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Sid’s Sense- Let’s Make a Deal: The Empowered Negotiator

Negotiation is a process that requires a mindset, tools, and a defineable goal.

View previous posts in this series, Sid’s Sense.

The Mindset of the Negotiator  

The 3 key “negotions” (a term I coined to mean specific “emotions” in a negotiation):

Sincerity.  Nothing, I mean nothing, is more important in a negotiation than sincerity.  When you are sincere, you are believable.  You build trust.  You are not out to hurt or harm but to reach a goal.  You create an aura of team spirit with a win-win mentality.

Enthusiasm.  “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Act with enthusiasm.  Exude passion.  Show conviction.

Urgency.  Don’t waste time.  Strike while the iron is hot.  Urgency IS an emotion.  It is heard in your voice.  If you don’t think urgency affects outcomes, look at what happens after the 2 minute warning in a football game when the losing team is down by 2 points.

The effective negotiator can evaluate the stage of a negotiation from a bird’s eye view.  See your attitude from altitude so you remain emotionally neutral.  Stress is caused by your perception of a situation, especially when you’re in the middle of it. Lift your mind and spirit above the tensions of the moment.

  • Be pleasant but not intimate.
  • Be tough but not hateful.

The Tools of the Negotiator

Side note:  The following tools illustrate the techniques, strategies and skills of a good negotiator.  In this age of technology, a yellow pad may be a laptop or an Ipad, a letter may be an e-mail, and a telephone may not have a cord.  The lessons are still the same.

The Yellow Pad.  Buy them at Costco in bulk.  Every time I see a yellow pad for the rest of my life I will think of my Dad.  He goes nowhere without one. (Okay, he doesn’t take one into a restaurant and uses paper napkins instead).  It is his concealed weapon and when he brings it out in a negotiation, it might as well be a gun:)

Fact Gathering

      • Shows your sincerity in the pursuit of understanding.
      • Provides a place to jot down the facts, what your opponent wants, questions.
      • Eliminates chatter.  It naturally puts a sifter on your opponent’s mouth because he knows you are taking notes.


  • Date every interaction so you can document a flow pattern at any time.  This is one of the single greatest lessons I have learned.  When you present a chronology of facts in a negotiation, most of the time you’ll see your opponent’s surrender flag go up immediately.  No amount of banter can distract from a documented fact pattern.  Make this a habit and you’ll have 95% of your battles won using no other method.

The Telephone.  In Part IV of this series, I went into detail about the power of the telephone.  Now it’s time to use that power to negotiate and deal with big organizations.

    • Find the decision-maker.  Don’t waste your breath negotiating with someone who has no power to meet your needs!  Want to aggravate yourself? Stay on the phone with someone who’s hands are tied.  Who do you want?
  • The person with the power to use discretion in his decision-making.
  • The person closest to the facts and knows the system best.  (Not usually the person who answers the phone.)

Say you want to return an electronic item that is past the return allowed date.  Asking the sales clerk to make an exception and then getting angry with him when he enforces the policy is futile.  Go straight to the manager or corporate office.  Even if you don’t reach the top CEO, that’s ok.  Chances are you’ll end up high enough that you will be transferred to a person who can serve you.  That person will be more attentive because his boss told him to help you.

    • Don’t underestimate the front line.  This may seem contradictory to the advice above.  A good negotiator senses and then validates who to negotiate with based on the precise goal.  Sometimes that person is the underling, a term to describe an employee on the front lines that is not a top official.
      • Does this person have the authority to give you what you are asking for?  Front line personnel rarely have a financial stake in the company.  They aren’t reporting to a board of directors. Money isn’t coming out of their own pockets.
      • Front line workers identify more with you as a consumer than with their own company (there are exceptions of course).  They may bend the rules that a corporate official would not.  Everybody–rich or poor, inside or outside of large organizations–has felt the lash of bigness.
  • Stay focused on the issue.  When someone doesn’t want to give you what you want, he will certainly test your peripheral vision.  A good negotiator wears opaque blinders and will not let opponent stray from the problem.  Do not get suckered in through intimidation, guilt, or fear of making a scene.

I frequently use the “broken record” technique on the phone or in person:

“I will be happy to credit your account,” states Mr. Smith, the manager.

“Mr. Smith, but I do not want a credit to my account.  I want a cash refund,” I reply.

“Ma’am, let me tell you about this huge sale we are running next week for our preferred customers like you for which you could use this credit,” says Mr. Smith.

“No, Mr. Smith, I need to leave now with a cash refund,” I firmly reply again.

(Repeat direct statement as many times as necessary with disregard to the emotion or intention of the recipient. Watch out for lines like, “You’re the first person to complain.”  “Everyone else accepted the deal.”)

