Sunday, October 21 , 2018, 8:44 am | A Few Clouds 57º


Paul Burri: Negotiating to a Win-Win

Beware of people who have no desire for all parties to benefit

Over the years in my personal and business life, I have been involved in my share of negotiations. Whether it was buying a house, negotiating a lease, agreeing on the terms of a contract or on the price of nuts and bolts, I have always tried to reach a win-win conclusion.

Paul Burri
Paul Burri

That’s the situation where both parties to the transaction come away feeling like they have been fairly treated and have received an acceptable reward. It was this feeling that eventually led me to a simple statement of philosophy that I had taped to my computer during the years I had my business.

It read, “I will engage in no transaction that does not benefit all the parties concerned.”

But I also have learned that not everyone has that same win-win goal. Some people need to win at any negotiation and have little concern for the “other guy.” So when I discover that I am negotiating with people like this, I need to be able to 1) recognize that’s who I’m dealing with, and 2) know how to negotiate with them.

I had an interesting conversation with a retired friend of mine who was once a very successful real estate broker. Of course, the business of buying and selling real estate involves a lot of negotiating, so he has a lot of experience in these matters. He gave me two bits of negotiating wisdom to pass along.

They are: “He who talks first, loses” and “Whoever wants the deal the most, loses.”

He went on to explain it this way. If you’re trying to buy my lawnmower, I would prefer that you make me an offer than for me to tell you what I want for it. Once you name a price, I know you’ve named a price that is lower than you expect to pay, but now I know your starting point. I also know that I can negotiate up from that price.

Conversely, if I’m the one who names the selling price, you immediately know that it’s really my “asking price” and that it’s surely going to be somewhat higher than what I will finally agree to — i.e., “He who talks first, loses.”

Now in the same situation, suppose I’m the one who wants to buy a lawnmower, and I also know that the old one I have still works OK, so I don’t need it that badly. Or I know of a sale on lawnmowers that weekend, or that I can have my old lawnmower refurbished for far less than the cost of a new one. I’m in the position of strength because I don’t need to buy the lawnmower as much as you need to sell it to buy those Christmas presents for your kids.

So in this case, you want the deal much more than I do, so you’ll be willing to sell it to me for much less than if the situation were reversed — i.e, “Whoever wants the deal the most, loses.”

My conclusion? Negotiate for a win-win, but be aware with whom you are dealing and know the “rules” if you find yourself in an adversarial situation.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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