Getting to Yes and Getting Past No are two books on negotiation I find myself recommending to clients, friends, family (and just about everyone else). They’re easy to follow, yet provide game-changing insights to the would-be negotiator. If you haven’t yet read them, amazon.com is your friend.
I mention this because what I’m seeing more and more of is people negotiating to get to a close, be it a contract, a handshake or a general agreement, without considering the ‘what next?’ So, in deference to Messrs. Ury and Fisher and their excellent books, this post is about Getting Past Yes.
Bargaining hard and getting the concessions you want is great, we all love the feeling that comes of a successful negotiation session. But in most cases the agreement has to survive past the contract. The person you’ve been negotiating with actually has to follow through with the agreement. They can do it joyfully, willingly, grudgingly or not at all, depending on how well they perceive their interests are being met.
This is a point that we often overlook – our agreements need to survive past the yes.
Some years ago, I was negotiating the incoming salary of a key employee. This was someone I would count on to help move my business to where I wanted it to be. We were on the same page, he wanted to work with me, I wanted him onboard, all that was left was the money. He, not knowing his market value, proposed a number I found to be far less than I was prepared to pay. Normally, I would smile inside, shake hands on the deal and move forward. But would that be in my best interests long-term?
Was it in my best interests to pay him as little as I could get away with?
I took the opportunity to garner some goodwill and start our relationship off on the right foot. I countered with what I was originally prepared to pay him – 70% more than he had proposed – and added on a performance bonus. And I never made him have to ask for a raise. What I got in return was loyalty, and I set the tone for the rest of our (excellent) working relationship. Not coincidentally I gained a bit of insurance that someone else wouldn’t steal him out from under me when I needed him most.
I tell this story not to show how smart I am (I’ve made plenty of mistakes since then, and expect to make many more), but rather as an example of seeing past the negotiation at hand and into the implementation phase.
All this comes to mind because of a similar case that has come to my attention. A business owner I know is in the process of trying to lease his business and premises, and is asking for a yearly rent that is simply unsustainable. Assuming the potential lessee agrees, then what? How many months will the lessee pay the rent until he can’t pay anymore? Then what? Lawsuit, expenses, eviction, etc. No doubt the owner will feel taken advantage of, but it seems to me that he himself is building this situation by trying to negotiate a contract that he himself should know is unsustainable. Would he not be better served charging a more reasonable rent, or at least structuring a deal that allows them both reasonable revenue based on income (or some other factor)?
Yet more and more I see people committing exactly that mistake – being short-term greedy instead of long-term greedy. Negotiating to yes, instead of past yes.
The thinking is that following through is the other guy’s problem. The thing is, his failure to follow through invariably becomes MY problem. Remember that the goal is not to get the other party to agree to perform, it is to actually get them to perform. To do that, their interests have to be satisfied as well.
I’ll come back to this point in an upcoming post, because I think it bears further discussion. In the meantime, comments are more than welcome!