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No Room at the Inn

Tyler Hall
What To Do When Someone Says 'No' In Negotiations

We had walked in from the cold, down a winding stairwell to a warm, inviting dining room in central Adelaide. We could smell exotic spices emerging from the kitchen and we didn’t even need to look at each other to know we’d finally found our restaurant for the evening.  


Of course, we hadn’t made a booking, but assumed that as it was a Monday night, finding a table wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, it was.  


“Sorry, we’re full,” came the response from the sympathetic host. We looked around and it certainly did appear full. Not only had our hopes been dashed, but we had the embarrassment of having two important guests joining us soon. 


But then a flash of negotiating genius came from my colleague. 


“Are there any circumstances under which you could find us a table?” Our host replied that there was a fifteen-minute window on a small table that would accommodate 4, albeit a little 'snugly’. My colleague responded with humour, that we probably couldn’t eat that fast!  


However, we graciously accepted her offer so that we at least had a foot in the door so to speak. Remarkably, as we were approaching our allocated table, a group of diners at a larger table nearby stood up to leave, providing us with the opportunity to ‘upgrade’ and dine comfortably with our special guests. 


This brief incident would usually have ended with the customer returning to the night to search for an alternative. However, our experience illustrates the power of not accepting ‘no’ for an answer and the power of the ‘Are there any circumstances’ question.  


On reflection, by staying in the conversation, engaging on a personal level, and remaining in the restaurant itself, we overcame the initial ‘no’ which was likely driven by the demands of the kitchen, rather than physical space. At the end of the day, a simple question provided us with an opportunity which we would not have otherwise had. 


So, try these strategies in future: don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, start a conversation and see what possibilities emerge. 


Happy negotiating!  

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