Category Archives: negotiation

As the year draws to a close

Hopefully, most of you are done with work for the year.  But for those of you about to close end of year, firesale-type deals in the remaining 6 days of the year (the end of the year is even a Thursday, so you don’t have to “work” a weekend if this is your fate), here is a list of articles on how to get the most out of your transaction time:

Start with fundamentals on negotiation.  Think outside the box.

Then go through the basics on firesales.  If you want more, buy the Firesale Concall Recording.

Understand pricing, and when it might pay to avoid maintenance costs.

Start your deals from good templates.

And, lastly, consider the reasons for agreeing to renegotiating deals.

To my faithful readers: Thank you for listening to me for another year.  I hope you have a very joyous holiday season and a happy New Year.  See you in 2010 (unless something really awesome in the licensing world happens between now and then).

The Numbers All Go To Eleven

A few years ago, I got into a little issue at work.  I had found that my negotiation dial could go all the way to 11.  Being the Type-A person that I was, I learned how to crank it to 11 on a regular basis.  And like the child whose mother warns him to not make that face because it’ll freeze like that, sure enough, I got to a point where I couldn’t turn it off.

No, I don’t mean dial it down, I mean turn it off at all.  There was no 0.  Oh, and 11 became the new 1.  Which meant that there were even higher and much more intense levels above 11, too.  It took about a month for it to impact my then-new marriage.  A few days later, folks at work started to bristle, too.  Uh oh.

With some patience, time and a little vacation, I reset my meter – only this time, 0 was 100% off and 5 was the new 10.  Guess what?  I didn’t lose any effectiveness at all.  I was able to accomplish the exact same results as before – only this time, I didn’t piss people off in the process.

As with anyone who has undergone this type of behavioral transformation, it makes me more sensitive to others’ similar behavior.  So when I see a slew of articles recently on negotiating everything from a raise to a new car or better ISP rates, I think back to being “at 11” and wonder about when it’s ok to NOT negotiate.

It’s ok.  I really did just say “not negotiate.”  And I meant it, too.  (The world is not coming to an end.  I promise.)  There just happen to be times when it’s absolutely recommended to simply agree with the other party and take what they offer in the form in which it’s offered.

The question, of course, is: “When?”

Well – it’s up to you.  But I recommend agreement without negotiation when the proposed solution/offer/etc is:

  1. Within your means to provide.
  2. Within your previously-considered range of acceptable offers.
  3. Not necessarily going to create a precedent that you’ll be tied to in the future.

Does this mean you might pay a little more?  Maybe.  Do a little more?  Maybe.  Get a little less?  Maybe.

In exchange, you’ll keep your sanity… and your friends.  Those are way more important than “winning” every negotiation.

[My apologies to Nigel and Spinal Tap for the stolen quote as the topic.]

What Can’t You Not Do?

Over on her Ask a Manager blog, Alison Green today discussed those personality traits which force you into certain behaviors, resulting in career choices that are almost imperatives.  It’s an interesting thought – are there things that you MUST do to satisfy your own internal itch?  But then I started thinking about how that would affect the world of negotiation and it ties back into a conversation thread that’s been started many times: are certain people more predisposed to being better negotiators?  And, on the flip side, are there people who shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be the negotiator for your firm/organization/self?

Typical negotiation trainers (Karrass, for example) predicate their training materials on the belief that anyone can learn how to negotiate.  Even my favorite professional negotiator, Herb Cohen promises in his book that “You, too, can negotiate anything!”.  But don’t let the razzle-dazzle fool you.  The honest truth is that while everyone can learn techniques to increase their negotiation skills, not everyone can be a good negotiator.

“Wait!” you yell at me – “YOU offer negotiation training, too.  Aren’t you just taking people’s money like everyone else?”  Woah.  I’m not rendering judgment on the value of the service offered by negotiation trainers… lots of the material learned in these courses is excellent stuff.  Heck, even bad negotiators can improve by learning my Five Fundamental Skills for Effective Negotiation.  What I’m saying is that a prospective negotiator needs to be introspective enough to know whether they’re a good negotiator (and sometimes, it’s even case-specific).

