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Players demand things the other
party neither has nor controls

This is one of the
most effective negotiating techniques available to the skilled player so long
as the demand is not too far-fetched or outrageous. Even then, the experienced
player can go further than you may first think.

Bryan is
negotiating with his boss about whether Bryan stays with the company or accepts
a lucrative offer from a competitor.

Bryan says,
“Money is not all there is to this. I will have to get just a few
concessions to stay. I feel a lot of loyalty to this company. I need a larger
office and a secretary and well, having a nicer company car would help things
at home. I will need to sell Carol, my wife, on turning this other deal down.
Here’s the main thing. I have to have the freedom to go with project ideas
without going through all the hassle and committees to get something off the
ground. You know it takes more time and energy around here to get an idea
through the system than it does to try it. I have to have a free hand in my

His boss reacts,
“Even I don’t have that kind of latitude. I couldn’t give that to you even
if I thought it was reasonable and I’m not sure I do. We need some checks on
what happens around here. Get real Bryan! Let’s talk about the other things,
but the kind of latitude you are asking for is out of the question.”

Note the boss’s
use of the “flinch” technique. Someone might think he is actually shocked
by Bryan’s request for a no prior approval deal.

Bryan waits a long
time before continuing. He then says, “We can talk about the other things
and see how it goes with them. But you need to understand that creative freedom
is a high priority for me. It has to come back on the table at some

Note the use of
the “set aside” technique by Bryan. “Creative freedom” is
set aside for now.

With a noticeably
more eager approach, Bryan’s boss says, “I can handle that. Let’s get into
the office and car issues and see if we can make you happy.” With a little
laugh, he adds, “How would Carol like a new Buick?”

Way to go Bryan!
What is a little creative freedom when compared to a bigger office, a new car,
and a few other things your boss may just throw in to keep you off your
outrageous demand kick? Who knows? He may even throw in a little more creative
freedom just to close the deal.

The boss falls
into the trap. He does not deal with the outrageous demand as one demand on a
list of equal demands. Instead, he puts it on one side of the ledger as a
“not over my dead body” issue. The other demands then seem minor and
reasonable in comparison.

Better would have
been for the boss to say, “Let’s make a list of your demands: a new car, a
bigger office, more creative freedom, . . . .”

Notice that the
outrageous demand only makes third place. Also it changes from “complete
freedom” to “more freedom.” If Bryan objects, the Boss can focus
attention on what should go on the list and how they should be stated. As a
skilled manager, the boss keeps focus on the list and not on any single demand.

Players demand things the other
party has but cannot concede

Using this
technique is in the same league as demanding something the other party does not
have. In fact, it is a little better in some ways. Suppose in the example
above, Bryan’s boss has the authority to give him a complete waiver of pre-approval
requirements. His bind is that he has already refused to give that kind of
latitude to a couple of other people who have been with the company longer than
Bryan. If he gives it to Bryan, he will be in an impossible predicament. Two of
the others appealed his decision to his boss. Bryan’s boss has taken a lot of
heat and would be hard put to make it through that again. If he meets Bryan’s
demand, he is likely to lose the power battle that the other employees will

This time, Bryan
says, “Your trust and confidence in me will be a big part of my final
decision. Creative freedom is more than just a perk or something trivial like
offices and cars. It gets at our working relationship, our friendship. It is
that simple. Either you trust me or you don’t. All you have to do is say yes or

Smooth move Bryan!
You now have control. Your boss now has to prove to you he is a sincere guy who
trusts you. It may be good for at least a few more options on Carol’s Buick.

Bryan has used a
spurious argument and the boss must not play. He has equated “creative
freedom” and “trust.” Whether he is trusted or not, the skilled
manager stops that process cold.

The boss can say,
“Give me a break. I’m surprised you would try such a cheap shot. You know
as well as I do the project approval process is a matter of company policy. It
serves to let all departments comment on how the project will work with their
operations. You are too sophisticated to pull that emotional stuff with me.
Let’s talk about what the real issues are.”

