REAL-WORLD INSIGHTS

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Published: Dec 08 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

People think of negotiating as “that thing you do when you’re buying a car” (you’re probably haggling), or “that time you took a particularly sinuous series of bends at speed without driving over the cliff edge” (you were probably driving). At Scotwork, we are of the view that negotiating is that thing you do when something happens to make the status quo no longer tenable; in other words, external factors disrupt an ongoing relationship to the extent that contracts and relationships need to be re-aligned...

Published: Nov 24 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Two questions: When negotiating, do you want the other side to act reasonably? And, Is it a good strategy to be reasonable when negotiating? Most people will say yes to the first question. It would be crazy not to. The second however creates a bit more of a dilemma. We are sometimes tempted to go high or low, pad and exaggerate what we really anticipate being able to achieve. Because that is what we should do right?...

Published: Nov 17 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

I am a big fan of Bob Dylan. Well his music anyway. Other people, not quite so much. A member of the Swedish Academy that recently offered Mr Dylan the Noble Prize has accused Bob of being both rude and arrogant. Apparently Bob had refused to return phone calls or even acknowledge the offer and spurned the academy rather as one would spurn a rabid dog! As the Daily Mail reported, to accuse Bob Dylan of being rude is like attacking Humpty Dumpty for being an egg. He is legendary for his ambivalence to fans. He turns his back on them and grunts between songs in his live shows on stage. In person he is no better...

Published: Nov 10 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

I predict a spike in the birth-rate at the beginning of August 2017 because thousands of people, in the US and around the world, were making babies last night. There is much anecdotal evidence that after a trauma people take solace with each other. How many couples will have gone to bed last night whispering to each other ‘WTF (Will Trump Flourish?)’ before rolling over and occupying themselves with other things?

Published: Jul 07 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

The hunt for negotiators has begun on a Global scale. Offers of help from all over the place, New Zealand, Australia and no doubt every part of the Commonwealth and beyond to help the UK deal with the inevitable day to day transactional not to mention the framing and strategic negotiations that will result from the Brexit. Surely we are not that light on experience in highly complex, multi- partied negotiations that we have to import them from literally the other side of the world...

Published: Apr 21 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

When I tell people what I do for a living, lots of people are intrigued, often they don’t really get what it is. I like to tell them that negotiation is the art of getting more of what you want, that seems to intrigue them more. Hopefully that turns into a business opportunity, tart that I am. Many others are appalled and feel intense sympathy for those around me and particularly my family and friends. But all of them think how exhausting and time consuming it must be to be constantly looking to negotiate a better deal in every relationship all of the time...

Published: Apr 14 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

Confidence is one of the important attributes of a good negotiator. Many HR recruiters believe that this is an attribute they need to look for in those who will be conducting negotiations for the organisation (sales, marketing, procurement, Board level), so that testing for confidence as a personality trait is therefore very important I might be splitting hairs but I would like to suggest that although self-confidence is important to good negotiated outcomes it is much more important to successful persuasion. Why is this important? – because when a persuasive argument succeeds then the need to trade or compromise is reduced or eliminated...

Published: Mar 24 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

Why did President Putin suddenly and unexpectedly announce last week that Russia was pulling its armed forces out of Syria? It was an announcement that took every political commentator by surprise, and subsequently there were as many theories to explain the situation as there were commentators. Maybe he was bluffing, and not really pulling out at all. Maybe he couldn’t sustain the war effort financially. Maybe it was playing badly to his domestic audience. Maybe he had become irritated that the man he was supporting, President Assad, had become too arrogant after he discovered that Russia was to be an active ally...

Published: Mar 17 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Well there are actually! Negotiation involves cold logic, cutting through all the verbiage, careful and clear analysis of the volatile and unpredictable environment before coolly selecting the correct option. Problem is we rarely get the time when making the hundreds of decisions we need to make each day in the negotiations that we do in both our commercial and personal lives. Emotions play a huge part in the actions we take and to some extent the brains higher function has been argued is to sort out many of the choices we have already made and make sense of them after the fact...

