How do you negotiate with difficult people?
I am working on a partnership with another local business to benefit each others' sales. While we are aligned on where we see the benefits to both of our businesses, I feel the potential partner is being difficult on some of the details. I don't want to stop the discussions, as a partnership will definitely help both of us, but I am struggling over how to work with this person.
Being difficult can be a relative opinion. What seems difficult to you may not be difficult to someone else. I have two pieces of advice. Hopefully, one of them will be of service to you.
1. Assess what exactly you feel is the difficulty working with this other business? Are they demanding? Are they just very committed to their way of thinking? Do they see the arrangemet the same way you do or are they fixated on their own benefits? Being preceived as being difficult is an emotional judgement. It may not be what they are asking for but how they are asking that has you questioning the relationship.
2. Understand exactly what you want out of this arrangement. Be very clear on what you will do and what you need as a result. As long as you get what you feel is the result you need to make this partnership worthwhile, stay focused on that. I see way too many business owners getting wrapped up in 'red herrings'; things that sound or look important but mean very little to the result they want.
Recognizing that the other party's interactions may be more of a style issue than anything that really impacts your benefits will enable you to conduct yourself in a real business like manner. Staying focused on the tangibles of what you want and what you will do to get it, keep the emotions out of it. If you conduct all your business dealings like this, you will be surprised at how differently people will treat you.
Sound as if it s a problem of percentage. You probably need help with projections to get to a fair deal.
It sounds to me like the issue is one of two things. First I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they mean well and have good intentions. If this is the case there's a few factors causing them to be difficult.
1. They may have never thought about doing Business in the way you're trying to do Business with them so they have no clue as to how to know if something is fair or not.
2. They're still in that phase where they're too shy to say what they want out of fear of offending you and turning you away from the whole deal.
3. They feel overwhelmed by all the micro details and don't know where to begin with wrapping their brain around them.
In this instance the best thing to do is to come up with 10 sales scenarios to cover different aspects of how things could go and fill in the details for them each with maybe 3 different options just to show a range on what things can look like on their end. Also let them know those options are just hypothetical for the sake of closing the gaps to show how the mechanism will work.
What this does is allow them to see the bigger picture of a situation and how it will work, which helps them get their heads around it. It also shows how different percentages will average out in the end, which will help them determine whether or not the numbers are fair. Then having a variety of figures and telling them they're just hypothetical will show them the floor is open as well as the fact that you don't mind them making decent money, which will help them lower their guard and start saying what they want.
Now if they're NOT an honest person with good intentions, you'll be able to tell by the way they're going about everything. Some red flags to look for are
1. Getting frustrated with you in an attempt to intimidate you out of focusing on the details.
2. No matter how much you ask the same questions to try to dig deeper into the deal they continue to give you a vague multi pronged explanation of their terms that sounds like it means one thing on the surface but can technically mean quite a few things depending on the situation.
3. Act like you're trying to do too much and talk to you like you're being silly and subliminally suggest they're on the verge of calling the whole thing off to try to push you away from wanting solid criteria.
4. Doing pretty much anything that avoids having to make crystal clear obligations to the situation while putting all the risks on your end of the deal.
If you're noticing any of these trends BACK OUT NOW!!!!... it's not worth the headache of having to try to out think every loophole they try to create for theirself. That alone will absorb 98% of your brain power on a daily basis and there's more important things to focus on than how to out-weasel a weasel.
Send them fresh flowers. Psychology when someone had a chip on their cold shoulder. Don't forget the card. This works well in the East
Try to look at obstacles as opportunities - seriously. Also, people can be difficult for personal reasons or professional reasons, and it helps to figure out the "motivation" they have.
And, last but not least, learn 3-4 of the top techniques to ferret out the baseline message you're hearing. For example, there's a technique called the "Columbo" based on the old Peter Falk TV detective, in which you state back to the person you're speaking with what you understand they were saying, and where you're confused, e.g. "Bill, if you will, help me out here as I'm a little lost. In January you said X and that the motivation was to improve expense control and cut costs in manufacturing, but what I'm hearing you say now is blah blah blah. What has changed? Or Help me to understand how we nail down the true objective."
I love some of the answers here but I will say that incorporating Interest-Based Bargaining into my business dealings is one of the most useful things I have done.
One of the principles of Interest based bargaining is that there is usually a reasonable concern at the heart of an unreasonable request or stance. If you feel it is worth it go find out what it is, address it in an agreement and it will be stronger an more sustainable because of your efforts.
First, go through the exercise of stripping away attitudes and uncomfortable feelings to see what is at the heart of your discomfort with this potential partner.
You say that you are aligned on benefits but feel the partner is being difficult on the details.
What is at the heart of your discomfort?
Is it a fear that they will ultimately want more than their fare share? If so Ali has added some great ideas for nailing down difficult details.
Is it the process itself, are you afraid that it will just take up too much of your time? Many businesses have failed becuse they failed to plan. Details are important, so be prepared to put in some reasonable time up front.
Create documentation that addresses your legitimate concerns and you will have a stronger more sustainable partnership. Sometimes just deciding to focus on something changes your attitude. you may find that some of their ideas do have merit.
If after going through this exercise with yourself you still perceive this person as difficult, consider whether the benefits support your further efforts. If they don't then drop the idea of a partnership. However, if the benefits are worth it, use the Active Listening suggested by Scott and try and get at what interest is at the heart of their seemingly unreasonable requests.
Strip everything else away and you may find that they have some concerns that need to be addressed in a written agreement.
This is one way to come up with a win-win agreement.
I had a partner who used to say "Tell me what you need and I will just tack what I need onto the price and market your services"
They were dead serious because they wanted me motivated to do the work and they wanted a sustainable long term relationship where we could both make money and were excited to be in the partnership.
If the big picture is agreed upon then the details shouldn't matter. Don't let the micro's stand in the way of the macro's. List out the details where there is disagreement with potential solutions written beside it. Weigh out all the solutions using bottom line as the moderator. The bottom line needs to be the winner in all cases unless strategic value or some other justifiable reason comes to play that you are both willing to pay for.
Richard Stern-I suggest you consider changing the Partnership to a Joint Venture.
Partnerships end up with each party assuming many things.
Joint Venture is very "specific" as to each party's participation in the project.
Furthermore, in your presentation you can illustrate the specific benefits to each party by working together.
Specifics change the m\narrative.
Great question, along with so good practical responses.
Each person is different, each of us respond differently to the same situation and pressures. I don;t know how long this partnership has been going, nor how long you have known each other.
The first thing that I can see from your question is that you don't trust him.
You think or believe that he is holding back in someway. therefore you are somewhat suspicious . It may be right, or it may be just in your head.
My suggestion is to arrange a "Review"'' meeting.
I do this with my partner's as I am working with 3 different partnerships. We do this each Qtr.
At this meeting we first bring out all of the positives. Each from their own prospective.
If you can see that the positives are sqwed more your way, I would then open up some discussions as to how you can both work on a strategy to balance it out.
If it looks balanced, you can then move to discussing the next strategy, and reach an agreement regarding sharing the workload..
If there are any concerns, they will come up, as long as you are both sitting on the same side, looking at what is happening together.
You know it may just be that you are moving to fast for your partner, and he is overwhelmed, unsure what to do or how to cope.
There are many reasons why people react as they do.
Just keep smiling, ignore their attitude solve their problems if you can or forward to senior level.
Don't lose your temper and avoid argument with them.