By Lorenzo Gomez. Author of The Cilantro Diaries: Business Lessons From the Most Unlikely Places. Available from Amazon here. See our review here.

The more you advance in your career, the more complicated negotiating becomes. Just like sales, negotiating has been misbranded. I used to think negotiating meant acting like Ari Gold from Entourage—you’d go into the meeting with a ton of aggression and tell people, “This is what’s going to happen.” The real world doesn’t work that way.

Negotiating is not about being Ari Gold from Entourage; it’s about understanding what’s happening and how to reach a compromise or solution.

The Best Negotiating Advice I’ve Heard

A piece of excellent advice from one of my board members, Khaled, is to never use the Squeeze Play when negotiating. What is the Squeeze Play? It’s using ultimatums and threats to get your way. Someone using the Squeeze Play might say, “You’re going to give me a deal or else. You’re going to do X, Y, and Z, or I’m going to do A, B, and C.” The Squeeze Play says, “You don’t have a choice. I’m forcing my will on you.”

Once you pull that move, you’ve already lost the negotiation. The Squeeze Play never succeeds at anything but making people mad at you. The result of a negotiation should not be to create a loser, but a partner. The Squeeze Play forces someone to overtly be the loser, and that is no good for anyone.

At one point in my career, I consulted with Khaled. I was working with my boss Graham on a new foundation, and I was in charge of fielding grant requests from the various nonprofits that applied. I was all worked up because I knew a nonprofit was going to ask Graham for a grant, but they weren’t a charity that was in our scope. They planned to circumvent me and go straight to Graham, which made me furious. I vented to Khaled and said, “I’m going to tell Graham if he gives that nonprofit the money, I’m just going to quit. Because if he does that, why am I even here?” Khaled looked me square in the eye as a board member and said, “Eso, never use the Squeeze Play. It won’t get you what you want from Graham.”

I realized I was being a moron and adjusted my tactic before talking with Graham. We met and I said, “Graham, I’m going to be honest. There’s this nonprofit that’s going to ask you for money, and I’m already stressed about it. I’m worried they’re going to jump through some serious mental-gymnastic hoops to convince you. Can we agree, because they’re not in our scope, that we won’t give them the money?” Graham said, “Of course.”

Just like that, this fantasy I’d built in my head was completely shattered. I was so worked up that I thought the only recourse I had was to go in and use the Squeeze Play on Graham, but I’m so glad I didn’t. The Squeeze Play never works. It will ruin your career and drive away your friends, so leave it in the toolbox.

Make Sure Everyone Has Veto Power

Veto power applies to vetoing bad ideas, but it also plays a role in negotiations. I learned about veto power from Graham, who learned about it from his negotiating coach, Coach Jim Camp.
Camp wrote a famous book about negotiations titled Start with No. According to Coach, if the other person feels like they don’t have veto power, you’ve lost the negotiation. This concept goes against everything the world has taught us about negotiations, which is to dig your heels in and steamroll the other person into submission.

A much better approach to negotiations is for everybody involved to have veto power and the option to walk away from the deal. You never want to make the situation binary rather than give the other person options; otherwise, they’ll feel cornered. Everyone needs to know they have some degree of control over the outcome, including you. When the balance shifts too much in one person’s favor, the negotiation has already failed.

The Cilantro Diaries: Business Lessons From the Most Unlikely Places, reviewed


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