The boss has
obviously been there before. Calling Bryan’s creative freedom the “project
approval process” is just the right touch. Also, he uses Bryan’s own trick
on him. Now Bryan has to back off a little or tacitly admit to not being
sophisticated. It appears that the boss is back in control.

Players do not concern
themselves with the cost to them of having their demands met

Countering this
technique is particularly dangerous for all but the expert manager. Suppose
Bryan’s boss decides to cave-in and give Bryan exactly what he demands?

His Boss says,
“Bryan, you are one in a thousand and you know it. I just can’t afford to
lose you, especially not to the competition. There will be no pre-approval

Without a further
thought, Bryan accepts the offer saying, “Get it written up and I will
sign it.”

Bryan does not
concern himself about the contract’s tying all salary increases and some new
performance penalties to the success of his projects – the cost of having his
demands met. He is up to the arrangement whatever the cost. Instead of pursuing
truly creative but risky projects, he moves to a modified game of B-t-B. Never
mind what he might have accomplished had he hit on one of those more risky
ideas he now so carefully avoids. Bryan’s priority is to take care of Bryan, to
take no chances.

The skilled
manager first needs to see that his responsibility is to the welfare and well-being
of the company. This means two questions must be answered before making any
offer. Is the arrangement being offered to the employee in the company’s best
interest? The deal made with Bryan likely is not. Next, is it consistent with
the existing arrangements with other employees? It is important that it is not
and does not appear like a “sweet deal” for one person only. The
problems that causes with other employees are almost never worth it. The boss
will pay dearly for the sweet deal made with Bryan, sooner or later.

A skilled manager
sees the equally important issue as well. He always asks, “Will this work
to the employee’s advantage over time? Will it increase his productivity,
satisfaction, and over-all success?”

Unless the answers
to these questions are Yes, do not make the offer, even though the employee may
accept it. The arrangement made with Bryan eliminates the possibility of his
being as successful as he potentially may be. One of these days, he will figure
that out and will again become restless and discontent. The sweet deal will not
hold up over time. Bryan will eventually figure out that the cost to him is too

Players over-value those points
on which they and the other party might agree

Watch how the boss
tries to use this technique on Bryan. Bryan makes the same pitch. Instead of
responding to the “creative freedom” issue, his boss says, “I
respect and appreciate your sense of loyalty to the company and value your
dedication over the years. There is a glitch or two, but I can and will give
you almost everything you want. We have worked together long enough; we think
alike. Any time we agree on 95 percent of the issues, a contract is easy.”

Bryan’s boss then
lists the areas of agreement and says, “It looks to me like we have a
contract. Isn’t that the way you see it?”

Not this time,
boss! Bryan will not be taken in with that old ploy. The game is to give the
impression that all that remains are a few loose ends.

Bryan says,
“I wish I could set aside the creative freedom issue, but it is too
important to brush aside. It may be the only thing we do need to talk

The boss tries to
make it seem like they have a deal, but Bryan knows that he needs to press on
what he has not yet gotten. Acknowledging too much convergence – points of
agreement – is a quick way to loose out, as Bryan knows. He is not someone who
can be seduced so easily.

The boss tries
again, making everything dependent on everything else. This means the negotiation
starts afresh.

The boss says,
“I would have liked to work some of these things out first and then deal
with others later. We can go with your approach, though, if you are most
comfortable with it. I can give you most (Not 95 percent any more.) of what you
want. Working this out with you is important to me. Also, I can give you any
single item under certain conditions. Let’s talk about each item and about what
will be important conditions. Which item do you want to start with?”

Players do not think areas of
difference or disagreement are particularly important

This is a clever
technique. In essence, the ploy means it does not matter if the player and the
other party agree on anything at any point in time. It is always possible to
find something.

“Well, I
guess we can at least agree we don’t seem to agree on much. That is a place to
start. Let’s list our points of disagreement to see if we can agree on what all
goes on the list. Can we agree on that as a place to start?”