    • Learn how to develop instant relationships.  You have been reading this theme throughout this series.  It bears repeating.  When you are on the outside and what you need is on the inside, you better gain a friend on the inside as an advocate.  This is the art of what Sid calls “hellraising.”  (For years, Sid did a local radio show with 2 other masters of negotiation called “The Hellraisers”).  Here is a funny story from the master himself (Sid):

For more than a year I ordered office supplies by phone from Office Depot and was always satisfied.  Then I received a defective toner cartridge.  For two months I had talked with Office Depot customer service people in the Philippine Islands, India, and South America with no satisfaction, all documented on my yellow pad.  Now keep in mind I am drinking coffee in my pajamas and you might think it takes a lot of time, but it doesn’t if you know how to use the telephone and only have to find the number.  If I could call the Pope, I could surely call an official at Office Depot.

I tracked down the name, address, and phone number of Mr. Frances F. Blake, Executive Vice President of Business Development and Corporate Operations.  I knew I would not likely speak to Mr. Blake but usually you can reach the person who plays interference for him to avoid unnecessary interruption.  I reach Mrs. Rosenberg in Delray Beach, Florida, which is the headquarters for Office Depot.  I tell Mrs. Rosenberg my name is Sidney and that I received a defective cartridge.  I did not tell her that I was a lawyer.  

Mrs. Rosenberg says, “Your name is Sidney?  My granddaughter is named Sydney.”

“Really?  Would you like to know the story of how my mother named me Sidney?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replies.  And so I tell her the story of how my mother heard this girl’s name while still living in London and even though she had a boy, she still named him Sidney.

[Lesson:  My Dad saw an opening right at the beginning to establish a relationship with Mrs. Rosenberg–to get her on his side.  This is the time TO sway away from the mission temporarily]

Mrs. Rosenberg and I laughed about this and she says, “Sidney (now calling me by my first name), I have your account up on my computer and I just credited you $220.66.”  

Now here’s the immediate fax Mrs. Rosenberg received from me:

Dear Mrs. Rosenberg,

Please express to your granddaughter, Sydney, that I adore her grandmother, Cecile.  Tell Sydney her grandmother did more for me in 5 minutes that Office Depot people from around the world did in 2 months.  Tell Sydney that if she ever needs a lawyer she will receive a credit of $220.66 against my fee.  Tell Sydney that if she is as efficient as her grandmother, Cecile, she will grow up and never need a lawyer. 

But there’s a P.S.–a moral:

P.S.  To Mr. Francis F. Blake.  Were it not for Mrs. Rosenberg, you would have lost a customer.  The remarkable efficiency of Office Depot’s system in delivery of merchandise was totally obliterated by its system of returning defective merchandise.  You would do well to study this fact pattern.

 [Lesson:  Sid took one complaint and enlarged it to cure the root cause of many complaints.  A true hellraiser is not just fighting for his own rights but the rights of others as well–for the greater good.]

The Letter.  Simple but often overlooked.

  • Note taking.  Ask for everyone’s name you speak with and take notes of every conversation (date them!).  Learn the “system” and arm yourself with as much inside information as possible.  You can’t effectively negotiate with the unknown.
  • Send an e-mail or letter.    Use those notes to compose summaries, in chronological order, which can help you hone in on a solution or compromise faster than any words.  When people see what they say, especially their own quotes, it is powerful in the negotiation process.
    • 5 simple rules to remember for composing an email or letter
      1. Ask for what you want in the first sentence in a succinct manner.  Then add supporting evidence and explanations.
      2. Write to individuals not departments.  Call or research a contact.  There is no accountability in “departments”, only individuals.
      3. Never exceed one page.  It is tough to write a short letter.  Spend the time to omit needless words.
      4. Leave out feelings, adjectives and adverbs.  Focus on the fact chronology, what you want them to do, and the specific problem.
      5. Use emails and letters to praise and recommend.  Be part of the greater good by taking the time to commend greatness and to thank those who go the extra mile. When you sincerely thank someone for being awesome, how much more likely are they to be awesome to the next person?  When that individual goes home to his kids, will he be a better Dad because he made a difference and was appreciated at work that day?  You betcha.

Don’t think you’re cut out to be a negotiator?  You better think again.  Today you HAVE to be.

In this technological age, if you don’t learn how to be your own advocate, you could miss out on a promotion, undergo the wrong medical treatment, pay out more than you need to, or be taken by a scam.

It’s not about being tough to prove you’re tough.  It’s about being tough so you don’t get trampled.  We are past the times of handshakes to close deals.  Go ahead and make the deal on the golf course but still read the fine print before you sign on the dotted line.

Sound stressful?  Change your vocabulary.  Think of life as a game and just learn how to play the best you can.  The more you play, the more you win.

[sneak peek message=”Stay tuned for Part VI of Sid’s Sense, What a 7-year-old learned in Vegas“]

"The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes form a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t." Henry Ward Beecher

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  1. Linda Glass #

    One of your best to date!!!! Excellent!!!!

    May 1, 2012
  2. DonnaK #

    An IBM Correcting Selectric Typewriter on Sid’s desk extension! I can still hear him interview a client while typing at a high rate of speed getting the facts of a new born case. As Sid said, emails work in today’s tech world, but putting dates and thoughts into hard copy form seem to cement memory–or make the complete truth appear.

    May 2, 2012

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