The art of getting more

To persuade the toughest client or crack a challenging deal, take pointers from one of the best in the world

Stuart Diamond, a global negotiation expert and author of The New York Times bestseller Getting More, shared pointers on how to crack even the toughest deal at Outlook Business #leadingedge2019. The central idea is to respect and empathise with the other despite differences. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when you are sitting across the table.

  • Power and leverage form the worst negotiation strategy. The recipient will retaliate and it takes time and effort to deal with it.
  • Do not use threats. We need to be more consultative and forward-looking and make use of positive statements. Careful with the words, negotiations are very sensitive to the exact words used.
  • When working with deadlines, don’t make it competitive. Instead, start with easy tasks and then progressively move to the harder ones. But start with something, anything.
  • Do not make yourself the issue. If you do, then eventually you lose. For example, if you run military tanks to quell unrest in a region populated by civilians, you are doing it with the whole world watching.
  • Assumption of rationality is a mistake. Emotions run high and there are no rational actors. When people are emotional, they stop listening, retaliate and can have clouded judgement. The antidote is to make emotional payments by reading the other party’s emotional state, valuing their emotions, showing empathy and talking about their needs. Remember not to get emotional. If someone insults you, try to see that they may be having a bad day and commiserate with them.
  • Make a human connection. While reading the other person, remember that their identity comes first from their family, friends, personality and hobbies. Stereotypes about race, gender, religion or nationality are a distant second. So, asking how is your family makes for an instant connect. Diamond said that his team convinced 3,000 farmers in the jungles of Bolivia to grow bananas by asking them to imagine a better future for their children.
  • Do not fight over yesterday. What adds value is tomorrow and what we do today.
  • Pick the right negotiator. The right negotiator is the person who can make the best human connection on the other side. It could be the weakest, most junior member in your company, but could be someone who went to the same school as somebody on the other side. If the other person is crazy, you don’t get to fix that. You can only gauge if the crazed people are persuadable or not persuadable.
  • Whenever there is a conflict, try to get into the heart of the conflict. Hunt for the reason by asking persistently ‘why’. Without that, you are just dealing with the symptoms or running around waving your arms helplessly.
  • In high-stakes situations, one-third of the time, the other side does not hear what you said. There is a lot of scattered information and then there is personal history of each person. People are not disagreeing with you because they are stubborn or stupid. They could be disagreeing with you because what you see so clearly is not there for them. Or that reality has never been there for them. Then, you have to paint an entire universe for them, one brush stroke at a time. Unless you articulate their perceptions, they won’t listen to you.
  • Trade in items of unequal value, in intangibles. For example, a CEO of a company in Philadelphia told Diamond that the most important thing he did for a client was to pick up the client’s CEO’s mother in law from the airport.
  • Life is about quid pro quo. Diamond said that if you can figure out the trade, the better off you will be in your personal life. Children are the easiest to negotiate with, if you know the trade.
  • If the other side does not tell you their needs, ask them. Get them talking about anything, make suggestions and view their reactions, put yourself in their shoes, guess their needs, try reciprocity by telling them your needs, do research and, most importantly, keep asking questions.
  • Remember that every negotiation is different, even if it is with the same person on a different day.
  • Walking out is just dumb. You have to talk to the other side even if you hate them. Communicate and converse instead of giving speeches, and make it a collaborative process.
  • Lastly, learn negotiation from children. Diamond said, “Watch how they do it. ‘Can I have a cookie, can I have half a cookie, can I have a quarter of a cookie or a little crumb of a cookie?’ They know that the difference between the crumb of a cookie and a whole cookie is less than a crumb of a cookie and no cookie.”