On Mother’s Day I shared a communication tip that my mom taught me early in life. Today, on Father’s Day, I’m going to show you a negotiation technique my dad used very effectively and one that I still use today in almost every single business negotiation and trial. Regardless of what you do for a living or what you’re trying to accomplish, you can use this same approach to get the results you’re looking for.
Before I get started, let me first wish all the dads out there a wonderful Father’s Day. I hope everyone had a relaxing Sunday. Here’s a picture of my dad teaching me to go big or go home. Looking at it always puts a smile on my face.
Yesterday in the Jackson household, we started off the day with a big family breakfast. In the early afternoon, my daughter babysat for neighbors down the street and my son went to the beach with friends. This gave me a chance to kick back, watch a bit of the U.S. Open and write this post. Tonight it’s dinner at my in laws and then a sunset walk on the beach. Should be an outstanding day.
Back to sharing my dad’s communication tip…
Dad was very good at making a point and getting things done the way he wanted them done. He was the owner of the Saddle and Surrey Guest Ranch and an accomplished business man, cowboy and outdoorsman. Dad was very active in the local community through Rotary and the Tucson Chamber of Commerce and generally well known in the hotel industry.
What I always noticed about my dad, especially when I was trying to negotiate a new horse, motorcycle, or what time I had to be home at the end of a long night, was that he always was able to structure our conversation or negotiation it to either an A or B solution. When I watched him doing business with others, I’d listen to him take a complicated and convoluted issue and present it to the other person such that the answer was either A or B.
Framing issues and solutions
If you’re able to frame issues and guide your potential customer to either A or B, you’ve made the decision making process easier for the other person You’ve taken away options, and you’ve narrowed the choices the other person has to make. The bottom line is that you have increased your chances of getting the result you want by structuring your argument and solution to two simple choices. Do this correctly and both choices (A or B) can actually benefit you in different ways.
When I’m trying cases, I work hard to reduce the number of final options on an issue or outcome from A, B, C, D… to just A and B. Eliminating options reduces the chances of an unfavorable result. Preferring outcome A but having an alternative outcome B that you can live with increases the ability to maximize a desired outcome for my client.
Begin with the end in mind
So how do you do this? Looking back, my dad use to start with the end result in mind. He did this by asking himself exactly what is it that he wanted to accomplish? What was his desired outcome?
Once you get this clear in your mind, think about what the perfect final outcome might be (outcome A) and then give some thought to outcome B, a less desirable but doable outcome (less units sold, lower price…) that you could live with but would not be your first choice.
Next, think about the two top outcomes the other person, side, or in my case, opposing counsel would like to see happen. Carefully review these two main outcomes the other side is looking for and modify them to accommodate your option B. Tweak what you think their desired outcome would be with factors in your control that you can change and manipulate to close the deal or get what you want. Combine the above and this is your ideal option B.
Use the 5 step approach
Now, when you enter negotiations or give your presentation to an audience or in my case, a jury, I communicate my message using the 5 step approach such that when I get to my final two desired options, nine times out of ten, they are the only two options that my jury will consider and act upon.
Design your message in a matter of fact way such that when you are done with the presentation, your audience will not even consider any alternatives other than A or B. Do this as well as my dad did and the other side won’t even realize that options other than the two you share might actually be available. What I’ve noticed is that in most cases, your audience will simply frame their impression and understanding of the issues you condition them to consider.
Good communicators and negotiators learn how to frame issues and arguments that take the other side down predetermined path A or path B. The important secret is to appreciate and understand that these options are by design and not by accident.
While growing up, I successfully negotiated many different kinds of deals with my dad. Looking back, I now appreciate the fact that little negotiation actually ever took place. With a smile on his face, dad played me like cheap violin.
[ Note- If you find yourself on the receiving end of this type of negotiation approach, immediately re-frame the issues by suggesting additional outcomes. This not only throws the other person off balance, but it also expands the number of directions and outcomes your negotiation can take.]