The power of negotiation ft “You Can Negotiate Anything” book by Herb Cohen

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July 2019 -Maine

In May, I attended the graduation of a family friend and at her graduation party, her uncle gifted her with a book (namely “You Can Negotiate Anything” book by Herb Cohen). When I saw the title of the book, I immediately exclaimed that I needed to read that book as it could be useful in my personal and professional life. Without skipping a beat, her uncle retrieved his personal copy of the book and gave it to me. It turns out that he had bought himself the copy to re-read as he read it many years ago when my father gave him a copy of the book. Therefore, this book is kind of a “boomerang” as it first started with my father in Kenya, then to a family friend, and then back to me in the USA. Who knows where and to who this book will travel next. But in the meantime, let me share the top negotiation strategies I have learned from the book.

  1. Never reveal your deadline to the person you are negotiating with if you can avoid it. For example, do not tell a seller you need a car by next week as that means the seller will know that you probably will not have time to look around for a better deal. The most powerful thing in the world is time. If you have time, use it to your advantage to make sure you get the best deal possible. Also, playing the waiting game makes you look less interested in the other party so they are more willing to work with what you want.
  2. Avoid having an authoritative style. There are many strategies for negotiation. The author calls an authoritarian/unyielding strategy “the Soviet-style” because, during war, the Soviets would low ball you until you yield to their demands while they compromise nothing. This style only works if you never intend on doing business or having relations with that person ever again because the person will not like you for taking advantage of them.
  3. See compromise as an opportunity to make both you and the other person happy. Good negotiators find ways to figure out what really means the most to the other person. For example, if you are the boss and the person you are seeking to hire wants $50,000 while you are only willing to offer $40,000, find ways to make up for the other $10,000. Such examples could be offering more vacation days, season tickets to sports events, or even gym membership. Therefore, when the person looks at the $40,000 they don’t see it as a total loss of $10,000 especially since the $40,000 is taxable by the government while the additional perks are tax-free. So in negotiation, always try to find a way to get as close to what you want while still making the other happy.
  4. Avoid negotiating on the telephone unless you want an easy win or lose situation. This is because whoever imitates the call is usually at an advantage as they think about what they are going to say before they call. On the other hand, the receiver of the phone call is caught off guard and has to scramble to have good debate points in the negotiation. The author’s advice if you are the receiver is simple: make up an excuse to end the call and tell the caller that you will phone them at a later turn. Now you will be the caller and not the receiver which gives you the advantage. For example, if you have applied for a job and the interviewer calls you with a low offer which you were not expecting, simply tell the interviewer that you need time to think about it and you will call them back within 24 to 48 hours. Negotiating in person also allows you to read body language and make a better case for yourself as it is easier for someone to say “No” over the phone. In-person negotiations are more personable. Who would have guessed? haha
  5. Always seek to negotiate with the person who has true negotiating power. For instance, say that you are at an electronics store and you are looking to buy a TV as well as a sound system. Let’s also pretend that there is no sale going on but you think you should get a bundle deal since you are buying two large ticket items. Who do you think you should talk to? the clerk or the manager? If you said manager then you are correct. Usually, a clerk has no real power to give you sales outside of those already presented in the store. Therefore, you should always ask for the manager if you are wanting to negotiate something outside of what is presented. In other words, never accept no for an answer from someone who does not even have the real power to say yes.

In continuing the history of this book, I have to find someone to gift it to. I am thinking of my mother because she is very much a strategic negotiator and has a great interest in human psychology. If you end up reading this book, I hope you do the same as negotiating is a key part of life whether at school, work, or home. The best negotiations in the world get paid millions of dollars to do it so it is quite the skill to have. As you would expect, practice makes perfect and even the author admits that he botched his first negotiation project with a Japanese company because they played the waiting game against him until he only had minutes to present his case. So don’t get discouraged if you fail the first time, learn from it and apply it to your next challenge. All the best in your pursuits. 🙂 ❤

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