How to Win on the Business “Playground”

Life’s Merry-go-round

Life, by its very nature, is an emotional merry-go-round.

In the world of business negotiations, how you ride that whirling carousel of human feelings and relationships can either throw you from the saddle or help you snag the winner’s brass ring.

Early in my career, working for master negotiator David Weisz, I learned that all business dealings take place on an “emotional playground” and involve an ongoing game of teeter-totter between pure reason and simple human feelings…and that there are 10 principles for playing well with others:

  1. Know the genuine market value of what you are negotiating for;  no matter the asset, there is a current and very real market value out there; finding this may take time and resources, and may ultimately be exactly what your instincts initially indicated…but validating your instincts generates increased confidence in your position, and eliminates emotion.
  2. Don’t fall in love with the inventory. This is no time to allow “feelings” to creep in; whether buying or selling, assign its value (see Law #1) and stick to it. Don’t allow outside factors into your assessment; changing carousel horses in the middle of the ride will get you thrown off, and is the source of painful errors which may only surface after the deal closes.
  3. Know the other riders on the merry-go-round, and assess their style of play. If you see body language or a communication style that isn’t fair or equitable…if you sense lack of fair play or know of a history of “bad acts”, then it may be time to take your ball and go home. You cannot make a good deal with the wrong people.
  4. Come to the playground having done your homework (due diligence). Be aware of any current or potential obstacles before you begin negotiations. Unrealistic expectations about value, title, and terms always come back to haunt you.
  5. Be clear about what you expect from any game. It’s not about out-smarting the other side; well-managed mutual expectations create win-win solutions. Deception and lack of transparency kills deals and creates litigation.
  6. Don’t cry “foul” when the game is over. Stand behind your original position even if material facts change. Facts often do change, forcing adjustment by both parties. Both sides understand each other by then, and subsequent dealings will commonly be very straightforward and equitable.
  7. Be sure both parties can actually play the game. Whether buying or selling, both sides must have the financial and strategic ability to close in a timely manner. Do not waste your time with prospects who—even in the best of deals—cannot actually perform.

    Know the rules of the game!
    Know the rules of the game!
  8. Keep your cool. Staying calm in the middle of any game is essential to scoring your points. Impatience, anger, verbal outbursts, and over-reacting to unexpected situations only weakens your game. Take a deep breath…and move forward.
  9. Be consistent and do what you say you will do. Whether it’s making a scheduled meeting, responding to an offer, or holding fast to your own offer, consistency translates into sincerity and negotiating power.
  10. Be honorable in word and deed. Do not let aggressive or combative behaviors from the other side pull you into that downward spiral. Convey your values and expectations with strength and clarity, and you will earn the respect and trust of all players…and you will likely win the game!
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