Relative Size

During adolescence, in the middle of dozens of arguments with parents, children always look for a trump card.  They haven’t usually been taught (or have yet learned) that “proper” arguing is not an attempt to hurt someone or even to gain power over someone.  So they look for phrases they can use to wound.  I believe the current and historical leader is “I hate you!”

However, I’m adopted, and we have a thermonuclear weapon-style trump card in these battles.  Adopted children can tell their parents that “you can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my real parents.”  It’s a tactic/ploy that only possibly works once – but it’s quite effective at the time (if relationship damage is the goal).

If/when you work for a large organization and you’re in the middle of a negotiation, every once and awhile, you’re also tempted to whip out a trump card.  A phrase you can say which will simply put the other side “in their place” and remind them who is in charge of the deal.

For large organizations, that phrase is “We’re an $xxM/B company.  You can either accept my suggestion or I can turn to one of the hundred other customers/suppliers waiting to talk with me.”

I’ll admit it… I used the phrase once.  And yes, I got my way.  But ultimately, I hurt the relationship and the lesson I learned was the business version of the personal lesson from childhood.  Hurting the other side, thus hurting the relationship, is never the goal of an argument or a negotiation.  The goal should be to work together to successfully meet the needs of both sides and solve the (business) problem.  If the only way you can get your needs met is to use puffery, then perhaps the deal was not meant to be… and you should walk away.

Oh… and if you’re going to use this verbal weapon, you might also want to make sure you really have the relative size compared to your opponent.  Sony is currently learning this.


One thought on “Relative Size

  1. charlie

    What is important as you stated is to be able to derive value add from the discussion an out of the relationship..

    In any vendor relationship size matters but so does the ability of the person sitting across the table to actively manage his accounts and customers . Seeing that we ( customers)are treated fairly and that escallations are not required and that I have that one go to guy.

    it’s not that I don’t keep separation on certain topics or areas , it’s that if I get in a bind and I need something relatively quick and they have to jump through hoops get something that my CIo or CTO have asked for. that is a value add and I can hold thoughs cards for a later day..

    simular if I get a call to help a vendor in a discussion with another tech group, I assist as neccessary to get those free get me some help cards.. the deal doesn’t stop once the ink has dried.


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