Should I Negotiate Everything?

Published: Apr 21 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

When I tell people what I do for a living, lots of people are intrigued, often they don’t really get what it is. I like to tell them that negotiation is the art of getting more of what you want, that seems to intrigue them more. Hopefully that turns into a business opportunity, tart that I am.

Many others are appalled and feel intense sympathy for those around me and particularly my family and friends. 

But all of them think how exhausting and time consuming it must be to be constantly looking to negotiate a better deal in every relationship all of the time.

Truth of the matter is I don’t negotiate half as often as I could, but I do recognise the opportunity to do so if I liked.

Yesterday I spent four hours in a speed awareness course as a punishment for hitting 55 mph in a variable speed area on the M25. I thought that these variable limits were not enforceable (not true), and that speed cameras would be set to the national speed limit so would not recognise variances in real time (not true either, we live in the world of the smart motorway and cameras are reset to manage road situations at the time). Two myths debunked right there.

The critical part of the course, which was not as boring as you might think, was to get people to think about the implications of speeding on others as well as yourself and recognise or become aware of the problems that reckless driving can bring.

Whilst in Britain we are one of the safest countries on the planet to drive (we are consistently in the top 3 safest countries to drive with Sweden and Canada), still around 1,750 deaths a year occur on our roads. That’s 5 people a day.

Now I think most of us are aware that driving too fast is silly, better to be late in this life than early in the next. The issue is not awareness but action. What do we do with that awareness?

That is also true of many aspects of life. I am aware of the effects of too much drinking, of not taking enough exercise or eating processed food.

So it is with negotiation. I do not spend my life in coffee shops negotiating a better deal, or extolling the value of my business to the local newsagent.

What I do is recognise when negotiation is a possibility, I am aware of the process that underpins it and what I need in order to engage with the other side, or encourage them to demonstrate interest.

Rather like being in my car, I prefer the driving seat.

Alan Smith


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Muck Shift

Just when is a deal not a deal…? I heard this story from a friend of mine the other week; there are some lessons to be learned! So, my pal is a developer and is building some houses on what is essentially a square site. Two sides of the square can be accessed from the road in a neighboring housing estate and the other two are beside a field owned by another developer. There is a huge pile of muck to shift before the actual building project; this phase is known in the trade – and not unreasonably - as a "muck-shift"! As there will be 80 -100 lorries coming in and out each day for 6 weeks, it was considered more convenient to access the site over the field, so an approach was made to the developer to discuss the terms under which he would allow access. This is a standard arrangement and the deal typically is that the field would be returned to the owner in its original condition. Developer makes a bit of money, where otherwise he wouldn’t; homeowners in the adjoining estate are less inconvenienced; builder does not need to spend money cleaning the streets and getting them back to a usable state at the end of the project. Win-win.

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