Following on from what we learned in part one, one of the other key insights skilled negotiators have is that they are not always skilled. They make mistakes, leave money on the table, become emotional over something trivial and forget to document the deal.
We all need to acknowledge that we are not always at our best. The important thing is that we learn from our mistakes and do not repeat them. Better still if we learn from others’ mistakes and I’m about to share a recent error of my own making.
I had agreed to buy some handmade sculptural pieces for installation in a house I was building. I inspected a sample and agreed to the price and delivery date. There were, of course, delays in the building and some months after the agreed delivery date for the sculptures I rang to find out when I could pick them up. The answer I received was that they had not been made yet as the makers had spoken directly to the builders and had revised the delivery by several months.
I was annoyed that they had not advised me; the customer of this change and it represented an inconvenience as I was planning to deliver the items to the site myself. They apologised and offered to arrange delivery to the builder. Given the fragile nature of the items and my growing irritation, I rejected this option.
What I now realised is that I had a genuine grievance and as a negotiator I should propose a remedy. This I duly did and asked for $150 of additional product as compensation for the inconvenience. They readily agreed - issue resolved.
Can you spot the mistake I’ve made?
Months later I picked up the cartons containing the sculptures and delivered them to the builder for storage. I have just clocked up mistake number two.
Some months later the builder is ready to install, so I travel to the site and the objects are unwrapped for the first time. Shock... they’re not the colour I was expecting, and the size is smaller than what was specified.
I am disappointed that what was going to be a special moment and a feature element is less than I had been anticipating. I convey my concerns to the makers and they are not sympathetic - they push back hard. They defend their work and talk about the expected variations from samples etc.. They become very defensive and offer to take the items back for a full refund on the provision that we do not cross their door again.
They’re angry and suddenly I realise what had been the first of my mistakes. I had taken a transactional approach when I made the grievance proposal. I had treated them like Bunnings rather than realising that this was an important relationship in terms of value and impact. All the time there had been an elephant in the room - the ongoing relationship. Too late, I realised that that wasn’t going to end when I packed up the boxes, but rather when the items were installed.
My second negotiation tactic mistake was obviously a failure to inspect the items on initial delivery, making an assumption that they would be as described. I had taken goodwill off the table too early and could not draw on it when I needed it.
So, negotiators - learn from my mistakes. Relationships are important and all good negotiators test assumptions.