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.
Jason: Start by assuming positive intent. Have a conversation (or 2 or 3, etc.) and use your "active listening" skills to try and understand your potential partner. Make sure to probe to get to their underlying concerns. Once you have a solid understanding of their point of view, share your own concerns with your counterpart. The two of you can then transform your relationship into one that is a problem-solving duo. When you are both on the same side approaching the problem, negotiation should become seamless because you are working toward a win-win outcome. This style generally produces the best outcomes unless your negotiating partner is a Soviet-style rat-for-tat operator who only believes in zero-sum outcomes. If this is the case find a new partner. No one wants to have a long term relationship with someone that is only out for themselves.
It sounds like the partner is not really convinced or does not fully appreciate one of the following:
1. Benefit to his/her business – You both need to be very clear about how you benefit. We get a lot of referral business. We are very clear how it works. You put a lead our way and if we sell our services we give you X% of the revenue. If you are a existing client, you can invoice us or we take it off your next bill if you prefer. So it is crystal clear how the arrangements works and how each side benefits.
2. Equity – You both benefit equally. Usually people do not want to think the other side gets more out of a deal than them. Sad but true, as this is just human nature. Win-Win is great in theory as I long as I win a little more than you! You can see from our above example this is clear. We get a new contract and you get a % of the contract so the larger the deal the bigger the introduction fee you get. Simple and equitable.
3. Mechanics – How does it work. Not sure what you are proposing to the other party but let's assume it is reciprocal business. How do you register or indicate the client has come from either party's recommendation? How do you compensate (if at all)? How do you track the client's progress?
4. Verification – How do you ensure both parties can measure the benefit? This can be a quicksand and it is best not to get too bugged down in paper chase, but make it simple and effective.
However, having said all of this you need to sell the benefit of working together to your potential partner. If they are not convinced none of the above will make any difference.
I would go back a few steps and check their understanding of the benefits, how things work, and ask if there are any areas they are unsure about or are uncomfortable with. Suggest a trial period to see how things work out and then you can both review it say in 3-6 months time. You can then iron out any issues and see if the partnership is really worth the time and effort you both will put into it.
As Mario has said, it is difficult to know without full details but I hope this at least gives you a start point.
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.
I have been in the same position so know exactly the challenge. Whilst, from your perspective it all stacks up, maybe the other side isn't quite as keen as you are - possibly they have some hidden agenda that you need to uncover and sort out, if possible. Trust is the driving force behind a partnership but is not automatic. Typically the "what's in it for me" question is always lurking in the background and depending on the size of your respective organisations it may not just be financial. Flexibility is one thing that is hard to evaluate but actually there is huge value in something as simple as taking time off for a well earned break safe in the knowledge that someone else is guarding the business.
Although I am sure you have looked at it, the increased size and broader skills of your combined sales and marketing teams may open the doors to selling more or different products or services, may also give you an opportunity to rationalise some costs.
All good positive stuff! However, the other school of thought says that if it difficult at this stage is that the right basis on which to proceed?
Difficult to be too helpful remotely, but good luck anyhow!
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.
For some strange reason I have always enjoyed working with difficult people. I like having them for customers but they can drive me a bit crazy. I enjoy having them for suppliers as long as they provide the things I need and I am fine with them as friends. Actually some of the things they do I find hilarious.
However, when it comes to a partner I would not even remotely think of having one as a partner. As it is partnerships are the worst kind of businesses. They have the highest failure rates and the lowest amount of owner gratification. To be honest I would be very hesitant to have a partner at all but a difficult one would be an absolute ( I would rather cover myself in gasoline and light it) no. No, No, No, a million no's.
Ask yourself this general question?
"HOW DO YOU FEEL about this person in general"
"Do you want to be in 'BED' with this person?" as the saying goes,
as in do you FEEL good to be in a relationship with this person regardless of how difficult he can be.
