5. Strengths and Weaknesses

Jeff Cochran


Virtually all negotiators over-estimate their own weaknesses and the other side’s strengths. Try to take an honest inventory of each side’s real strong points and vulnerabilities. An analysis of the other items in the Preparation Planner should be a part of that inventory. Ask yourself if your vulnerabilities appear as weaknesses to the other side or if you are more sensitive to them. The same applies to strengths. Give yourself credit for you pluses. Assess the other side’s strengths analytically, not emotionally.

Examples of other factors include: Their company may be bigger but not as market-responsive as yours. They may have been around longer but are they as in tune with today’s demands? The real strength you have is knowing your own strengths and weaknesses.

Often participants in our programs voice the following frustration: “How can you possibly achieve a Win-Win result when you are in a weak position? When the other side holds all of the cards, isn’t it impossible to be an effective negotiator?” I believe the most effective negotiators are able to use their skills, both when they have the leverage, as well as when they don’t. In order to be more effective when you are in a weak position, I suggest the following:

1. Check Your Assumptions – If you take the time to identify their weaknesses you may very well discover strengths in your own position of which you were previously unaware.

2. Expand Your Alternatives – Is the other side the only person in the world with the product or service that you want? Seldom is there ever a single source supplier for a particular item. It might be more convenient to buy from this person, or maybe the quality is better, but in the end, there are typically many alternatives to choose from, even when your alternatives look limited.

3. Change the Subject – You might talk about benefits you provided to the other side in the past. You might discuss future opportunities that could exist. You even might inquire as to what else the other side is interested in beyond the deal at hand. Seldom does a transaction consist of only one component. Find out what other items can be brought into the negotiation and see if you can establish an upper hand with regard to these issues.

4. Find Those Similarly Situated – If you find yourself in a weak position, there are likely others very similar to you. Seek out these people and see if the sum is greater than the individual parts. Consider class action suits, where an individual claimant is definitely in a weaker position when compared to a large company.

4. Deadlines

Jeff Cochran


Knowing your own realistic deadline in advance will tell you how much leeway you have before you take an entrenched position. Similarly, understanding the other side’s deadline may give you an edge or allow you to forego a point in order to gain somewhere. Deadlines are pressure points. Know where the pressure points are in order to push or massage them.

Online companies are springing up all over the web that harness the d-word…deadline. By implementing one day only deals, websites like LivingSocial and Groupon have tapped into buyer’s psyche with notions of serendipity and exclusivity. A deadline is a huge driving force for making deals.

3. Interests

Jeff Cochran


Your interests and theirs are the keys to getting past what seem like rock-hard positions. Interests are all about getting beyond what they say they want to what they might really want. In short, they are those things that you need the most, those things that mean the most to your side and, conversely, those that mean the most to the other side. Yours are not the same as theirs. But, if you know both, you may be able to satisfy most or all of your interest and still fulfill some of theirs (e.g. you want a low price. They need cash in a hurry.). Dollars may define positions (prices, salaries, etc.) and noncash value may define interests (setting quickly, service, experience, recognition).

The easiest way to picture negotiation with concern to interest is in marriage. It’s no secret that a lot of negotiating goes on in a marriage. These are seven of marital harmony that will help drill down the notion of interest:

1. Don’t think “me” think “we”.

2. Under every wet towel left on the bathroom floor is a real issue trying to get out.

3. Be prepared for the good times and the bad times. For the better and the worse.

4. Always listen up. Never talk down.

5. Ask him to walk a mile your high heels. Ask her to try it in your wing tips.

6. When angry, kiss.

7. Short term victories can lead to long term pain.

Virtual vs. Live Training

Jeff Cochran


I am often asked whether or not the new Virtual Training technology will eventually eliminate the need for face-to-face training.  I simply ask them:  Did people stop going to church after Guttenberg printed the first bible?  Let’s face it, distance learning started the minute Guttenberg finished with his printing press.  In 1950, my dad learned how to sell encyclopedias by listening to LPs (Long Playing Records for those born after 1980). I still have the ‘box set’ of Tony Robbins’ “Unlimited Power” somewhere in a box in my basement (right next to the Jane Fonda video cassette).  All of these distance learning ‘technologies’ were effective, but never eliminated the face-to-face training experience.  So even with the advent with incredible technology today, I do believe, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “the death of face to face training is greatly exaggerated.”


That being said, virtual training has changed the game in a very significant way.  In the past the choice was typically either you learned in a group in a classroom, or you learned ‘at a distance’ on your own via books, records, etc.  The difference today is that people can learn in groups, but still be at a distance.  Technologies such as Second Life or VirtualU, participants are fully immersed in a setting where they can see and interact with people that are part of their learning group, even though they may be thousands of miles away.  Therefore, the need to be part of a group learning experience is no longer entirely dependant on being in the same room.  That being said, no one will deny that being in the same room has its benefits and will always be part of the landscape.  However, people will learn how to use all the technologies in a unified forum so that people learn asynchronously by watching a video on YouTube or participate in a WebEx, then attend a live session at the corporate offices, and then extend the group learning experience by continuing with classes in a 3D virtual worlds.  The good news is that the face to face training experience will be much more efficient and impactful, as it will only have to focus on the areas of live training that require a live audience, such as best practice sharing and role playing.  Everything else can be handled via the other technologies.  So in the end, face-to-face training will be enhanced (rather than be eliminated) by virtual training technology.

2. Alternatives

Jeff Cochran


Employing alternatives gives you the power of options. Going into a negotiation without options is like going into battle with one weapon. What if the battering ram won’t knock the door down? Did you bring grappling hooks to flight over the walls? If not, you’re not going to get inside. Alternatives make you less dependent on one kind of deal and more open to variations. There’s no take it or leave it when you have alternatives; therefore, there are far fewer impasses. Further, knowing their alternatives may guide you in assessing their leverage.

Case and point: Carmelo Anthony’s recent negotiation with the New York Kicks is a great example of negotiation with options.