Negotiation is a skill that we all need in life and business, but most
of us get zero training in. So, we’re left “winging it.” and then
wonder why we didn’t get the result we wanted. Start-up Ceo Mark
Suster talks about his learning curve in negotiation which taught him the
lesson to never negotiate piecemeal.
We were meeting with a potential business partner and my lawyer Stuart
drafted an agreement between the two companies. The other side had a
series of things that they wanted changed. The owner of that company
was in the meeting along with his business development lead. On our
side it was Stuart and me.
Like the problem solver I had been trained as in my software
development days, I parsed his issue. I saw where he was coming from
and from our side why our ask was what it was. I talked too much. I looked for middle ground. He talked too much.
We agreed a compromise. Then on to the next
issue on our list which was 15 points long.
We worked through the first 4 or 5. Stuart is not a patient man. And
never mind that I was the CEO, his frustration with me was visible.
He said “Mark, you need to stop negotiating point-by-point!
“Our goal here isn’t to have a negotiation line-by-line. We want to
know what all of their issues are first. You’re compromising on each
point and that makes no sense so let’s get all of their issues on the table.
Let’s be very flexible on the issues that are at the bottom of our
rank and they might really care about. Let’s dig in our heels on the
issues we care most about. We can trade compromises on issues that
aren’t as important to us in exchange for not budging at all on our
most important points.”
The problem with negotiating piecemeal as Stuart taught me is that you
trade on every item. You don’t prioritize the issues which you really
care about. If you don’t want to give a millimeter on one item you have
a hard time doing that point-by-point. Done as a “package deal” you can
say, “I gave in on these 5 issues that you asked for. On this issue I
can’t give.” That’s much harder to pull off piecemeal.
As Mark says, It’s human nature to negotiate piecemeal, but a “bulk
negotiating perspective” can be honed and practiced in engaging
improv workshops. When it’s physical, it’s memorable, when it’s
memorable, it has a greater chance of being integrated into habit.