Left on the table

Victoria Pynchon is tracing the negotiation path for her purchase of a new television via the Five Fundamental Skills for Effective Negotiation. While reading through her most recent post using Strategic Thinking, she detailed the pricing strategy she prepared to use. It got me thinking a lot about what is left on the table during a negotiation. But most importantly, it reminded me that the mere fact that you leave money/items on the table doesn’t make for a bad deal.

Let’s first define what I mean by “leaving something on the table.” Assume that you’re Victoria in her endeavor. You want three items (including tax) and your bottom line price is $3,000. But note that she says that she really ended up $150 short of that price ($3,150). Did you get a bad deal?

No. Leaving money on the table, as a sole determination of the quality of your negotiation ability (or the deal itself) is NOT an indicator of poor quality. I’m sure Victoria, as she states, will elaborate on what factors played into the decision to pay more for the same items. But there’s a real simple test to figure out whether you got a good deal.

Are you happy with the deal?

Yep, that’s it. An emotional determination. I’m sure that sounds a bit funny coming from me, especially if you’ve been following my writing for the last year. But that’s really what negotiation is all about – making a deal that you’re comfortable with. And sometimes, that means paying a bit more – trading off in price, for example – for something you know you might have been able to obtain at less cost.

So if you left money on the table, don’t despair – and don’t “post-mortem” the deal (perform an autopsy to figure out how you could’ve squeezed just a bit more out of your opponent). Rather, just be happy with the deal you accepted. [Note: If you’re not happy with the deal at the time of the negotiation, WALK AWAY.]

EXCEPTION TO THE RULE 1: That said – if you really are feeling like you got the short end of the stick, don’t fret too hard. You may have been outplayed. It happens to all of us, even professionals. But I still don’t recommend the post-mortem. Instead, learn to develop a sense of how you’re doing while the negotiation is happening. That way, if you think something is turning south, you can correct your course while it still matters. But asking yourself “what ifs” for days/weeks/months after the negotiation isn’t going to get you anywhere.

EXCEPTION TO THE RULE 2: OK, so if you REALLY were screwed – the other side lied to you during the negotiation, for example, then you have a choice. You can attempt to renegotiate, bringing everyone back to the table. This takes a lot of power, and the moxie to confront someone and accuse them of deception. But it’s not an exception to the rule if you just feel like you were screwed. Again, it is solely within your power as to whether you accepted the deal to begin with. So if it doesn’t work for you, go back to my note above and walk away.

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