At a more advanced
level, no acknowledgement at all is made of any divergence – points of
disagreement. For example, Joyce Allen is a nurse at a sixty bed convalescent
home for the elderly. She and another nurse are responsible for the guests on
one wing of the home. Their problem is how to best divide the duties to be sure
all guests receive proper care.

The other nurse
says, “We have some serious problems here. Our philosophies of care and
work patterns are worlds apart and causing more work for both of us. We need to
come to some compromise about these disagreements so we can both do our

Acting a little
surprised, Joyce says, “It’s not a big deal. We are both nurses and want quality
care for our patients. At the core, we both know how to do our jobs and have to
keep our patients as our primary concern.”

Her associate then
mentions a couple of things she sees as problematic. Joyce just smiles and
says, “Hey, we stumble over each other a little, but that is to be
expected. It does not bother me. In fact, it gets a little humorous at times.
We’re both good nurses and need to keep our senses of humor and keep on being
professional about how we deal with our patients, as we both always do. The
problems are just one of those things.”

Joyce is a master
at driving people up the wall and is going to continue her previous behavior.
Perhaps, her associate will get frustrated and quit. That can give Joyce a new
person to start her play with all over again.

A skilled manager
sees through the game. The idea is never to deal with the problems. This
enables the player to avoid any effort or energy required to adjust or
accommodate. You can see the absence of reciprocal accommodation.

For the player,
the goal is to have others adjust to him. If they do not, it is of no concern
or interest to the player.

Here is one way to
deal with the problem. Use a well-worded response like this: “It is
unfortunate you think serious professional issues are humorous. I doubt our
patients (Use the clinical term.) see their care as a joke. There are other
ways to deal with quality of care issues like this, but I prefer to resolve
them directly with you. Would you prefer that approach or more formal procedures?”
– At least, the player must now take the differences more seriously.

Players take positions on which
they are intransigent, positions that are their bottom lines

This is a
technique only used by organizational high rollers. It is a crapshoot with what
the player believes to be loaded dice.

Suppose the other
nurse says to Joyce, “This may not seem like a big deal to you. For me, it
is a matter of principle (a typical reason for hanging tough). I am going to
have to see some changes . . ..”

Notice the
unspoken threat. The unsaid threat is, “If I don’t see some changes, I
will do something you will not like.”

The task for Joyce
is to weigh the cost of changing her behavior against the likelihood and cost
of the other person’s following through with the threat. Joyce has come up
against another skilled player. The trick for the other nurse is to be sure she
can make the stakes high enough. If Joyce is not immediately intimidated, a
good play might be for her to say to Joyce, “I’m serious, Joyce. This is a
bottom line issue for me. I don’t think either of us would relish taking this
through peer review but . . ..” Perhaps even a player like Joyce may give
a little over this one. If she does not, the other nurse need only raise the
stakes next time. The best thing is that she need never follow through. She
need only use the technique sparingly and with sincerity and a high level of
credibility. The only need is for Joyce to believe.

In this example,
the play is all power: capitulate to me or I will find a bigger stick to hit
you with. There is no backup or negotiating position.

The task for the
skilled manager is first to refrain from reacting emotionally. The response
must be reasoned. An appropriate response is, “You seem to be threatening
me. I hear you saying to do things your way or you will figure out a way to
sabotage my work and perhaps my career. Your lack of professionalism is

Pick neither fight
nor flight. Pick the strategies of the skilled manager.

Players think people negotiate
based on shared goals and values

This is a useful
technique used by beginners since most people buy in up-front. In other words,
most people believe that when people are negotiating, they have the same goals
and values. The negotiations are, they think, over details or specific

The teachers and
the school board are in contract negotiations. The Board’s negotiator says,
“In this case, it is not like most negotiations. Here, we are all on the
same side. We all want the same things–the best possible education for the
children. We want a secure situation for the teachers and a sound financial
environment for the board; but most of all, we want what is best for the

Later in the
process, you can hear her saying, “If the board’s financial position
becomes unstable, we all suffer; but most importantly, the children suffer.
Avoiding harm to the children is something to which I know we are all
committed, aren’t we?”

