Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Starting with No

Everyone knows about "Getting to Yes" and "Win-Win" negotiations. What if all of that is wrong?

My instructor in my negotiating class is none other than Jim Camp, author of Start with No. His whole premise is that nearly every U.S. business person has been conditioned not to negotiate, but bargain. And this ultimately hurts your position in any transaction where the other side can take advantage of this knowledge.

I have noticed this issue in overseas negotiations where I know that "win-win" is, well, foreign to the other side. I don't even try it. However, there are actually negotiating schools in the U.S. specifically tailored to take advantage of "win-win" people, and have purchasing departments as their largest clients.

Camp doesn't teach how to "win" against win-win, but creates a whole new system for approaching negotiations. And the basis of this system is that giving the other party veto power - the ability to say no - is the key for moving negotiations forward. In fact, taking away that veto power is a sure fire way to have a difficult and ultimately unsuccessful negotiation.

Jim's approach in the seminar has been to break down our thought systems, or as he says, "make you feel uncomfortable", which he was successful in doing since he is putting out ideas that go against standard business practices. I am not going to go into extreme detail of his system since if you are curious you can buy his book, but here are a few interesting points from today:
  • All decisions are based on emotion. No ifs, ands or buts. This was one of his first points and the one that I argued with him the most on. The logic side of the brain will rationalize the decision, but the actual decision will be based on emotion.

  • NO is a decision. Once an adversary says "no" they will move out of the emotional side of the brain back to the rational side and you can move negotiations along. This is why he says to "Start with No" in your negotiations. "No is the beginning of negotiation."

  • One thing I really agreed with him on was BATNA* - Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement and a staple of Getting to Yes. All a BATNA does is allow you to negotiate with yourself.

We spent a good part of the day creating tools and going over examples (which are also in the book). Like any seminar I think there will be items that will be valuable, along with some chaff that I will end up throwing out, but so far it has been an interesting experience.

* UPDATED Sept 2007 - After taking a similar seminar from the authors of "Getting to Yes", I realize that the BATNA concept was not what I thought it was, and Camp is using it differently than it was meant.

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