Business Negotiation November 30, 2015

Your Three Silent Partners

Whenever we negotiate a new agreement at work it is likely that somebody’s job will change or that an existing administrative control will be altered.   Such changes often create new problems and upset the desired agreement...

Whenever we negotiate a new agreement at work it is likely that somebody’s job will change or that an existing administrative control will be altered.  Such changes often create new problems and upset the desired agreement.  Unless these potential impediments are taken into account and resolved prior to reaching agreement, the deal bargained for will not work out.

One way to look at these future problems and avoid them is to imagine that there are three unseen but demanding negotiating partners sitting at your side who seek satisfaction before they sign on to the agreement you are ready to close.  Your three partners are what I call the “Past Partner,” the “Transition Partner” and the “Far Future Partner.” Each is there to protect their interests in the agreement and to assure that you pay attention to their point of view and concerns.

This negotiating analogy struck me with practical impact some years ago when I bought a new 35-foot Ranger sailboat.  It was a good time to buy; the economy was soft, inventories were mounting, dealers were in trouble.  I negotiated a better discount than expected, wrote a check and immediately listed my old boat for sale.

Soon my mistakes became apparent.  When I requested that the dealer provide a slip for the boat he was selling for me, he said he had no room.  Suddenly I was stuck with two slip fees at my yacht club. That’s when it occurred to me that I could easily have nibbled for a concession from the dealer prior to closure to provide a slip, and display the used boat at no charge on his premises.

Then my “Transition Partner” began to complain. It’s true the dealer had provided two hours of training on the Ranger. The trouble was that the new boat had equipment on it I could not manage with so little training. Additional lessons cost $80 an hour—something that could have been negotiated into the original settlement. The larger winch it turns out I needed would be another $1000. My “Transition Partner” now tells me, “Transitions are always full of problems.”

As for the far future, it is not yet here but the signs already are.  My guidance position system is too large and slow. I’d like a new radio as well as an improved sound system.  Had my “Far Future” Partner been at my side before closing my purchase, that partner would have insisted that I bargain for options on upgrades as they became available.  My leverage was at its best then, not two years later.

What I can do now is clear.  Whenever I negotiate for anything, I ask my “Three Partners” to accompany me.  They help me negotiate more prudent, intelligent agreements.  Agreements that withstand the passage and pressures of time and take into account past and future needs and technologies.
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