It is easy to get
a feel for the ploy. First, the player establishes the shared value–the
welfare of the children. In other situations, this could be patriotism,
motherhood, or maybe even apple pie. The point no one will raise because it
might be read as unprofessional is that the negotiations have nothing to do
with the welfare of the children. They are negotiating about the welfare of the
board and the welfare of the teachers. So long as the player can keep the focus
on the children as a shared goal and value, though, she has a lever. Any time
things get rough, she can say, “Let’s get back to what we all agree is
important here–the welfare of the children.”

Probably no one
will say, “Get off it! We are talking about dental coverage and not about
the goodness of children. Our people need and deserve a $50 deductible here and
are insulted by this $100 stuff you keep pushing.”

When push comes to
shove, people will do the polite and professional thing. The player is counting
on it.

The skilled
manager uses two approaches here. They are not complex but depend on being able
to spot and understand the game. First, call the player on the game. You might
say, “Let’s stop for a second to think through a little point. We all
agree we are here to do the professional and ethical thing. The children and their
education are of high value. Using references to that important issue here,
though, does not serve us well and is insulting. Let us not debate who cares
the most. We all care.”

Next say,
“Having agreed that the children are important, let’s not use them. Can we
all agree that we will not use the “who-cares-the-most” tactic to
make our points or to counter the points of the other side? Can we agree to
keep our attention on the important issues before us?”

What happens if
the who-cares-the-most ploy is again used? Sit back, smile, and use the words
of one of our past presidents, “There you go again.”

Players are likely to devalue
their hands

This is a Little-Red-Ridinghood
and The Big-Bad-Wolf technique. Little Red Ridinghood is the player in
the scene. Look at how it works.

Little R-R puts
herself out there in the woods where no one but big-bad-wolves should ever go
alone. Any 1990s woods walker with half a brain would go prepared and ready to deal
with wolves, big, bad, or not. Not R-R, though. She just strolls along,
counting on her ability as a player.

As expected, B-B-Wolf
walks up to R-R and says, “I am going to have you for lunch!”

R-R says, “Oh
please sir! I am a poor little thing and am on my way to see my grandmother who
is on her death bed. Please do not take advantage of me.”

Being a polite
wolf who wants to do the right thing, B-B says, “I do not want to take
advantage of a weak little thing like you. I will give you safe passage this
time. Please do not go out in the woods by yourself any more.”

Sure, R-R will
follow B-B’s advice, at least until the next time she gets caught out by

You see R-R and B-B
in many situations. Negotiations are a frequent background for the scene. It
comes in little and large, direct and indirect ways. The player asks for
special consideration, concessions, unusual privileges or exemption from the
normal consequences. This should happen because of the player’s being new,
inexperienced, not as skilled, or outclassed. Whatever the excuse, the message
is, “You should not abuse or take advantage of me.” Sure, it is a new
application for “Poor-Me.”

How does the
skilled manager deal with the R-R syndrome? It is easy to take the position
that “it is a jungle out there,” and anyone who cannot take care of
himself is out of luck. The problem is that there are those who get into
negotiations without the skills or experience needed to participate on an equal

The skilled
manager first determines whether the other person is up to the negotiation. If
not, he suggests – and at times insists – that the other party brings in a
qualified negotiator before the process continues. At a minimum, he avoids
knowingly taking advantage of the other person.

B-B-Wolf has the
right idea. He refrains from the kill and sends R-R on her way, suggesting that
she better come prepared next time. If she does not, B-B-Wolf needs to develop
more effective ways to get R-R to take care of herself. Whatever the outcome, B-B-W
will not be the one to take advantage of her, no matter how tempting.

The skilled
manager makes sure there is a real inability or disadvantage, though. Careful
attention is given to assuring it is not a game run by an expert Poor-Me

Players agree to conditions or
considerations they cannot honor

Use of this
technique makes negotiations much easier for the player than they might otherwise
be. The trick is to only use the technique for things that do not have to be
delivered up front. The play is for things coming later like complete
performance on the contract.

