I remember working with a software vendor a few years ago to negotiate a license agreement. I don’t think I am a push-over, but I know what I want and I do my best to make sure I get it. I was at the end of this negotiation, when the vendor salesman suddenly decided to go over my head and negotiate with my boss on some sticking point we had. My boss quickly caved and the salesman, I am sure, gloated privately that he had beaten me. But what outcome was he negotiating for?
Sometimes I think that competitive fire is misused, because we have our eyes on the wrong outcome. This salesman was looking at this deal as the outcome—he wanted to ensure that he got the most he could out of this contract. I, on the other hand, wanted to get the most out of the relationship, one that it turned out could have been much bigger than that one contract.
So, after the contract was signed, I took the salesman aside and made sure that he understood what he had done:
- He permanently made my boss the negotiator. We had struggled over one sticking point. He found in the future that my boss made everything a sticking point. Ouch.
- He had broken my trust. From then on, I made sure that I was always ready for him. My boss was prepared for a call from him at any time and I never laid even a few of my cards on the table.
- He had made me realize I needed a second source. And I went out and got one. Holy profit margins, Batman!
I “won” every negotiation from then on. But I never felt good about it. I had always hoped to have a close relationship with this company—I think it would have been better for both if us.
That wasn’t possible, because we weren’t both negotiating for the same outcome. In your marketing, are you trying to win a sale or a customer?
I’ll be on a blog-free vacation until February 26, so look for a new post when I get back.