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Good Negotiators Don’t Do Stupid (Part 1)

Keith Stacey
Good Negotiators Don't Do Stupid

Management literature is littered with books extolling exceptional performance. ‘In Search of Excellence’, ‘Good to Great’, ‘The Exceptional Leader’, to name just a few. It can be dispiriting to compare yourself with the corporate giants populating these pages. However, help is at hand - an article by Aaron Patrick in the Financial Review reveals the little-known secret.  


Rather than striving to do ‘good stuff’, the secret is to ‘stop doing stupid stuff.’ Patrick cites several examples of software companies developing physical products to support their platforms... such as the popular software company who attempted to move into hardware. The product was not well received and quickly withdrawn from sale. Similarly, an appliance maker then tried to venture into developing modes of transport. A big leap for a company that had made domestic appliances.


Some companies recognise their stupidity and cancel projects before experiencing too much damage. 


Similarly, failure in negotiations can often be the result of self-sabotage - doing stupid stuff. The following examples illustrate how easy it is to fall victim to stupid. 


1. Underestimating your negotiating power 

Power comes in many forms – the market, the strength and depth of a relationship. If you are a first-time customer, then ask for an incentive to establish the relationship. A regular customer should trade on their loyalty and request that they receive the best price currently on offer, independent of volume of spend. 


2. Overestimating your negotiating power 

Many an employee has found that they were not really indispensable to the organisation when making demands on pay and/or conditions. Good negotiators are realistic, even when assessing their own worth. 


3. Failing to prepare 

Good negotiators devote time, structure and rigour to preparation. They know what they want, they are prepared to ask for what they want, and trade concessions in order to get it. Experienced negotiators often rely on past experience, style and guile to survive. As a result, they don’t learn from their negotiations and leave value on the table. 


4. Having an inflexible strategy 

My way or the highway sounds great but should be confined to the waste bin. (Often associated with 1, 2 and 3 above.) Good negotiators cultivate flexibility; their objectives may be fixed, but they have a flexible strategy. 


5. Flying solo rather than in a team 

For important negotiations in both value and precedent, setting a good team with carefully defined tasks will outperform even a talented individual. If a senior executive insists on negotiating solo, counsel against it - it can often be a means of avoiding scrutiny. 


Negotiating is often a complex and stressful environment where we need to be at our best across a whole range of skills. We do ourselves a disservice by succumbing to ‘doing stupid’. 


If you want further negotiation advice on how to best avoid making mistakes at the negotiation table, check out our flagship Advancing Negotiation Skills program here.  


To be continued... 

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