Consider further
the teacher/board negotiations. Suppose the board has two general concerns.
First, the test scores for the school are below average when compared to
national averages. Second, the board wants to have some way of assuring its
teachers are competent.

The board
negotiator says, “We want the second and third year salary increases
contingent on an improvement in test scores. We also want to institute
competence testing for all teachers in the system.”

The teachers’
negotiator says, “These are both worthy goals and are in the interest of
the welfare of our students. We support and applaud this kind of forward
thinking. We are pleased to put them on the table here, today.”

It is such a good
idea that the teachers’ negotiator takes credit for it–for the welfare of the
children, you may assume.

Note how the
teachers’ negotiator makes test scores and competence of the teachers a goal
and not an ironclad guarantee. Having made the semantic switch, he says,
“We will agree to anything reasonable in these areas. We are ready to
agree today to form a board/teacher task force to establish the guidelines and
specific rules to reach these worthy goals. It would be the charge of the task
force to have its final report within six months for inclusion, by mutual
agreement at that time, into this contract. Can we agree to sign off on this
today to assure quality education for our children?”

If the board’s
negotiator says, “Then you are agreeing to have the second and third year
increases contingent on the task force findings?” The player goes for
round two.

He says, “The
teachers agree. Of course, just as the board cannot predict what the findings
will be, neither can the teachers. We need a contract by the end of the week,
so the teachers want a penalty provision or waiver if the task force does not
get its job satisfactorily completed.”

Note the use of
the “drop dead” technique: a contract by the end of the week.

Rounds three and
four may be even more interesting. The key is that the player agrees to
anything, so long as it does not have to be done today. Agreement is even
quicker, so long as it never becomes an up-front condition for something else.
It is a “nice-work-if-you-never-have-to-do-it” kind of thing.

Players press to get all their
demands met

This is a
“wear them out” technique and is only for those with unusual patience
and endurance. For the player with these qualities, however, the technique is

The teachers’
negotiator puts the end of the week as a drop dead point in the negotiations.
Suppose the board’s negotiator says, “If we have to have this wrapped up
by the end of the week, I commit to having meals delivered. We can stay here
around the clock until we get this worked out. We can form the task force right
now and call in anyone who needs to be here. We can stay at it until we get
what we need for both the test scores and the competency rules. At the same
time, we can come to closure on the rest of the board’s needs. The board cannot
let go of this until we have an agreement on each point.”

Notice how she
circles back to pick up the board’s interests and demands. No matter how much
agreement develops, the board’s negotiator keeps everything on the table. Her
hope is that sooner or later the board will get most everything it wants.

The real trick is
that the board will get a few things just because the other side becomes bored,
exhausted, frustrated, or too tired to think things through completely. If the
board’s negotiator presses long enough and hard enough, she likely ends up with
more than would have otherwise been the case.

The best thing for
the board is that the teachers cannot just walk out. At any point, the specific
issue on the table is not a deal breaker. If the teachers walk out, the board
probably calls a press conference and tells the world that the teachers broke
off negotiations over a minor issue. “They must not want to work this out.
The board is only concerned about the welfare of the children and cannot
understand where the teachers’ priorities are.” Also, keep in mind that
whoever walks out is in a one-down position and is, to some extent, seen as the
unreasonable bad guy.

The key here for
the skilled manager is to keep the negotiating process in perspective. A
variant of the above technique is used by players who want to rush the
negotiating process. These players push to handle things quickly and casually.
You hear them saying things like, “Let’s go ahead and sign off on this
now. We can work out the details later. We all understand what the deal is
here.” This “rush it through” technique usually comes up near
the end of the negotiating process when people are tired and becoming
impatient. The skilled manager needs only to understand a few facts of
negotiating life to avoid being either worn out or rushed.

•           Negotiations
always take at least twice as long as planned

•           Limit the
length of any session ahead of time or it will likely go to the point of

•           Eighty
percent of the real movement will come in the last 20 percent of the process
and 15 percent will come in the last 5 percent

•           The closer
you are to closure, the more alert and sharp you need to be

•           Take care
not to get ambushed at the finish line

Players expect to get more than
they give

This technique is
second nature to many players and to most people. People go into negotiations
with winning in mind. It may be that it is the American way–getting the best
end of the deal.

