The alarm starts banging off like crazy and it’s already 5:00 o’clock. Your partner could not manage to make it to the meeting with your key product manufacturers, and now you need to make it there instead. Alas, this ain’t the only hurdle of the day. Once you finish the meeting, you need to travel to the other side of the city to meet with some important clients. Being the only person that really knows the product and understands its inner workings makes it imperative that you are always present in all these meetings as they provide the necessary cash flow to keep the engine going. But before that meeting, you also need to make time to get the kids to school as your spouse has a difficult issue to deal with and has no time for it. And so you wake up as fast as you can, rushing to gain as much time as humanly possible. As you think about the day ahead and how to organize it, you contemplate whether you should spend some extra bucks, delegating some parts of your work to others. But then you remember all the unpaid bills and all the obligations running in the company and realize that such an expenditure could wait, saving you some time and money in your bank account. You push the thought away and continue about your day.
As it is clear in the above example, negotiations don’t happen only in 4×4 rooms with suits and ties, under one-way mirrors where you apply your official requests. Most of the time they are subtle and nuanced, like when you choose the summer destination with your spouse or you declare your opinion about the logo with your partner. They happen constantly and they are a mirror of how you perceive not only others but yourself as well. Did you accept another irrational demand by one of your peers squeezing your free time to mere nanoseconds? Did you refuse to provide yourself with conveniences that would make your life easier under the pretense of avoiding unnecessary expenses?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that sometimes you need to negotiate for yourself as well. As Chris Voss says, “Everything in life is a negotiation” and how well you perform in it can make the difference between achieving success or stagnating in the same place trying to keep your head above water.
The Fight For The Initiatives
The mid-90s was a critical point in history, with personal computers and ‘the Web’ making their first baby steps into our lives. The war in getting a piece of the pie was ferocious and whoever would manage to win the first few battles would be the king in the field for the years to come. Neglecting a key area could leave you behind wondering how this little fluke called the internet had such an impact on a business.
But as obvious as it may seem now, investing money in the online world had a big question mark associated with it back then. Microsoft being strongly focused on personal computing was far behind in the game of the Web, and there were many forces pushing in the opposite direction asking to continue on the same path they were embarking on already. But Bill Gates understood the matter deeper and realized the need to create a strong presence or their future would be jeopardized. The only problem was that he had to face the then number one company in the field Netscape, dominating the browser market with their popular product ‘Netscape Navigator’. Microsoft lacked not only the technical knowledge but the market share as well.
Realizing the potential danger, Bill Gates decided to act on it. When AOLwas looking for a partnership with a browser and Netscape was the obvious choice, Gates decided to raise the stakes sky high, by dropping a mega-tonne bomb into the table. He made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. A bundle with the windows operating system, allowing distribution potentials beyond their wildest dreams. But how could someone offer something like that to a competitor business? AOL was in direct opposition to the Microsoft Network MSN and giving them such a powerful step was equal to sacrificing a key part of the company.
What Gates knew back then, was that achieving the deal was the number one priority for the business strategically and that’s why he was willing to take huge steps to make it happen.
Many times experts emphasize the need to dissect what you want and need in order to be in a position to negotiate correctly. They ask to have a clear set of goals, a convenient fallback plan that can be used as a pillar in case needed, or a minimum agreement point of the lowest price you would be willing to accept. Obviously, all these are correct and someone needs to have a very clear grasp of where they stand before they enter the game. But by focusing on yourself, it’s very easy to forget where the other side stands, and what is their point of view. Are they desperate? Do they have 10 other equally good choices waiting right out of their office to partner with them? Are they after product quality or market growth and what is the core component that would help their business to advance the most?
Focusing on the other side may seem counterintuitive but this is the only way to realize your key strengths and what is your best way to approach them. In the case of Microsoft, they realized that by offering the opportunity to AOL for bigger market reach they would be able to make the agreement they so much needed besides the fact of offering a much lesser quality product.
Realizing The Strategic Goals
We live in the age of an attention economy. That means we have a continuous flow of distractions coming our way trying to get a piece of our limited attention span.
Steven Covey analyzed, in his book, how most people fall under the fallacy of urgent tasks. This is the set of things that masquerade as crucial for you when their only aim is to help others. But their demanding nature creates the illusion that what we do is actually important when in reality, we are spending our days responding to trends and social media notifications that promote other people’s product goals or some sort of request, that has very little to do with our own well being.
“Responding to the endless stream of notifications covers other people’s needs not your own.”
The problem with these distractions is that they take your eyes away from what matters, giving the impression that you are doing meaningful things when you are actually stagnating.
Similar distractions exist in the level of businesses and corporations. It would be easy for Microsoft to keep focusing on the windows folder system, or the mouse drivers thinking that they are progressing on crucial aspects. They could dismiss the newly forged trend of the web as a bubble and neglect the need to take any steps at all. Many others were dismissing it, and there was no real economic incentive to think otherwise themselves.
But although operating systems are complementary products to ‘software’, the web is actually a substitute for them. They allow you to de-allocate the processing power outside the personal PC, minimizing the role and importance they play in the whole ecosystem. Sure programs require operating systems in order to be able to run in the first place, but when these operating systems run elsewhere there is nothing stopping new technologies to emerge that would cater to less processing power and better connection capacities. Being able to see the alternatives to what you offer and the possible threats that may counter your product is what allows you to know whether you should take bold steps or not.
“We really want to reduce windows to a buggy set of device drivers, underneath the browser” — Marc Andreessen
Having A Strong Vision
It’s funny how most negotiation advice emphasizes little tricks and micro-behaviors that someone can display to get what he wants. Follow the steps, like a pre-defined sequence to a theater role, and you can rest assured to reach your goals at the end of it. But people forget how intuitive we are by nature. Our emotional mechanisms have developed through millions of years of evolution to sense deceit and grasp any unauthentic attitudes.
There is no stronger negotiation trick than creating a vision of what you want to achieve after you get what you want. What is the end result? Are you after world domination? Mass destruction? Covering the needs of those that don’t have enough? You would be surprised how strongly people can follow you if they believe in the picture you paint to them. They could even go against their best interest to help you with any blockages in your road. As long as you consider the impact your actions could have besides your own individual gains and how it could improve society you can pass that image to them and get other people on your side as well.
Treating negotiation like an ego game that you can manifest your good persuasion skills and assertive powers over others, is gonna trigger a similar ego response from the other side as well. Mirror-neurons is a scientifically proven thing and can manifest every time we observe someone going through a particular emotion. The thoughts you are making and emotional attitude is bound to reproduce in your interlocutor, so use this to your advantage by projecting to them the image you want them to have.
Treating Negotiation With Seriousness And Dedication
For many people, there is nothing more dreadful than closing themselves into a room, dealing with people that want to persuade them of their particular interests, and neglecting the real work they are actually sweating on day by day, striving to reach an agreement that may never happen. In most cases and especially if you are an introvert, fight-or-flight instincts are gonna be triggered and you are gonna be willing to get it over with even in the loss of what you want and actually deserve.
Negotiations are a beast of their own and you will need to devote your full energy to them. The best strategy to avoid any ‘fleeting’ mistakes would be to set a very minimum point of what you need to cover at the very least in order to accept the thought of a deal at all. It is sort of your pre-defined anchor that will keep you grounded from any impulsive moves, so make sure you set that point beforehand.0