Former NBA Player & Coach Shares Negotiation Truths & Tips

By Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

I recently sat on a plane next to former NBA All Star player, head coach and long-time TV analyst Doug Collins, who has spent over 40 years negotiating with almost everyone in the NBA world. Given his unique perspective and excellent reputation, I asked him to share his keys to negotiation success in that challenging environment.

Here are a few of his nuggets.

1. Focus on your goals

Collins told me he tried to never compare his deals to other – instead soley focusing on his goals. He said he “never geared what I have gotten based on what others get.” This is especially important and unusual in a field dominated by many with significant egos, who care more about doing better than their colleagues than the extent they get their own interests satisfied.

Collins pointed to current NBA All Stars and San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as similar examples of folks who put their own goals – a team first attitude and an unwavering focus on an NBA Championship – over their individual egos. Each, according to Collins, is being paid below market compensation. Yet, each year the Spurs are in the top tier of teams competing for that NBA ring.

2. The value of truth and trust

“Everything I do is based on two words – truth and trust.” If I have a relationship with an owner or player or agent based on trust, then I can tell them the unvarnished truth. If that relationship is not based on trust, though, it can become very destructive.

This applies equally in negotiations. You can say what you want in a negotiation, but if they do not trust you are telling the truth, it is far more difficult, challenging and sometimes even impossible to get that deal done.

Collins said “trust is easily broken and hard to build, and it takes a lifetime to do it.” This is wise counsel, especially from a current broadcaster who needs coaches, players, owners, and others to trust him with their information so he can effectively do his job.

3. Basketball negotiations are extremely relational

The legendary Miami Heat President Pat Riley did not get Lebron James to Miami with the promise of money. He sold it as the best opportunity to get James that NBA Championship ring, and he delivered. Most top high school basketball players in the country do not, according to Collins, pick colleges based on the school and its environment. Instead, they choose based on the coach and their relationship with them

Many negotiations revolve around non-financial elements like the relationships between the parties. Do not underestimate the power of real relationships.

4. Analytics and numerical analysis play important roles

Some negotiations primarily rely on relationships and personal chemistry for success. Other negotiations are driven by the numbers and analytics. According to Collins, the best teams today rely on both to drive their success.

The best deals, I would argue, also depend on both for true long-term success.

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Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts’ proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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