With the teachers
and school board, the usual assumption is that the teachers are trying to get
as much as possible without taking on any additional requirements. From the
other point of view, the usual assumption is that the board is trying to get
more control. It wants to impose additional requirements at the least possible
increase in cost. In this environment, each side has the goal of getting the
other side to reduce its demands without having to increase what it gives.
Success is getting as much as possible for as little as possible. The goal is
to get a good deal.

What if one side
does not press to win the negotiation? The teachers’ negotiator comes close to
breaking out of the traditional mold with, “We will agree to anything
reasonable in these areas. We are ready to agree today . . ..”

Suppose that he
takes an additional step. “Our priority is to be sure the board is
completely comfortable with the final agreement. We need as much improvement
for the teachers as can be worked out, but this is not our priority. We share
the welfare of the children as a goal with the board and do not want to do
anything to jeopardize the board’s capacity in this area. The need, from the
teachers’ point of view, is to maximize the outcome for the board, for the
teachers, and for the children. How can the teachers assure that the board is
fully satisfied, comfortable with any agreement we make?”

As an experienced
player, the board’s negotiator will resist any efforts to move the process in
this direction. Her response is, “Give us a break! The board wants to get
the best range of services and mix of teachers it can get for the dollars
available. The teachers want to get the best working environment and
compensation package they can get. Let’s not play word games with each

She keeps the game
in the board’s court, following the board’s definition of successful
negotiations. The issue is and will remain one of how much each side gets and
how little it will have to give.

For the skilled
manager, the goal is not to win. Rather, it is to assure that you receive the
maximum value consistent with the consideration given. You, of course, do not
want to give more than you get, but neither do you want to get more than you
give. The constant question for you needs to be, “Is the other party
getting as good a deal as I am?” Conversely, “Am I getting a
similarly good deal?”

Along with being
the right thing to do, this approach is in your simple self-interest. If you
give too much and get too little, it may seem expedient but will not set well
with you over time. Also, it only encourages the other party to push for an
even better deal next time.

If you get too
much and give too little, the outcome is reversed. The other party will resent
it and will be much less willing to do business with you tomorrow. Being sure
you both get equally good deals is your best way to assure future business, to
foster productive relationships, and to safeguard your reputation.

Players give the impression they
are giving away the store

On the surface,
this technique seems like an ineffective ploy. It boils down to seeming to give
away too much while not getting enough. But the skilled player makes it work to
his advantage.

To understand the
deception, you must first understand the standard negotiating rule. The rule
says to set upper and lower limits before going into the negotiating session.
The upper limit is the most that will be given away and the lower limit is the
least you must get. You do not go over the upper limit or under the lower limit
in the session. If necessary, you try for another session or pass up the deal
before violating the rule. This is what most people understand is meant when
someone says, “That is my bottom line.”

Eric Grossman is a
contractor who is trying to get a contract to build a small office building for
a regional magazine. He and the potential lessee are in agreement on the plans
for the building and have settled on everything except the monthly payments.

After about an
hour of discussions, Eric says, “I just cannot make this work for $3,000 a
month. It will take at least $3,600; and even then, I will just break even. At
$3,000, I will be losing money. It just won’t work.”

The magazine’s CEO
is noticeably disappointed. She says, “We have gone up from $2,400. We
also have lowered our space requirements more than works real well for us. We
run a financially tight operation anyway and $3,000 puts us a little out on a
limb. I guess it is close but no cigar.”

Both parties have
reached their bottom lines. You may think that they might as well shake hands
and call it a day.

That is what is
happening when Eric says, “This is a shame. I just hate this. There has to
be some way to make this work for you. I just feel awful about this.”

