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Could You Outnegotiate Kobe?

Brian Buck
240520 Could You Outnegotiate Kobe
© Scotwork NA

You don’t have to be a basketball fan to know the name Kobe Bryant. As great of a player as he was, he was best-known for his work ethic. No one outworked him, outpracticed him, or outhustled him. He didn’t always win, but if you were going to beat Kobe, you had to be at your very best. Now, imagine Kobe as a negotiator.

Given his work ethic, if Kobe were a negotiator, could you outnegotiate him? Before you answer, let’s look at his work ethic.

There was no doubt about Kobe’s natural abilities, but he didn’t rely on talent alone. He was known for training well beyond the norm. In preparation for an NBA season, he’d train hard six hours a day, six days a week, for six months. Compare that to a typical pro, who does about five hours a day, five days a week, for about three months. Kobe was obsessed with being the best version of himself.

That said, as a negotiator, he would likely be doing a few things differently from most of us . . .

First, when not negotiating, he’d be practicing his negotiating skills. He’d run through all the typical scenarios, in addition to the situations he wasn’t comfortable with. He’d run simulations, challenging himself to find ways to be better and more efficient. When it came time to negotiate, he’d likely have already seen just about any situation that could possibly transpire — and he’d be ready.

Most professionals don’t spend that kind of time on any specific skill, let alone negotiation. They may read a book or attend a class, but their training would typically end there. For Kobe, that’s precisely when his training would begin. A class can teach you a skill, but only practice with skilled coaching can help you master a skill.

When it comes time to negotiate — game time, if you will — Kobe the negotiator would be fully prepared. He’d have analyzed the situation and his opposition. He’d have developed a game plan with contingencies. He’d be ready to deal.

Most of the professionals we see at the negotiating table don’t have that kind of discipline. They think that because they’ve played the game before, they don’t need to prepare extensively. They’ll be able to “wing it” and simply do what they did before — after all, they do this all the time. They allow familiarity to fool them into thinking they don’t need to put in the work before they’re at the negotiating table. But that familiarity can lull someone into vulnerability.

Negotiators who don’t put in the work can be outclassed by other professionals who aren’t even close to Kobe’s level. People who don’t hone their skills rely on what’s worked for them in the past or what they’re most comfortable with. Over time, their number of tools will dwindle till they may have only a single tool left in their skills toolbox. Let’s say the tool is a hammer: That hammer will work when they face nails, but what happens when they face a leaky pipe?

If you want to be a skilled negotiator, you have to work on developing your skills and continually expanding your toolbox. Kobe could’ve rested on his laurels and would’ve still been a good basketball player making a comfortable living, but that wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to be the best. He wanted to be so skilled that the only way to beat him would be by besting the master himself. We should all aspire to that as negotiators.

When we don’t take the time to prepare for a negotiation, we prepare to fail. We all know this, but what many people don’t seem to understand is that when they don’t prepare, they leave themselves susceptible to giving away value, disclosing information that weakens their position, or creating precedents that are difficult to change. And while they may get a deal, imagine how great that deal could’ve been if they’d prepared with a Kobe-like mindset.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you have a work ethic like Kobe’s or not. But know that creating great deals or living with bad ones is also up to you. Which do you choose?

We Can Help You Bring Your Best Self to the Negotiating Table.

Creating great deals or living with bad ones is up to you. Bringing in a high-level expert can help you prepare for your next negotiation like a champion. When you rely on Scotwork experts’ nearly 50 years of real-world experience, you can get the best of all possible deals.

Talk to one of our experts today.

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