Published: Feb 11 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

I had a haircut today, and learnt something simple but useful. Chatting to the barber I asked if he had ever been to a particular local restaurant. Yes, he said, but it was about 5 years ago and it wasn’t very good. He had found a small piece of plastic in his mouth whilst eating his meal, and he was unimpressed with the response from the waiter. He explained. “I said to him, I am not complaining or making a fuss, because I am not that kind of person, but I think you should know that this piece of plastic was in my food. The waiter looked at it and said ‘Cool, man. Thanks for telling me’, and wandered off...

Published: Jan 28 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

My daughter is a fairly recent and slightly nervous driver. One of the benefits of the children getting older is that sporadically Dad’s cabs get a Saturday off, and even an occasional lift home from the pub after a couple of cheeky sherbets on a Friday night. On one such occasion I was surprised to note that my little girl was reluctant to use her full beam when driving, preferring to keep to dipped headlights even in the pitch of night...

Published: Jan 14 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

One of the defining qualities of a good negotiator is the ability to manufacture unusual tradeable variables apparently out of thin air. An example of this is how time is used as a variable. Most people would agree that a day comprises 24 hours. But management consultants know that a day in terms of charging fees is more likely to be 7 hours, so clients who need more than 7 hours find themselves paying for more than a day. Car rental companies define a day as any period up to 24 hours, so clients who want less than that still have to pay for the full 24 hours. So a ‘usual’ day becomes subverted into an ‘unusual’ day with a little creative thinking

Published: Oct 08 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

Saturday night was a very dark time for me and many of my English friends and colleagues. Whilst no one actually died, it feels like many of our dreams and hopes did. If you enjoy sport and even if you don’t you will be able to imagine just how devastating it is for an Englishman that the National rugby team was knocked out of its home World Cup tournament, by their old nemesis Australia. The only host nation ever to have been knocked out of their own tournament at such an early stage, the loss came fast on the heels of the defeat by Wales the previous week, a game that frankly England really should have won...

Published: Sep 24 , 2015
Author: Romana Henry

I go running regularly with a good friend and neighbour who happens to be a criminal defence lawyer. She is married to another lawyer who works in property and estate settlement etc. On our runs, we exchange tips and advice. She tells me how expensive it would be to divorce my husband, why I shouldn’t burn a red light and why helping my 17 year old daughter to obtain fake I.D. to get into pubs really isn’t a good idea. Why I really must make a will soon, when to put my house on the market and what home improvements not to bother with. In exchange I tell her how to get a better deal in her various negotiations and we regularly brain storm long lists of things which she would like to get in negotiations in exchange for things she knows she will have to concede. Quite a pair we are. Imagine how much faster we would run if we spoke less and breathed more....

Published: May 14 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

The recent Argentinian film ‘Wild Tales’ is a compilation of six unrelated fictions about people in desperate situations. I would recommend it to anyone who likes entertaining storytelling, but one of the segments has particular interest for negotiators. The plot revolves around the wealthy father of a wayward teenager who takes the family BMW out for the night, gets drunk, and collides with a pregnant pedestrian in a hit-and-run incident. Mother and unborn child don’t survive. The teenager confesses to his parents, and the father together with the family lawyer hatch a plan. The gardener, a retainer of many years standing, is invited to take the rap by claiming to be the driver, and serve the prison sentence (expected to be an unrealistic 18 months) in return for $500,000, a sum beyond his dreams...

Published: Oct 02 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

What is the worst thing you can do when negotiating? Lots of things I guess but probably the most obvious one of all is a lack of preparation. Last year was the 30th anniversary of the bestselling book by Chris Ryan, Bravo, Two, Zero. I’ve got to be honest when it first came out I did not read it. I thought it would only be of interest to military types and frankly was a bit embarrassed to read it on the train or tube, which was my main reading time back then...