So then, what makes someone NOT a good negotiator?  Well, as I just said, it can sometimes be case-specific – I, for example, shouldn’t negotiate the purchase of my own house or car… I’m too emotionally invested in the result.  But more generically, bad negotiators are:

  • ignorant (choosing to be without knowledge – would rather shoot from the hip)
  • overly-emotional (it’s one thing to be “disappointed” in a result… another to be “sad”)
  • hot-tempered (NEVER lose your cool – in fact, keeping cool when the other side is purposefully pushing your buttons is a great skill to have)
  • impatient (negotiations can take a LOT of time and you have to be willing to wait things out)
  • know-it-alls (the flip-side of ignorance is just as dangerous)

What am I saying, then, if you have these tendencies?  Well – either alter your personality (which proves quite hard for the bulk of the population) or find someone else to do the negotiating.  Remember that bullying someone (which is what a lot of these traits manifest as during a negotiation) won’t get you what you desire and might leave you worse off than when you started.

Oh – you don’t like the implication that everyone can’t be a great negotiator?  Blast me in the comments.

The Power (and Value) of “No”

Yes/No.  Yin/Yang. Right/Wrong.  It seems as if there are a lot of ways to say that in many decisions, we have two basic potential responses (and many other shades of gray in between).  Answering “Yes” almost always involves more work, more responsibility and more hassle.  So why don’t we choose “No” more often?

As human beings, there is research to suggest that we want to generally appease others at a very fundamental level.  This isn’t about conflict management, it’s simply about survival and the power that comes with “the return of the favor.”  It’s even got a political science term that sounds awfully legal: “social contract” – that the individual give up some flexibility of behavior in favor of the larger societal good.  But realize that there is a quid pro quo here, we expect something in return.

It’s important, however, to learn the power and value of saying “No.”

At your individual level, “No” might mean that you have more time to devote to your already-full plate of things you’ve said “yes” to. At the societal level, “No” means that you are recognizing participatory limitations – that you believe that you have already contributed (or are contributing) to the “group” (however you would like to define it at that particular moment). Without realizing it, you actually do a form of “hedonistic calculus” to determine the effect of saying No and formulate defenses in the event you’re challenged.

But it’s not wrong to say No – and there are a lot of benefits to saying “No” with compassion and clarity.

While you may be refusing someone something that they want, and as I reminded someone the other day, you’re no good to anyone (including yourself) if you’re not able to do what you have already committed to do.  Saying “No” is a defense mechanism and allows you the ability to regulate your workload.  But, it’s also a starting point (as pointed out by Jim Camp in “Start with No!”) in that only if you say “No” do you have a place to begin a conversation.

Which means that from a negotiation perspective, “No” is a wonderful way to begin when asked for any settlement.  Camp believes that it’s the ONLY starting point – and he says on his website that starting with no is to “gain control of the deal.”  Whether you believe that’s true (or even if you want control of the deal), he is right that without saying “No”, there isn’t a conversation or negotiation at all – saying “yes” is merely a statement of agreement.

Saying “No”, however, doesn’t have to be done in a mean spirited manner and doesn’t have to be used with force.  Rather, the manner in which you say “No” can convey almost any conceivable emotion and can even foster a reciprocal compassion for your need/desire to say “No.”  For example, I was asked the other day to complete some new work for an old client on a quick-turnaround basis.

I responded saying that while I wanted to complete their project, I didn’t have time to get it done on their schedule because I was going on a babymoon with my wife.  In other words, I said “No.”  But of course, I didn’t only say “No.”  My next sentence was to give them the option for me to complete the project upon my return.  When they learned that my wife and I were expecting and because they understood the desire to take a last vacation before the baby arrived, they were sympathetic to my reason for saying No – and in fact, their time schedule really wasn’t as inflexible as they first made it appear.  In the end, I will get to enjoy my babymoon, I will complete their work promptly upon my return and they’ll have their needs met as well. [By the way, the ability to say No is founded upon proper use of Information Gathering skills.]

By saying “No” I was actually able to get everyone what they wanted.  Try it yourself and let me know how it works in the comments!

The Licensing Handbook Blog is the companion site to the Software Licensing Handbook. Covering licensing topics on a regular basis, Jeffrey Gordon attempts to offer advice, add humor and sometimes even a bit of wit to a practice that most people find abhorrent – namely, reading a contract from start to finish.  Follow me on Twitter if you want up-to-the-minute information on contracting, licensing, negotiation and the law.