He is in the
doorway when he turns and says, “This has to work. I have an idea. It is
just an idea. I can use the tax loss for a couple of years, if you can come up
a little over the years of the lease. My accountant won’t speak to me for a
year. (Note the good guy, bad guy ploy.) I have to make this work for

Does that tug your
heart strings or what? Eric is willing to lose money just to make it work. It
probably comes from his charitable nature. At a minimum, he is about to give
away the store. It is a wonder an altruistic player like Eric did not go broke
years ago.

The management of
these players is simple. If the deal seems too good to be true, or if a deal
about to go sour suddenly revives, something is rotten in Denmark – as the bard

As a skilled
manager, you know that if the deal is too good you:

•           Do not
understand what you are actually getting

•           Do not
understand the true value of what you are getting, or

•           Do not understand
how much you are giving or its value

If the deal
suddenly revives, it is easier to know exactly what is going on. The other
party is being dishonest with you. They tried to make you think that you had
received their best offer when it was not true. Their attempt was to pressure
you into an agreement. When that strategy did not succeed, they went for the
next round. They do not want to work out an agreement that benefits both of you
equally. They want to win. Continue the negotiation if it is in your interest,
but be careful and maintain a healthy level of skepticism.

In the example, it
might be fun to resume the negotiation with Eric by saying, “Thank you for
trying. I would never want to put you into that kind of position. You pay your
accountant for good advice. It is probably best to follow it. Either we both
get equally good deals, or I will need to pass. That is the only way I do
business. It has to work well for both of us. Will what you are suggesting work
well for you? Would that be a comfortable arrangement? If so, we can discuss

Just keep in mind
that people seldom give away the store; but should they try, the skilled
manager declines their suspect offer.

Players do not assume any
responsibility for assuring the other party gets a good deal

This is a hit-and-run
technique best suited to players who specialize in onetime sales and services.
In that context, it is an effective way of maximizing profits and minimizing
the expenditure of resources. The trick is to avoid its use with regular
customers or anyone who might talk to a potential customer.

A nationally known
law firm is doing some work for the CIL Corporation. Through its work, it is
aware of some management/organizational problems within the CIL Corp. Through
inside contacts and as a result of several meetings, the law firm develops a
$125,000 contract for management consultation to the corporation. The contract
is loose and talks mostly about the consultation process and the fees for
specific activities and reports. The contract does not specifically address the
outcome of the consultation. Keep in mind that the law firm writes the contract
and provides the services.

The outcome is
that the corporation is totally disrupted, and many normal procedures are
changed. In addition, several people within the corporation are singled out as
the basis of the internal problems.

The consultants
come to the conclusion that the difficulties can be reduced to two points:
First, some procedures need to be changed and others need to be tightened up.
Second, the CIL Corp. is told that it has a personnel problem. The final report
of the consultants goes on for a hundred pages to say no more than this.

Going in, the
corporation knows that it has a lot of internal squabbling and tension, and
that some of its procedures need to be changed. For $125,000 the law firm
verifies these perceptions.

The consultants
are asked for recommendations about the personnel problems and written examples
of better procedures. They say, “It is not part of the consultant’s role
to become involved in the day-to-day operations of your company. Our role is to
give you an overview of the problems and to help define the issues. We have
done this in accord with our contract. If you do not choose to use our report
or do not have the expertise to use it effectively that is not our

The law firm takes
its money and runs, leaving the CIL Corp. in a worse condition than it was
before receiving the consultation services. Can you hear the consultants
talking with each other?

“That company
is in a mess. It is no wonder, the way they throw around their money. They
thought they could spend $125,000 and fix their problems. I thought that was
what they were expecting when they signed the contract. Getting into things
when they don’t know what they are doing is the biggest part of their problems.
Oh well, business is business.”

There is only one
message here for you. Along with giving your customers what they request, it is
also important to give them what they need. If you do not understand what is
really needed from your customer’s point of view, this will not be possible.
Perhaps the first question should be, “What do you expect to achieve
through these negotiations? What are your interests, your real needs?”

Your last question
is, “Does this do the job for you? Let’s talk about that in terms of what
your interests and real needs were going in. This is not a onetime thing. I do
not do business that way. May we spend a few minutes to be sure I am getting
the job done for you?”

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