Sometimes Winning Isn’t as Important as This One Other Thing

I like winning. And learning that winning is not always the best outcome in a negotiation is one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in my 30 years in business.

My father used to tell me that being successful in making deals is strongly tied to the ability to leave something on the table for your counterpart – even if you are in a position of power.

“But isn’t it always better to pay less for the same items or to make more money on a particular deal?” – you may ask. Not always, because the “buy low, sell high” principle fails to account for a crucial element in business: relationships.

Back in the day I used to be a very tough negotiator, and I wasn’t even aware of it. I was simply unwilling to settle for a deal that I thought could be more advantageous for me or my side. And I got the best deals. But what happens after you close a deal?

Life goes on and other negotiations and business opportunities come around. And, somewhat inevitably, some of these opportunities arise with folks who know you or have heard about you. Following what I considered to be successful deals at the beginning of my career, I was confronted with the ramifications of the experiences of those with whom I had previously negotiated.

That is when I began to truly understand the meaning of win-win solutions in business environments: the benefits of leaving something on the table so people enjoy working with me and feel like they’ve won, too.

Because of my reputation as a fair negotiator for the past few decades, business partners often seek me out even if the deal with me is slightly less financially advantageous for them. Most negotiation counterparts also come to me with fair deals to start (as opposed to starting at extreme positions) which cuts down the negotiation time and leads to more efficient business deals. Saving time and minimizing stress in business situations is often overlooked when evaluating the process of getting to a solution in a case.

Due to the many good relationships I developed in my industry and other fields, business partners trust me. And trust is one of the most valuable assets you can have in business.

Is my “always leave something on the table” advice applicable to all cases and situations? Of course not. You must know when to focus on a mutually advantageous outcome, and when getting the absolute best price or deal is the only objective. But don’t forget, you may not be seeing the last of the person on the other side of the table.

Do you believe in win-win solutions in business? Do you find them challenging to achieve? Share your story in the comments below.

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