I recently met Bob Saget. I had no idea what to expect. I’ve seen Bob Saget throughout the years. Bob Saget as Danny Tanner, TV Dad from Full House and Fuller House. Bob Saget as host of America’s Funniest Videos. Bob Saget stand-up comic and if you’ve seen Bob Saget’s material, it’s definitely adult humor not for your typical Fuller House audience.
As a skilled stand-up comic, Bob Saget’s opening line when he met me was the best, “Hi, I’m Bob Saget. What’s your name?” You might have expected something funnier but think about this - his opening line was disarming, humanizing, and inviting. I had no idea what to expect from him. Was he going to be all “Hollywood” and totally ignore me? Or demand to be the center of attention? Or just be a jerk? He was none of the above and his opening line set a tone that made him approachable and put me at ease. That’s what made it the best. I’m sure that was by design because while I had no idea what to expect from him, he had no idea what to expect from me and this was his way of influencing our interaction together. His opening line reminded me of the power of good opening lines in a negotiation.
I was recently in a negotiation where the other party started off our conversation by saying, “Really great to have you here. We’re excited to start working with you but there are few things we need to iron out before we can start work. We need to make some modifications to the scope and discuss options for the start date. If we can accomplish that, then we can get started.” The objectives of the conversation were clear, the tone was collaborative, and we knew what we needed to do. It helped us be very efficient in the conversation.
I can even appreciate this opening line which I recently heard in another negotiation where the other side walked in and literally said, “Ok you SOBs, it’s time to sharpen your pencils or get the hell out!” (And not in a funny way.) While that opening is sharp and the tone is harsh, we all knew why we were there and what we needed to accomplish.
Contrast that with, “I’m so glad you are here. We just want to talk about some things.” While the tone seems nice the purpose of the conversation is vague and it doesn’t setup a very efficient use of time.
Opening lines in negotiations set tone, manage expectations, and establish objectives of the conversation. They are so important to saving time and getting to deals faster.
So, be like Bob... have a strong opening line and influence the direction of your next negotiation.
Need Better Opening Lines?
In all seriousness, we see many negotiation lost in opening statements because the wrong tone is set or critical information is not shared or a variety of other missteps that damage negotiations. However, if you are purposeful and understand the strategic importance of how you open your negotiation you’ll be able to set yourself up for success.
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