Negotiating is murder, not art

    Ralph, my general manager, had been caged for too long. A born negotiator, he had patiently waited his turn to be let loose.
   He had watched as I handled the company negotiating chores. I would come back from a meeting, tell Ralph the end result of the deal, and would listen to him growl about my softness.
   At times he would lose control. I would walk up to Ralphís cage and the conversation would go like this:
   Ralph: How did it go?
   Me: Great. I bought it.
   Ralph: How much?
   Me: $2.750.
   Ralph: Grrrrrrrr. Grrrrrowwf. Grrrroowwwww.
   Me: Down, boy, down. Itís ok. It was a fair price. Good boy.
   Ralph: Fair! Fair! You know how much mark-up is in that thing. I could have got it for less than $2,000. Grrrrrrrr. Grrrrowwww! Let me out of here!
    Luckily, I kept a spare throat I could fling into his cage in those situations. Heíd gnaw on it for awhile and calm down.
   But now it was time to cut him loose. I am finally admitting that I am not in the upper echelon of negotiators. It takes a certain panache. Ralphís got it. I donít.
    I have been living for too long off my successful debut in the negotiating world. Fresh out of college, my boss sent me to a seminar called "The Art of Negotiating," which included a money-back guarantee if not satisfied.
   I wasnít satisfied so I asked for my money back. They said no. I demanded my money back. They said no. Finally, I negotiated my money back from the masters of negotiation. Not a bad start.
   I should have retired right then. But I went on. Slowly realizing over the years, thanks to people like Ralph, that it is not in my nature to be a gifted negotiator.
    I believe there are three characteristics you must possess if you are to become a great negotiator:

    1) Patience; 2) Arrogance; 3) Indifference.

    By patience I mean the ability to wait for a reply before upping the ante. By arrogance I mean the ability to make an embarrassingly ridiculous offer, not caring about the reaction it causes or their opinion of you. By indifference I mean the ability to rationalize the potential failure of the negotiations.
    My goal in a negotiation is to see how fast I can bring it to a conclusion. Thatís not good. I also hate to disappoint people. Thatís not good. And finally, I tend to exaggerate the importance of just about everything. Thatís not good.
    Thatís why I unleashed Ralph the other day to negotiate a good deal for our company membership in the local health club. He came bounding out of his cage and went right to work, reporting back to me the same afternoon.
    "I got them to drop the entire initiation fee and also lower their monthly fee from $50.00 to $35.00 for each employee," he said.
    I was amazed. "Great work, Ralph. Where do I sign?"
    "Are you kidding," he scoffed. "Iím just getting started."
    Three days later, he announced that the deal was off. "Why?" I cried. "You had a great deal."
    Ralph shrugged. "I made them a final offer and they didnít accept. And they also wanted some money up front. I said no way. Iím looking at another health club, but itís three miles away."
    Now I was incredulous. "You had a great deal at a health club two blocks away and youíre dumping it for an unknown deal at a health club three miles away? Gee, our employees will be so proud of you."
    Arrogance was oozing out of Ralph. "I did what I could. They didnítí want the deal."
    Another four days passed. I was looking for Ralph so I could insist he accept the no initiation, $35.00 per month per employee deal. I found him in his cage, door open, curled in a corner, licking his lips.
   "The dealís done," he said. Then he burped. "I gave them a little money up front and they agreed to drop the monthly fee to $23.00 per employee."
    He had never even called the other health club. I walked up to Ralph and patted him gently on the head. He closed his eyes and purred.
    "Ralph," I whispered. "Weíve got a lease negotiation coming up soon."
    One eye opened. The purring stopped. I detected the beginning of a growl.
   "Just testing, old boy," I said, stepping back. "Just testing."


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