and the expected strategy that will be deployed by the
other side, a person carefully selects their opening and fall-back strategies. The
power and importance of preparation cannot be over emphasized here! The book "The Art of War” says it well: "One should not go into a battle they have
not already won.”
A fall-back, or plan-B, strategy is a
lot like having an umbrella with you. If
you have an umbrella on your golf bag it rarely ever rains, but it you leave it
in the trunk of your car you will get drenched. As you negotiate, don’t just look at this one
encounter, but look for long-term potential.
Some deals, like buying a car, are usually one-offs that direct you toward
competition. There are other instances
where a small opportunity today, if handled collaboratively, could lead to a
much larger and recurring deal in the future.
Assess, and Strategize taken together lead us to the "Y” in the acronym; This
is Your One Minute Drill. This is where
you, on a regular basis, automatically cycle through the first three steps as
you face any negotiation. This
one-minute reflection should become just as automatic as fastening your sea tbelt
when you get in to drive a car. It is a very powerful tool to make you a more
effective and efficient negotiator. Certainly
negotiations usually take longer than a minute; some take hours, months and
even decades. Others, however, can be
concluded in a matter of seconds. The E-A-S-Y
process will be your guide to get your head in the game for each negotiation encounter
irrespective of its duration.
Note that we call E-A-S-Y a treatment; not a
cure. Negotiaphobia is like
gravity. It is always there to hold you
back. If you ever think you have it
figured out, and you no longer need this process you will be vulnerable to it
creeping back into your life. Vigilance
must be your M.O. as you continue to treat your negotiaphobia and advance your
success in all aspects of your life. It
really comes down to the old adage, "Use it or lose it.”
George Lucas is co-author of the WSJ,
USA Today and NY Times bestseller, "The One Minute Negotiator: Simple Steps to Reach Better Agreements.” Over the last 15 years he has helped
negotiators on six continents advance their skills via his speaking, training,
coaching and consulting. For more information,