Remember that few of us are any good at detailed negotiations. That includes your opponent, by the way. • If you are a poor negotiator, like me, then set a limit on what you will pay or accept and on any conditions attached. Do not deviate. Your first thought is your best thought.
• Most negotiations are unnecessary. Don’t enter into them. Remember that “the fortress that parleys is already half taken.” Save serious negotiations for serious occasions. • Do your homework. And do it rigorously. What you don’t know or haven’t bothered to find out can kill you in any type of serious negotiation. • Despite my jungle book examples above, the devil really is in the detail in serious negotiations. Get all the professional help you can trust. But do not surrender control of the negotiations or the agenda to such professionals. They are not the ones who will have to live with the consequences—you are. Professional advisors are there to explain and advise, not to decide. • If your advisors are leading you down a path you don’t approve of during your negotiations, call a “time-out” and tell them privately that if they continue along that route you will get yourself some new advisors. The world is full of them. • Never fall in love with the deal. A deal is just a deal. There will always be other deals and other opportunities.
• Avoid auctions in business like the plague—unless you are selling something, that is. You will nearly always pay more than is wise if you are the “winner” of an auction process. • The negotiator opposite you is not your new best friend. He is not your partner. He is not your confidant. You have no obligation, outside of ordinary courtesy, to please him or satisfy his demands. He is the enemy. If you do not understand that real winners and real losers emerge from serious negotiations, then you will be robbed, whatever the circumstances.
• Take no notice of management manuals that tell you to leave passion and emotion out of the negotiating room. If you are emotional or passionate about something, then let it show. But leaven emotion with courtesy, and, if possible, with wit. If you’re not the witty type, then flattery and self-deprecation are good substitutes. • Listen when engaged in serious negotiations. Then listen some more. You are in no hurry. Nobody ever got poor listening. Also, use silence as a weapon. Silences are disconcerting. People tend to fill silences with jabber, often weakening their bargaining position as they do so.
• Choose a rogue element to your advantage and bring it into the negotiation at a late stage. You’ll be amazed at how often this tactic produces results. • The British created the largest geophysical empire in the world with one tactic: divide and rule. It always works. It never fails if you can get to exploit it. Get to know the other side. There may be slight differences in the individual approaches of their senior managers and, possibly, in their goals. Drive a wedge and keep hammering. • Permit no such weaknesses in your own camp. I have often banned senior executives from taking part in negotiations simply to avoid this trap. Better you are in there on your own, outgunned, outflanked and outmaneuvered, than to have two or three of you silently squabbling.
• Everyone thinks they are a great negotiator, but most of us simply are not. If it’s your company, then, for better or worse, you are the final arbiter. That remains true whether you are a good negotiator or a bad one. • If you suspect you perform badly on such occasions, do not attend, even if you are the 100 percent owner. Get someone else to do it after setting out your response to every conceivable option that might arise. This tactic can be devastating to the other side, and Peter, Bob and I have used it on many occasions in the past. You have to trust your nominee completely, though.
• Above all, establish where the balance of weakness lies in any serious negotiation. Most strengths are self-evident.