Published: Aug 14 , 2014
Author: John McMillan

On September 18th, Scotland, part of the United Kingdom for 300 years, is holding a referendum on whether to split away from the rest of the UK and become an independent country. Assuming that there is a ‘Yes’ vote, the Scottish Government has a massive negotiating challenge ahead if it is to meet its self-imposed deadline of 24th March 2016; barely 18 months after the votes will be counted...

Published: Jul 24 , 2014
Author: Mark Simpson

The media has discovered that Council controlled Auckland Transport is using special shuttles to move staff around Auckland – apparently because it’s faster than the public transport they provide for the rest of us. When challenged Auckland Transport shot themselves in the foot and provided us with a beautiful example of argument dilution. Initially, Auckland Transport highlighted the benefits of the shuttles as – being able to cut down the size of its car fleet and improve “business efficiency”. A good sound reason for trialling the shuttle businesses.

Published: Jun 05 , 2014
Author: Alan Smith

About 6 years ago my daughter then aged 8 decided that she would like to join her older brother at Karate lessons. I was delighted. So much so that I decided to join her at the adult class. Unlike my son, both she and I have kept it up, and last Friday she took her Black Belt first Dan grade which she achieved. I was utterly thrilled and very proud of the commitment, hard work and determination that it took...

Published: Apr 24 , 2014
Author: Robin Copland

As 2014 heads for September, Scotland thinks of itself as at the centre of a political maelstrom. In truth, some Europeans are following the independence debate with interest, but the rest of the world could not, it seems, care a jot. Never mind; for those of us who live in Scotland – an important distinction as only those resident in Scotland in September will have a vote – it is providing politicians with a chance to strut their stuff and to ally themselves with people and parties who are normally their sworn enemies. Thus, we have the former prime minister, Gordon Brown speaking out on behalf of the “Better Together” campaign – a campaign for which his arch-enemy the current prime minister, David Cameron, has also spoken...

Published: Jan 16 , 2014
Author: Stephen White

There are interminable lists of top negotiating dos and don’ts available on the internet, in books, and on training courses. They mainly contain pieces of sensible, if obvious advice about how negotiators should conduct themselves. You may have read some of these lists, and you may even have been moved to try some of the tips. You certainly don’t need to see another one...

Published: Oct 31 , 2013
Author: Mike Freedman

Like most sales people I talk about value first and price last. This week was no exception. My prospective client was considering courses for the company’s purchasing managers. The meeting was going very well, and when the quotation was requested I announced the total price for our three-day negotiating skills course upon which my much-interested prospective client asked…"is that the cost per day?"...

Published: Oct 03 , 2013
Author: Stephen White

Big business has been on the losing side of a number of small skirmishes recently. Two recent examples. Two days ago Tesco lost a planning application to open a supermarket in the town of Hadleigh, Suffolk after local businesses raised £80,000 to pay for top advisors to present their case. And yesterday the village of Tecoma 20 miles outside Melbourne Australia, hit the international news in their fight to stop McDonald's opening a local branch.

Published: Jul 04 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

George North is a big man. Currently on tour in Australia with the British and Irish Lions, North stands at 6 feet 4 inches and weighs in at 240 lbs. That is over 17 stones in old money, as my mother would say. He is also only 21 years old and a prodigious rugby talent. In the first test he scored a phenomenal individual try and in the second a thunderous tackle that sent the Wallaby Israel Folau back several meters......

Published: May 16 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Asking good questions that are tough, direct and specific is one of the key things we can do to improve the quality of our negotiation behavior and resulting outcomes. A study in the US tried to identify the best kind of questions to ask in a classic buyer seller relationship...

