1 Your Greatest Weakness in Negotiation The Dangers of Neediness
Why are the tiger's eyes set in the front of the head, facing forward? Because the animal is a predator always on the lookout for prey. Why are our own eyes also set in the front of the head, facing forward? Because we are predators as well. Watching children in a playground is delightful, but it is also cautionary, as every parent knows, because we see the king-of-the-hill, one-upmanship, bullying, competitive instincts emerge at a very early age. These instincts last a lifetime, as anyone who has spent much time in a nursing home knows. They accompany some of us right to the grave.
This is a harsh truth with which to begin the first chapter of this book, but it's a vitally necessary point. Like all predators, we humans often take advantage of the fear-racked, the distressed, the vulnerable, the needy. We're capable of wonderful altruism as well, but we don't find too much altruism in the business and negotiation world, despite all the sweet talk of some cagey win-win negotiators. In a negotiation, "dog-eat-dog" may not do justice to the hidden ferocity. In your life as a negotiator, even in your life as a private citizen of the world, you are dealing with some serious predators who are looking for the slightest sign of distress and neediness.
It is absolutely imperative that you as a negotiator understand the importance of this point. You do NOT need this deal, because to be needy is to lose control and make bad decisions.
How vulnerable are you to predators when you lose control? Very vulnerable. I'll illustrate the point with the movie To Walk with Lions, starring Richard Harris and set in East Africa, naturally enough, where the character played by Harris has many "friends" among the animals, including a certain lion. One day Harris slips and falls on a hillside--and the lion is on him in a flash! Harris manages to fire his gun and scare the lion away, but he doesn't shoot him, because he has always known and never forgotten that the lion is a predator, first and foremost, and will behave like a predator when given the opportunity and sensing weakness. Every animal trainer knows the same thing: with a predator, it's all about power.
Many negotiators are the same way. Many win-win negotiators are the same way. When I cover this subject in workshops and seminars, some people seem to think that I'm exaggerating about this neediness business. I am not. In fact, if I polled my clients over the past years to name the one idea of my system that had the greatest and most immediately beneficial impact on their negotiating work, I'm pretty sure that a plurality, maybe even a significant majority, would identify this simple warning about neediness. With experience they have learned that neediness can have--will have--a dramatic, always negative effect on their behavior. You must overcome any neediness at the negotiating table. Neediness Comes in Many Varieties
Perhaps the category of negotiation in which this neediness dynamic is most powerful and dangerous is the straight retail sales negotiation, in which the golden rule of business is the implicit understanding of both sides: "The one with the gold rules."
In Western culture, we see ourselves as buyers, don't we? We proudly buy and consume as much as we can. The salesperson, on the other hand, has a problem with his or her self-image. The very term "sales" is being replaced in many fields by "business development," because the image of the salesperson is that of the huckster on the street, almost. More important, the salesperson is definitely the dependent party in the negotiation. He or she must be prepared to give, to compromise, while the buyer takes everything he or she can get. After all, the buyer can go elsewhere, in most cases, but the poor seller needs this deal. The self-image of the individual in the selling role traps him or her in a neediness mode and often leads to bad deals.
Tough negotiators are experts at recognizing this neediness in their adversaries, and expert in creating it as well. Negotiators with giant corporations, in particular, will heighten the expectations of their supplier adversaries, painting rosy, exaggerated scenarios for mega-orders, joint ventures, global alliances, all for the purpose of building neediness on the part of their adversary for this once-in-a-lifetime, career-making deal. Then, when the neediness is well established, they lower the boom with changes, exceptions, and a lot more--demands for concessions, all of them. Throughout this book we'll see in ugly detail how this works.
Sometimes, however, the buyer, not the seller, finds himself in the potentially needy position. A classic example from history is the Lewis and Clark expedition. When these intrepid explorers really needed fresh horses, the Native Americans somehow knew this. If the local residents were negotiating to sell less valuable and necessary goods, they came to quick agreements, but when they were selling vitally needed horses to the explorers, they pitched their teepees and settled in for the long haul. They were instinctively tough negotiators. (The journals of Lewis and Clark are excellent reading for any negotiator, because these two great Americans encountered dozens of unusual negotiating situations.)
Sometimes Lewis and Clark were needy, plain and simple. Sometimes they really were desperate for horses and other supplies. Today, in the twenty-first century, we're not needy. We're just not, but we nevertheless still hear people say, "I need this jacket." Or "I need this car." Or "I need to make this call." Or "I need this job." Or "I need to talk to you." Or "I need this deal." We use the word "need" much too casually. The only things we truly need are the basics of physical survival--air, water, food, clothing, shelter--and everyone reading this book already has these. We also need the basics of intellectual and emotional well-being--love, family, friendship, satisfying work, hobbies, faith--each reader has his or her own list here. But it's a short list, and it does not--or should not--include the $500 jacket or the $100,000 car, because there are other jackets and cars. It should not include this particular job or sale or deal, because there are other jobs and sales and deals.
Nevertheless, neediness is everywhere. Let me tell you the most instructive experience on this subject I've had in my own life. The time is 0-dark-30 hours (military lingo for early a.m.) on a cold, damp, foggy January morning in West Texas. This is the first morning on the flight line for my group of fighter pilot trainees. The room is full of young men, all second lieutenants, dressed in new green flight suits and black high-top boots, waiting for the flight commander. In walks Major Dave Miller, slightly gray at the temples, the perfect specimen of a fighter pilot, a veteran of the Red River Valley in Vietnam, site of some of the most intense aerial combat in history. "Atten-hut!" We jump to our feet and stand ramrod straight.
In a deep, confident voice he commands "Seats!" You never saw men sit down as quickly as this group did. Immediately he says, "Lieutenant Camp." I'm startled but gather my wits as best as I can, leap back up to attention, and answer, "Sir, yes Sir!" Dave Miller says, "You have just taken off, you are three hundred feet above the ground and climbing. Instantly, everything goes quiet and you feel like someone is putting on the brakes. Your airspeed is at two hundred fifty knots and slowing. You suddenly realize both engines have quit. What are you going to do?"
My mind goes blank and my heart goes into orbit. It seems like forever, but then I hear myself say, "Well sir, which runway am I on?" And believe it or not, I proceeded to debate this man, a seasoned veteran, my teacher, about how I should have handled that hypothetical situation. The correct answer to Miller's question was eject. Eject? He must be out of his mind. I'd never ejected in my life--never even considered it during my prior training. And on that morning I never considered that Miller was trying to save my life, while I was trying to show off by arguing that I could make it to a certain runway.
There's another word for all that early chutzpah and ego on my part: neediness, plain and simple. In that "negotiation" with my instructor, I needed to be a top gun, to know it all, to be right. Sometimes neediness is blatant and easy to spot, as in that flying story, but more often it is subtle and insidious. The trained negotiator sees neediness of all sorts all the time, in big ways and in little ways. It is so easy to slip into such a state, often without even being aware of it.
Excerpted from Start with No by Jim Camp. Copyright © 2002 by Jim Camp. Excerpted by permission of Crown Business, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.