I was the world’s best garage sale customer. If you put a price on something that I wanted, I would pay it. I didn’t dicker, negotiate, barter, bully or complain. People made a lot of money from me! But the result was I often paid too much for someone else’s castoffs.
I was afraid of negotiating! Are you?
I started to get better at it after watching my husband Jim do it. Jim is an expert negotiator. He’s got an extensive background in sales, and negotiating is what he eats for breakfast.
We hadn’t been dating too long, when I needed a new car. Not only is he a master negotiator, he’s a brilliant car guy. So, in his desire to rescue the distressed car-less damsel from the predatory car dealers, he said “I’ll go with you to help you buy one.” I was relieved.
We drove to the car showroom, a local Ford dealer, and before we got out of the car, he looked at me and said “OK, no matter what, let me do this. This is what I do. Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t protest. Don’t dispute what I say. Let me do this.” Then he grabbed his briefcase. I said “A briefcase? What do you need THAT for?” He replied “I did some research, so I am prepared with the information.” I thought “Information? You’ve got a briefcase filled with information?” This was not to be a simple tire-kicking outing. This was a contest, a display of his superior negotiating expertise. He put on his game face, and he was ready. I, however, was mortified.
But 2 hours later, I was the happy owner of a new Cayman Green Ford Escort. And we got a killer deal! Jim was amazing to watch. At first, I was embarrassed because I’m not a negotiator, and I thought it was like bullying. But it’s not. When we were done, everyone was happy. I got the car I wanted. The dealer got the sale he wanted. And Jim conquered the negotiating process.
That desire to “conquer” is something that we all have in common. It may be manifested in different ways, but make no mistake: we all want to conquer. We all want to win, excel, overcome, redeem, repair, improve or be victorious in something. Some of us are more competitive than others. Some of us are more committed to excellence than others. Some of us are more interested in personal growth than others. But it all reflects that capacity to conquer. Conquering through negotiation is especially powerful because it creates that win-win solution.
When I was at NASA, my boss John allowed us tremendous space to “conquer.” Our branch was consisted of all managers, and we each had our own test facility to manage. Mine was the Propulsion Systems Laboratory. The most significant way we were able to conquer (or win, excel or compete) was in the regular division of resources, primarily manpower, money, and what was called “air time” from the air supply system. We had to make a strong case for all the resources we needed. And we had to do it continuously. The air supply system was a daily-negotiated resource.
The NASA air supply system provided the high speed, high pressure, high temperature air to the larger test facilities, like PSL and the larger wind tunnels. But the system was limited, and only 1 or 2 facilities could run simultaneously. So, part of our work as facility managers was to negotiate with each other to get access to the air supply system so we could operate our facility to conduct the tests.
It was conquering on a unique level. We each felt our tests were the most important. We each felt our facility was the most significant. We each felt we were to get the air time. But after the negotiating and discussing and evaluating, only 1 or 2 facilities could get the air time for that time frame.
It may sound insignificant, but when the decision was made, one facility did not feel more privileged or special than the other. In fact, it seemed to cultivate a greater desire to spread the thin resources. There was great satisfaction in the negotiating, and being part of the process of competing for limited resources. The team camaraderie was actually much stronger because of the process. It was win-win. Even if my facility didn’t get the air time.
Conquering is good. It’s healthy. It’s inspiring. Negotiating to reach that win-win is even better, because more people can fill that capacity to conquer. When you create opportunities to help your team develop their negotiating muscle, you can help them to feel like conquerors. They all win.
I’m better at negotiating at garage sales. It’s those small steps of conquering the sales that give me the courage to negotiate and conquer the bigger things in life. I can negotiate agreements with my customers, with the people who hire me, and even with my kids.
Look for the chances to let your team conquer through negotiating. Let them feel the satisfaction of both the process and the outcome. The win-win is indeed a win-win.