Tempering The Need To Win

to do list win

Everybody likes to win, right? At least that’s what I tell myself. And that’s fine, as far as it goes. But there are times when it can be taken too far.

There are different ways of negotiating deals. Some are fairly universal, while others are more applicable to specific circumstances. Without going off on a whole tangent about negotiation styles, I want to drill down specifically to the difference between negotiating to make a deal versus negotiating to win.

What’s the difference? It can be summed up the way one of my old colleagues put it when he said “It’s not enough for me to win; others must lose.” That’s when it’s not enough to close the deal; your ego demands that you come out on top, triumphant. Just remember that when it’s your ego talking to you, it often lies. Being triumphant may not always end up meeting your own best interests, believe it or not.

Here’s a recent story to illustrate that: my wife is a seasoned realtor and a shark at negotiating. I’ve literally witnessed her make other realtors cry.

Well, there was a problem with the paint job on her one-year-old SUV. A factory defect on the protective coating. They could fix the paint job, but that wasn’t good enough. She talked the dealership into giving her a straight-across trade for the new model year of the same SUV.

Great, right?

Except that in the intervening year interest rates have gone up, which is something the dealership can’t do anything about, and as a result, her bi-weekly car payment went up another $90. That is a perfect example of “You won but you also lost.”

The lesson here is that rather than always coming in, guns blazing, take a long look at the big picture and let a balanced view guide your decision-making process.

Once, years ago when I was selling appliances I had a client who was shopping for a full suite of high-end appliances for his new house. That’s a common scenario, but the encounter was memorable because the client owned a construction company and was a hardball negotiator.

Once he and his wife had selected the appliances, that’s when the real work began. The negotiating dragged on for a long time. Lots of counter-offers and I made trips to the office because “I have to go talk to my manager.”
Also, because we were both enjoying ourselves, there was a fair amount of friendly trash talk and complaints like “You’re killing me!” Eventually, the deal was done, and after he had signed the client he had to get one more dig in.

“You know,” he quipped “I would have paid $1000 more.”

“That’s okay” I replied “I would have taken $1000 less.”

He just stared blankly at me for what felt like a really long time, then burst out laughing. “I like you, kid.”

Back in the 1990s, one of the training courses Sony put us through was on deal-making, titled “Negotiate the Deal You Deserve.” And one of the many things that stuck with me after all these years was something the trainer said: “The best deal is one where both parties walk away feeling like they got screwed.”