#825 When You're a Hammer...

Picking up where we left off last week, Mr. Negotiator, me, had driven the price of my home renovation so low that the contractor wound up doing a lot of the work himself and the job dragged on for many months. No amount of yelling or threatening moved it along any faster.   I thought, “I know, I’ll hire someone else to finish and then I’ll sue the bastard!”  But I got cold feet.  What if I spent a bunch of money with someone new to finish and then didn't recoup it in a lawsuit?  How could I negotiate a reasonable price with the next guy when I was apparently in dire need? 

 I was speaking with my brother in law, Pete, about the situation and when he gave me the answer, I nearly had a heart attack.  He said, "Offer the guy more money to finish."  To many of you reading this Pete's suggestion may not be the bolt of lightning it was to me.  It may even seem obvious, but this flew in the face of my very existence; my persona if you will.  I am a negotiator and you, Mr. Non-Sales guy, are suggesting I give back some of my hard earned winnings?  That's exactly how I'd thought about it.  I won and the contractor lost.  It was a contest, and I bested him.  I struggled to see Pete's point, but when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

 I have a ton of respect for my brother in law Pete.  In fact, I think he is among the smartest and most capable people I have ever met, so I took what he said to heart and really thought about it.  I was responsible for where I was.  I had driven the price into the dirt.  I had contrived to bring the contractor in when I knew he'd be most vulnerable to an intense negotiation and I had brought all of my skills to bear to get a fantastic price.  Winner, Winner chicken dinner!...Not.

This was a classic lose-lose negotiation.  The contractor didn't get the money he wanted, and I didn't get the job I wanted.  So where is the big win?  I took Pete's advice and offered more money tied to mile markers to be sure we made the progress we needed, in the time we needed to.  I wish I could say that the contractor and I went off into the sunset and developed a beautiful friendship but that isn't the case.  The damage of my intense negotiation and his subsequent lack of performance was too much to overcome.  The job got done, and I love it, but that is where the story ends. 

This was a huge lesson for me in negotiation.  Up to this point in my life, sadly, win-win had never occurred to me.  Negotiation was like arm wrestling for me.  If I was strong enough,  I could bend you backward and win.

Roger Fisher is the Harvard law professor who revolutionized negotiating.  Fisher wrote the bestselling; “Getting to Yes” and is credited with the idea of "win-win." After Fisher's book Stephen Covey wrote one of the most widely read business books of all time; The 7 Habits of highly effective people. 

 Habit 4 is Think Win-Win.  Covey said:  “Most people have been scripted in the Win-Lose mentality since birth.  The ONLY way to truly influence others is to adopt a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions.”

Suffice it to say that I was a day late and a dollar short on this brilliant strategy but now that I've learned it, I won't make that mistake again

Own your sales gene…

Brian WrensenComment