Why Learn to Negotiate?

By Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute

“I’ve been successful in sales for over 30 years. And I’ve been independently recognized as a sales leader during much of that time. What can you teach me that I haven’t already learned on-the-job, from a mentor, or just done instinctively or intuitively?”

Of course, he didn’t come right out and say this. But his folded arms, arrogant attitude, cynical questions during the early part of our training session, and the forewarning I had received about him from my client – the head of training at his company – communicated this message in spades.

Negotiators are born, not made, right? Wrong.

As we start 2018, it’s worth emphasizing the crucial value all of us can gain from studying and learning how to more effectively negotiate.

1.   The Experts’ Research Proves It
I started teaching negotiation in 1995 at age 30 at Arizona State University’s College of Law. I had only been out of law school for 3 years. One of my first students was an experienced labor negotiator who had gone back to school to become a lawyer. One of his first questions to me related to my relative inexperience in business and legal negotiating.

I told him “experience does not equal expertise.” Just because he’d been negotiating for 30 years did not mean he negotiated effectively. And it certainly didn’t mean he took advantage of the experts’ proven research.

In fact, the 1981 publication of the classic Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by my law school professor Roger Fisher and his colleague Bill Ury kick-started a whole new academic field in negotiation. Since then, hundreds of professors have been doing practical research and studying this subject in the finest institutions in the world.

Bottom line – we now basically know what fundamental strategies work and what don’t work (as my regular readers know, I call these best practices the Five Golden Rules of Negotiation). That’s what we teach and train. And that knowledge and the practical implementation of that knowledge on the front-lines makes a big difference.

Plus, I told him, while he may have closed many deals, he may also have left a ton of value on the table by not putting those proven strategies into practice. And he may never have known it.

2.  Practical Implementation Requires Strategic Planning
Have you heard the phrase “practice makes perfect?” Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi modified this to say “only perfect practice makes perfect.” I agree. What is perfect practice in the negotiation field? The creation and execution of strategic negotiation plans based on the experts’ proven research.

Once you know what strategies to use, you must systematically put them into practice. That’s how you shift away from negotiating solely based on your instincts. There’s only one way to consistently and effectively do this – develop a strategic negotiation plan before the negotiation starts. The best negotiators do their strategic homework on the process, not just learn the underlying substantive facts.

Do you think that sales professional created strategic plans before picking up the telephone or meeting with potential clients? Of course not. He had a lot to learn and to put into practice.

Importantly, research confirms that strategic negotiation planning can improve negotiation results by around 20% and lead to significantly greater value being achieved by everyone (the classic “win-win”).

3.  One Move Can Make – or Break – Your Deal
Finally, there’s an almost unlimited number of variables in every negotiation. And changing just one small strategy or tactic might lead to either tremendous success or complete failure. Doesn’t it make sense to learn and use what the experts know will increase your likelihood of success?

Make a New Year’s resolution to learn and implement one new proven negotiation strategy each month. Then write it down, track its impact, and take advantage of the experts’ research.

Latz’s Lesson:  Lifelong learners and users of the experts’ proven negotiation strategies achieve the best deals.


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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