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Don't Assume It's All About the Money When Negotiating!

Ben Byth

A friend was working in a sales role and was pretty comfortable with his lot in life. He was hitting targets, had a nice house with a manageable mortgage and his kids were going to a good school. Most importantly he had plenty of flexibility with his time so that he could be present at home for his kids. Interestingly though, while none of this changed… the fairy tale slowly eroded around him. His goals shifted, not because of anything inherent to his own intrinsic motivations, but rather because all his boss spoke of was money.


His boss was driven by money. He measured the success of his salespeople by the quantum of money earned and rewarded high performers with even more money.


Although money was the driver for the boss… because much of the conversation and recognition was money centric, my friend then began to measure his own success by the money he earned. This was strange as he actually didn’t care for money… he already had enough for him.


The boss missed a trick by not taking the time to understand what was of real value to my friend. Instead he projected his own drivers and interests onto said friend, who subconsciously adopted them. What became a pursuit of money worked in the short term, but was not sustainable in the long term as it offended my friend’s true motivation which was to be present at home. 


As negotiators, it is incumbent on us to be more interested in the other party. What are their’ interests and inhibitions?


We see great examples of this all the time in government when large infrastructure projects overrun budgets. In these scenarios it is quite often about face rather than money. If it is true that face is the priority, an organisation might rather go into deadlock and have an arbitrator impose a solution than admit they made a mistake with the budget. The quantum of the variation isn’t the issue, it is the perception that the concession makes them look silly or soft. Simply reducing the quantum of the money payable wouldn’t make the problem go away, their underlying motivation could be the ability to say it wasn’t their fault.


I’m not saying we should lose sight of our own interests and constraints, we should be skilled and enthusiastic advocates for our positions. What I am saying however is that deals are likely to come more quickly, easily and with less cost if you take into consideration what moves others.


The good news is that surfacing interests and inhibitions isn’t a dark art. It can be as simple as asking! It may take some time for people to open up with you, but trust me that persevering by asking the questions multiple times in different ways is worth it.



Happy negotiating!

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