Stop Puffing Your Chest

In a negotiation if you can’t or aren’t going to walk away, then don’t puff your chest. It just pisses off your client.

Recently, a sales guy shared a story of a negotiation he was involved in. The negotiation was stalled and not going well. His company had a couple of issues they wouldn’t budge on and the client was becoming frustrated. Despite almost 18 months of negotiation, common ground seemed unattainable. Finally, his legal team put out a best and final. Their position, “we’ve gone as far as we can and will not move any further.” In a real negotiation this is a viable approach. The problem is this was not a real negotiation. His company was NOT going to walk away from this account. This account does 20 million dollars a year. It is one the largest accounts in his companies portfolio. No matter what his legal team was saying, no matter how bad the folks engaged in the negotiation wanted to believe they would walk away from a 20 million dollar account, it wasn’t going to happen. Therefore, a take it or leave it strategy was just plain foolish.

This company would have been served better by realizing up front they couldn’t lose the account and used a less confrontational, more co-operative approach.

Negotiation isn’t about puffing your chest or playing hardball. It is a sophisticated dance. Negotiation is as much about understanding you, and your position as it is about understanding the party across the table. Far too often companies try to play hard ball, threatening to take their ball and go home, when in reality they have absolutely no intention or ability to do such a thing.

In many cases once the negotiation is over, everyone has to get back to working together. If you’re not going to walk away, don’t bluff, because if your customer calls you on it, not only do you end up giving more away, you piss them off.

There is nothing wrong with not walking away from a 20 million dollar account. It’s actually rather smart. Therefore, accept it, and work the negotiation accordingly. This way you may get most of what you want and more importantly you’ll have a 20 million dollar client that feels respected and well treated.

As the sales guy said to me, there is nothing worse than a pissed off 20 million dollar client.