Back in the days before Amazon's retail dominance, I went into bookstores to see which titles the store managers opted to display. I often noticed that there were many copies of Herb Cohen's You Can Negotiate Anything: How to Get What You Want and no copies of mine.
It made me feel sad that my book was not popular and curious about why Cohen's book was so appealing to people. To some extent the appeal was obvious -- everybody wants things that they can't get and reading the book might help them win more often.
Recently, Herb's son Rich wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal that describes lessons his father taught him. Here are the four that resonate most strongly with me and what I think you should do about them to work with others to achieve your goals.
1. Know Your Negotiating Partner's Likes and Dislikes.
One thing I have noticed in my consulting business is that nobody ever hires me after meeting with me once. It usually takes at least three to five interactions before we begin to discuss possible collaboration.
The potential client needs those meetings to answer questions such as: What does he care about? Is he trustworthy? Can he do an excellent job solving my problem? Have other people I trust attested to his ability?
Answering these questions can help you negotiate more effectively because you know the partner's likes and dislikes. Herb Cohen told the story of a client who had hired him to negotiate on his behalf in an acquisition.
While Cohen entered into the conversation with the target's CEO with no particular game plan, the client kept asking Cohen for a strategy. Cohen -- whose plan could be summarized as "I will figure out my plan after talking with the other side" -- knew that his client liked football.
Cohen used this knowledge to come up with a string of meaningless words related to football that soothed his client enough for him to get to work. According to the Journal, Cohen told the client, "We're going to set up in the single wing, send the flanker in motion, pull the guard, fake the handoff, run the receiver on the post and go for the end zone."
I like that Cohen stuck with his guns while cleverly using his knowledge of his client's likes and dislikes to proceed as he had planned.
2. Ask Your Negotiating Partner for Help.
People are in an ambiguous relationship with a negotiating partner. There are likely to be many issues that you could both use to create a bigger pie to share. Other topics may be more zero-sum in nature -- with both parties seeing the chance for only one victor.
Because of those zero-sum topics, your negotiating partner may view you as always poised to be aggressive and determined to take ask much as you can. This is where Cohen turned the tables on the negotiating partner's expectations by saying "I don't understand, help me," noted the Journal.
This simple phrase turns what the negotiating partner might see as your weakness into a force that helps you get what you want. That's because the client will see helping you as a way to exploit their relative strength.
3. Make Your Negotiating Partner Feel That You Are Stretched Beyond Your Limits.
Sometimes a negotiation is purely zero-sum in nature. Even when you are in a weak bargaining position, you can minimize your pain by making your negotiating partner feel the joy of victory.
Rich's repeated failed efforts to buy a house in New Jersey illustrates this point. Ultimately, he gave up trying to negotiate and just offered the asking price -- but Rich still did not get the house.
Herb told his son that the seller wanted to feel that Rich had been squeezed beyond his limit. By initially meeting the seller's price, Herb told his son, Rich had made the seller feel that his asking price was too low.
Negotiation should make the seller feel that he has gotten the best deal. "They'll be satisfied only when they think you've stretched just beyond your limit. That's when you'll get your house." Rich wrote of his father's advice.
4. Treat Life Like a Game.
To be successful, it helps not to care too much about the wins and losses. Herb's philosophy was that if you treat life like a game "you'll perform better, be happier and, as a bonus, be more successful." noted the Journal.
These four tips will help you work with others to get more of what you want.