New Client Availability

I have a single vacancy in my client list that I’m looking to fill.

My clients are typically organizations that fall into one of three obvious categories:

  1. small organizations who need a contract negotiator for individual large deals;
  2. medium-sized organizations seeking to create a contract management team; and,
  3. large organizations who can benefit from strategic advice to bolster their internal staff resources.

So, if you or your organization have been considering contract renegotiation strategies or mitigation work based on risk management assessments, now might be a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the current economic situation.  Additionally, I can provide a VMO-in-a-box (the creation of all things necessary for the implementation of a vendor management office) or simply act as a sounding board to make sure that you’re extracting all of the value possible from each deal.

Contact me today if you’d like to use my knowledge to your advantage.

The Licensing Handbook Blog is the companion site to the Software Licensing Handbook. Covering licensing topics on a regular basis, Jeffrey Gordon attempts to offer advice, add humor and sometimes even a bit of wit to a practice that most people find abhorrent – namely, reading a contract from start to finish.  Follow me on Twitter if you want up-to-the-minute information on contracting, licensing, negotiation and the law.

This Week on The Web 2009-10-11

These are the discussions that happened around the web this week – maybe you already read about them, maybe you need to again.  Come join the party on twitter (follow me here and you’ll participate in the conversation live.)

I also realized that many of you might have no idea what you’re seeing below.  Sorry.  These are “tweets”, 140 maximum character messages sent via Twitter.  Within the Twitterverse individual users follow others and have followers (think of it like overlapping Venn diagram circles).  To read a tweet, you have to wade through a bit of jargon used to make the most of the 140 character limitation.  “RT” for example, is shorthand for “Re-tweet” and the @____ is the username of some other individual on Twitter.  Combined together, then, “RT @_____” means that someone else wrote a tweet that I found important and I now want to forward along to my followers.  The URL’s are then also shortened by shortening services like bit.ly to make the most of the character limitation, too.  Lastly, you might see “hash” identifiers “#______” which are ways to tag tweets of a particular flavor for easy searching later and “<” which means that I am commenting on what came before it.

This Week on The Web 2009-10-04

These are the discussions that happened around the web this week – maybe you already read about them, maybe you need to again.  Come join the party on twitter (follow me here and you’ll participate in the conversation live.)

I also realized that many of you might have no idea what you’re seeing below.  Sorry.  These are “tweets”, 140 maximum character messages sent via Twitter.  Within the Twitterverse individual users follow others and have followers (think of it like overlapping Venn diagram circles).  To read a tweet, you have to wade through a bit of jargon used to make the most of the 140 character limitation.  “RT” for example, is shorthand for “Re-tweet” and the @____ is the username of some other individual on Twitter.  Combined together, then, “RT @_____” means that someone else wrote a tweet that I found important and I now want to forward along to my followers.  The URL’s are then also shortened by shortening services like bit.ly to make the most of the character limitation, too.  Lastly, you might see “hash” identifiers “#______” which are ways to tag tweets of a particular flavor for easy searching later and “<” which means that I am commenting on what came before it.

This Week on The Web 2009-09-28

These are the discussions that happened around the web this week – maybe you already read about them, maybe you need to again.  Come join the party on twitter (follow me here and you’ll participate in the conversation live.)

I also realized that many of you might have no idea what you’re seeing below.  Sorry.  These are “tweets”, 140 maximum character messages sent via Twitter.  Within the Twitterverse individual users follow others and have followers (think of it like overlapping Venn diagram circles).  To read a tweet, you have to wade through a bit of jargon used to make the most of the 140 character limitation.  “RT” for example, is shorthand for “Re-tweet” and the @____ is the username of some other individual on Twitter.  Combined together, then, “RT @_____” means that someone else wrote a tweet that I found important and I now want to forward along to my followers.  The URL’s are then also shortened by shortening services like bit.ly to make the most of the character limitation, too.  Lastly, you might see “hash” identifiers “#______” which are ways to tag tweets of a particular flavor for easy searching later and “<” which means that I am commenting on what came before it.

