The recent collapse in Franco-Australian relations following the new Aukus security pact got me thinking about how an erosion of trust can sour once amicable relationships. When France and Australia are back at the negotiating table, how is that likely to play out? Not well, I’d venture. People have long memories — betray their trust and you may lose them completely. At the very least, you’ll spend an unnecessary amount of time and effort winning them back.
“Trust me.” How often have you heard that said by the other side during a negotiation? The last time I heard it without flinching was about three years ago. I was closing out a sponsorship deal with a long-standing client for a rather well-known event at a Swiss ski resort (yes, that one). My client had verbally agreed to the deal and asked me to hold the opportunity for her while she closed things out internally. This was a problem. We had to secure a venue or risk losing out, but had no signed contract for the sponsorship.
“Trust me,” she said. “We do this every year, and it’ll be fine.” I negotiated hard with my own finance team and eventually persuaded them to agree to commit to the venue. Two weeks later, my client pulled out of the deal. Her budget had been cut, but she didn’t want to lose the opportunity, so she didn’t tell me the whole truth. Fortunately, I found another sponsor, but we didn’t work with the other client after that.
What I learned is that just saying, or hearing, “Trust me” isn’t enough. Trust must be earned, and while this isn’t always easy, there are a few tried-and-true strategies that can help you along the way.
- Structure expectations from the outset. Nobody likes nasty surprises, so endeavor to be open and upfront from the get-go about what you are looking to achieve from the negotiation. And if there’s bad news — budget cuts, for example! — that you need to share, do this early too. If it’s going to be a deal-breaker, better to find out at the start rather than wasting both parties’ time. You’ll retain your credibility and their trust for the next time you meet.
- Share more information, particularly about your own needs and priorities. All too often, our default position is to hold our cards close to our chest. Why? Because deep down, we don’t trust the other party, and we’re afraid they’ll use the information we give them against us. In my experience, this is rarely the case. In fact, the opposite tends to happen. If my client had shared her budget challenges, would I have simply told her to take a hike? No, I’d have tried to work with her to find a way forward that we could both accept.
- Know your limits. It’s really easy to compromise your position when you don’t know or have a limit. Oftentimes, people will comply with a “trust me” request because they haven’t set boundaries or don’t understand the implications of the request. It’s much easier to trust someone when you know what it is that you can and can’t do for them.
So, the next time someone asks you to trust them in a negotiation, ask yourself whether they have earned that trust. If not, get them to work a little harder before committing to the deal.
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As we all know, erosion of trust can sour once amicable relationships, especially at the negotiating table. People have long memories — betray their trust and you may lose them completely. We can help! Drawing on 46 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.