Quick Tip: Leave a Negotiation on a Friendly and Open Note

This quick tip comes to you courtesy of a client’s recent negotiation that I had to step in to salvage.

My client and his partner (or I should say in this case, adversary) in negotiations could not come to an amicable arrangement. Neither’s request was that far from the others, but they wouldn’t split the difference and move forward.

Believing his own offer to be justified, my client got a bit nasty about the situation and left the negotiation in a hostile manner. What he had failed to consider were two factors:

1. He didn’t have a good BATNA, which means that he had no better alternative to a negotiated arrangement. He needed this deal to go through, and

2. Had he come to an amicable arrangement, his current adversary could have been a future partner to his extreme benefit.

In short, this move – this hostility – was short sighted. Had my client said that he was sorry that they couldn’t reach an arrangement and offered to work with his negotiation partner in the future could they come to more mutually agreeable terms, he would have left something on the table: friendliness. And in a negotiation, friendliness can be a huge ally.

Upon coming back to me, I showed him that he had been a little hasty, and we agreed to apologize for the hostility. Once he apologized, the other party said that he appreciated that gesture so much by comparison that he agreed to my client’s offer! He said that it was the hostility that he perceived during the process that prevented him from yielding to my client’s offer in the first place, and that this gesture of friendliness meant so much that he could make it work this time.

Look what a little friendliness does!

Always walk away from a failed negotiation with a friendly air. It can go miles in ensuring that you may get what you need in the future.

Do you have any negotiations strategies to share with us?

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.

You’re Always Marketing So Keep It Classy

A few years ago, GGG was engaged in the restructuring of a multi-billion dollar company that had relationships with numerous and varied businesses and firms throughout the country. While focused on the client’s interest, I took this opportunity to make some excellent connections and solidify existing ones with professionals in a multitude of industries – even though we were most often on opposite sides of the table. I worked with many bankruptcy attorneys, private equity professionals and business leaders, developing excellent working relationships towards the restructuring of this company.

It’s important to recognize current business as opportunities for new business. Not only does this prepare you for the future but it motivates you to work harder on the current case.

Regardless of your profession or industry, look at each meeting, conference and project as a marketing opportunity. After all, you are good at what you do, and you want others to know this.

It’s not often in my profession that I get new business from existing or past clients because of the nature of the turnaround industry. However, more than half my future business comes from those with whom I’ve worked during a case, whose interests at the time are not those of my client. That is, many times I am hired for future situations by those who sat on the other side of the negotiations table. Even though we were on opposite sides of the situation, those who ultimately hire me one day appreciated the professionalism with which I carried myself, the thought process I used to resolve the case and the outcome I achieved for my side.

Subsequent to the case at hand, they have other clients who they want me to represent. Next time they see me in the courtroom or at the negotiations table, they want me to sit on their side. That is why I always stay fair to the other side in a business case and communicate clearly. Make it your duty to do the same. People appreciate knowledge, professional conduct and sound business ethics, and they like solving problems quickly and efficiently.

Mutual respect is the goal for long-term marketing in business. Always be honest and forthcoming – you don’t have to be the nice guy in a tough business deal, but having professional respect for your negotiating partners and gaining their respect is the recipe for growing your referral sources.

Some of my long term, twenty-year referral sources come from these situations in which I gave oppositional professionals’ clients a hair cut, but who later wanted to work with me.

Remember, you’re always marketing.

What are your primary sources of referrals? How do you cultivate those?