Bullies and Backbone

Posted by Reed Holden on Jun 26, 2018 10:14:57 AM
Reed Holden

Recently, we've seen a number of negotiators get taken to the cleaners in business and politics when they just didn't know how to deal with a bully. You know who they are: they yell and scream at you, pounding the table throughout the process. Think about the current trade negotiations with China—the same thing happens in business all the time.

We had to prepare one of our clients for dealing with a bully. Let’s call the bully Jim. We knew from the get-go that the process was going to be nasty. First, we made sure that our client’s product was superior to the competitor in terms of performance and service. Then, we had the commercial team include their product and service information in the presentation without comparing it to the competitor. Jim already knew this but wouldn't admit to it.

We knew that Jim had the President of the company’s number and that he (the President, unfortunately) was a lousy negotiator. So, we made sure he was out of the office on the day of the negotiation. Our advice to the deal team: be patient and let Jim rant, but stick to your price. The price was $1.00 more than the competitor, who was at $7.50 a unit. We had done a conservative value calculation (back of envelope–the best kind) that showed an additional $4.00 in value. We wanted to capture 25% of it.

Sure enough, on the day of the negotiation, Jim was his usual obnoxious self. But the team held to their number and closed the deal after the customer's President got tired of the yelling and screaming (all Jim's), came in and closed the deal.

We see a lot of negotiators who aren't prepared for bullies. They want to have a nice discussion and a collegial process. When the bully shows up, they don't know what to do and often cave to unreasonable demands. Backbone was designed, in part, for dealing with bullies. Remember, if you're at the table in a negotiation with a bully, they want to do business with you. The louder they scream, the more that's true. Let the screams validate your position rather than scare you into submission. It's all about having backbone in the face of bullies. I just wish some of the guys in DC would remember that.

If you’d like a checklist to help you remain calm in the face of a nightmare negotiation, click below and we'll send you our infographic 

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Topics: Negotiating with Backbone, Newsletter