Published: Apr 25 , 2013
Author: Robin Copland

BMW used to do it. So did Mercedes. Porsche and Ferrari still do as far as I am aware, though it’s been a while since I checked. Then along came the so-called “budget” airlines and the tactic is back in vogue with a vengeance. It starts with a loud - gaudy even – welcome page on which there is loudly displayed a low figure. At the time of writing, the figure is £10. The word “cheap” appears and you are tempted along to the “flights” window. “£10” and “flights” together; it’s a heady mix that conjures up the golden age of travel together with cheap air fares, so you delve deeper. Mind you – the words “golden age of travel” and “Ryanair” are not comfortable bedfellows, but never mind; I live in Edinburgh – where could I go? What could go wrong?...

Published: Apr 18 , 2013
Author: Claudio Cubito

When the painter James McNeill Whistler was a cadet at West Point, he was assigned to draw a bridge in an engineering class. Whistler drew a spectacular bridge and included two boys fishing from it. His deliberate inclusion displeased the instructor, who ordered him to draw it again without the young fishermen on the bridge. Whistler did as he was instructed, but unwilling to completely stifle his vision; he drew the bridge again with the boys fishing from the riverbank.

Published: Apr 04 , 2013
Author: Stephen White

A recent article in the New York Times draws a comparison between the physiological aspects of hearing and listening. In brief the author, neuroscientist Professor Seth Horowitz, says that the process of hearing works from our ears to an area in the brain which is automatically able to register and then tune out background noise. Listening, he says, is different; when our attention is grabbed the electrical impulses from our ears take a pathway to a different area of the brain, associated with computation. At a basic level this allows our defence mechanisms to fire up. We describe this as being startled – and this overrides the background noise and allows us to focus on what we are hearing and process it accordingly. That’s listening!...

Published: Mar 28 , 2013
Author: The Scotwork Team

Over the weekend there were reports in the UK media that the multinational retailer Laura Ashley had written to its suppliers requesting an immediate 10% cost price reduction on all orders already agreed and contracted. The demand was accompanied by a statement that this would save Laura Ashley the need to review its supplier base – in other words, failure to agree would prompt such a review, and some suppliers would inevitably be delisted as a result...

Published: Apr 06 , 2012
Author: Stephen White

The recently released movie Margin Call tells the story of a seminal moment in the general financial collapse of 2008. A fictional investment bank, probably a thinly disguised Lehman Brothers, discovers that its huge holdings of subprime mortgage bonds are worthless. If they are liquidated, even at virtually any price, the damage caused to the bank’s reputation by doing so will be irreparable. If the bank do nothing they will be bankrupt in days. The Board of the bank convene, in the dead of night, to decide a course of action for the following trading day...

Published: Dec 02 , 2011
Author: Alan Smith

On a flight from Glasgow on a cold November night I came across an article in the in-flight magazine about how to make more effective use of persuasion to get what we want out of life, business and family relationships. Warming advice indeed. The basic premise is that it is much more powerful to surround our persuasion with strong rationale in order to get people to do what we want them to do...

Published: Oct 28 , 2011
Author: Robin Copland

In the Daily Telegraph of 2 October 2011, Robert Winnett, the newspaper’s deputy political editor, wrote an interesting short piece about David Cameron’s potential future plans for the UK’s long-term relationship with the European Union. For those who live outwith the UK, the Daily Telegraph is a right of centre “quality” newspaper, read in the main by a middle class audience, most of whom would be supporters of the Conservative party. It would be fair to describe it as “euro-sceptic” and it is famously against any more power leakage from the UK to Europe...

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The Power of Adjournments

Anjana – a sales leader with an IT firm – is busy preparing for negotiations with a large bank on renewing her firm’s contract with them. Given it is a decent sized deal, Anjana has been preparing for these negotiations over the last several days by interlocking with the account delivery teams, getting buy-ins from the senior leadership & CFO on commercials, getting a handle on the likely strategies from the competition etc. It is no surprise, given the rigour of her preparation, that Anjana was feeling confident about her meeting with the Client CIO.

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