Difficult people can be at times good or bad...Look at WHY and WHAT they are difficult on..Are they things that are PETTY or SIGNIFICANT...as in
Is the person being tough on Valid points or things that don't really matter in the overall scheme of the partnership
You can tell a lot by a person on what they CHOOSE to VALUE.
If they are tough in saying "you need to get the job done within reason or expect that you do and say what you mean".."or keep within the budget"that is a Valid stance to take
but if they are difficult on things that don't really impact the business...example "The business cards don't look perfect" or "I don't work with Vegetarians or with Fun-easy going people"...then watch out..
This is a prelude to how the person will work with you in the future.
Your instincts never lie...trust them
Other thing is, you need to find people who will be there when you FAIL and experience the DARK times, and this is a guarantee...They are here to help you and not be difficult all the time. Being tough at times is fine, but not always or never-ending, it's bad energy and draining on the relationship and project. There must be a balance
Be tough when you need to be, on both sides
And Fight for the truly important things that matter to you, and are dealbreakers....
If you have 4 arguments that your party wants to win on, and out of the 4, only ONE is the most important, then fight for that ONE, and you can give or accomodate the other 3 that are not as important
Ask yourself if this person is so difficult is it worth it if you constantly have to work with them.
Is this person being difficult to get the best terms/deal for themselves?
Will you have more details in the future once the partnership is created?
How much time will this take of you?
How long is this partnership to exist?
Is this an equal investment in time and money?
Make sure you can dissolve it without penalty.
I don't know how often you will need to work with this person or how close your affiliation will be. My initial reaction is to "ease off" of this specific "person" and look for another person in the same business that is a better personality fit with you (reach out to his competitors). This particular opportunity probably has already served it's intended purpose. It has clarified exactly what you are looking for; the exact local business you are interested in aligning with; the location that you desire; the shared benefits; and even how you want to be working with a potential partner. Because you see this specific partner as being difficult and are having trouble with this person from the start (at the dating stage, the stage when people put their best foot forward) - you should see this as a sign to look for a better fitting partnership.
My recommendation is to not focus too much energy and attention on how to create a partnership with this "difficult partner". Instead - spend that energy and attention on attracting a better fitting partner in that same industry. Reach out to his competitors with the same proposal. You don't have to marry the first person you date.
Figure out a way to create a win-win for both of you. What is are the pieces that would make it a win for them and what are the ones for you. Don't settle on just one item to negotiate around...this has to, by definition, create a winner and a loser. If it's a customer, they always win so in this case you would always lose. Find multiple points to discuss and negotiate...give up some and get some. If they feel they are getting some of their desires met they are much more willing to give you some as well. If they won't or won't get past one item...walk away...it's not going to work for anyone's benefit. Let them torment someone else and you can save a lot of time and money since it will not end well.
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.
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.
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.
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."
It is hard to suggest not knowing the subject matter. It sounds like the partnership is more important to you than to him.
A generic way to negotiate is to communicate and not negotiate, meaning forget about give and take for awhile. First try to convince the other party that your idea is really his idea. I believe this can bring you to the next stage.
To build TRUST with your partner you must be very specific and honest about all expectations for both parties... I always firmly believed "relationships must work equally well for both parties in both human and financial terms...." To help with communication, productivity, and TRUST concerns, I recommend trying Life Orientations Communications or LIFO www.lifo.co
Consensus about all are agree is the first step. Second, look for the details both of you have differences, then try to accept to leave behind it or give up if don´t affect the general scenario and goals of the agreement.
It works for me, for many years, very fine.
If you can't come to a 100% agreement with both sides, so not go into a partnership, as it will be rocky from the start. My suggestion only. I would not go into business with anyone that I was in disagreement with.
I would add to simply ask yourself, WHY you asked this question to the group. I think you'll be surprised how much of your answer lies there!
That being said, communication is the most important aspect of any conversation. Be sure to also reflect on what you may (or may not) be contributing to the discussion that could affect the other's attitude about a partnership.