This Week on The Web 2009-09-20

These are the discussions that happened around the web this week – maybe you already read about them, maybe you need to again.  Come join the party on twitter (follow me here and you’ll participate in the conversation live.)

I also realized that many of you might have no idea what you’re seeing below.  Sorry.  These are “tweets”, 140 maximum character messages sent via Twitter.  Within the Twitterverse individual users follow others and have followers (think of it like overlapping Venn diagram circles).  To read a tweet, you have to wade through a bit of jargon used to make the most of the 140 character limitation.  “RT” for example, is shorthand for “Re-tweet” and the @____ is the username of some other individual on Twitter.  Combined together, then, “RT @_____” means that someone else wrote a tweet that I found important and I now want to forward along to my followers.  The URL’s are then also shortened by shortening services like bit.ly to make the most of the character limitation, too.  Lastly, you might see “hash” identifiers “#______” which are ways to tag tweets of a particular flavor for easy searching later and “<” which means that I am commenting on what came before it.

Contracting as a Specialty

I have written before on how a contracts professional can justify their position within an organization.  One of the hardest groups to convert to your way of thinking, however, can be lawyers.  It’s interesting when you can get the lawyers to admit this because they are well aware of the value of specialization and the nature of what is taught in law school.  For those of you not graced by the opportunity to spend at least three years of your life burrowing into the method of how to “think like a lawyer”, please allow me to explain.

Law school creates generalists.  Your curriculum usually spends 1.5 years on the 10 basic classes: Criminal Law/Procedure, Civil Law/Procedure, Constitutional Law (usually long enough to require 2 separate courses), Torts, Evidence, Legal Writing and Contracts.  The rest of that second year and part of the third is usually focused on electives: tax, business, alternative dispute resolution, intellectual property, etc.  The last part of the third year (distributed in part of the second and third years, actually) is almost always some sort of practicum or clinic experience along with some trial advocacy skills and legal ethics.

So at the end of this endurance test, newly minted lawyers have had exactly ONE class on most of the various subject matters that they’ll encounter in practice.  This is pretty frightening to some if you consider that some new lawyers immediately hang their own shingle and go into practice for themselves.  Contrary to the educational system of the past, then, these lawyers now have to learn on the job with live clients.

This is true of contracting.  If they took an elective on contract drafting, then fine, they had two classes.  But still – a sum total of 1 academic year of discussion on contract theory and drafting is not a lot when you consider the vast nature of the space.  Software licensing, hardware purchase agreements and other tech-related contracts are but one type of contract.  Services agreements, nondisclosure agreements, regulatory-related agreements and others add to the mix (and we haven’t even talked about things like Statements of Work or other more business-y agreements).

Add to this the fact that contracting doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  Contract negotiations are the method by which two or more parties come together to agree on the needed and acceptable language.  Negotiation is but one facet of alternative dispute resolution – and again, unless taken as an elective, hasn’t necessarily been formally taught to a law student.

All this is to say that it makes sense that contract professionals exist in this world as a specialty service.  In fact, some contract professionals even only specialize in one type of contractual agreement.  Lawyers should therefore: a) not assume that their law degree grants them the knowledge to automatically operate in this space without additional training; and b) remember that specialization is a hallmark of the law business – so they shouldn’t be afraid of seeking assistance from contracting specialists when they’re approached for this type of service.

Lawyers in the crowd may be booing me at this point, but wait!  All is not lost.  There is VALUE in using specialists to do this work for you:

  • First, is that top-tier contract professionals aren’t cheap.  We don’t bill at the rate of a DC Partner, but we’re not giving work away, either.
  • Second, contract professionals are efficient.  It takes me, on average, about an hour to read and redline two-to-four pages of dense material.
  • Third, contract professionals have their eye on the prize.  We’ve seen enough deals (because this is what we do) to know what’s really important and what can be passed over.  We know when to fight and when to concede.

Combined together, this means that your average specialist takes less time to produce more quality work – and what’s billed is still “acceptable” to both sides.  Lawyers and law firms alike should remember that they don’t need to go it alone (regardless of whether they’re in-house or out in the world).  Contracts professionals aren’t trying to be lawyers (even if a contract professional or two happens to be one) – they just want to be contracting specialists… and they can help a lawyer spend their time more efficiently and effectively, too.