Negotiating to Win Bigger

Buried in his book, former FBI host negotiator Chris Voss threw a tiny idea in front of his audience like it was nothing at all. An idea that allowed both parties to get MUCH MORE from every negotiation.

It comes from recognizing the Zero sum illusion.

It comes from recognizing the difference between cost and value.

It comes from recognizing the other side is sitting down at the table because there's something they want.

It's not about making the other side lose. It's not about taking a bigger slice of the pie.

It's about building a bigger pie.

There are several ways to do this. Some borrow from future value that's created by teaming up, and promise a share of that future.

Joint ventures are an obvious example.

Typically, two or more parties splitting the profits of sharing access to a customer list. But other kinds of joint ventures can be lucrative, such as sharing the benefits of cost reduction by pooling resources.

Communication can create a bigger pie. Nothing has changed except the perception.

For example, educating a prospective client on the whole value of an investment. A value he might not have considered.

An internship, coaching, mentorship, car purchase or membership in a multi-level organization often has undisclosed benefits such as the unexpectedly high value of access to your coach, your employer and their people, resources, and fringe benefits, access to proprietary training or apprenticeship that's not normally made available to the public.

If you have a car that's less likely to crash due to an automatic braking feature, it's not just safer. It also decreases medical bills by a measurable amount, and therefore long-term insurance costs,  repair deductibles (every 5 years, on average), preventing lost work days, reduces ding and dent repair, scratches and scuffs repairs which increase overall resale value.

One safety feature might cost an extra $300, but with education alone, you might show that the feature could be worth an average of $1,500 or more over the 20-year life of the car, which (if you know your numbers) may reduce 4 minor fender-benders to less than two, if you're an average driver, saving more than $700 of repairs, lost work hours, and  per incident.

You could see how even the safest driver would benefit from the feature. You're buying money and peace of mind at a discount. And injuries aren't just lost work. They're scary, sometimes debilitating, and leaves you afraid to go out and face the world.

So that even a tiny chance of a life-threatening event should be reduced, right? THAT's why you should consider the 2017 model, even if it costs $300 more than the equivalent 2016 model.

If a lawyer can file a suit including astronomical fees for pain and suffering, then what's the cash value of that kind of peace of mind? It's huge.

Another way to communicate cost vs. value is this:

If Voss, the hostage negotiator, needs more media exposure to help sell his book, he might suggest something that costs very little, but it's very valuable to him: Appearing on the cover of a magazine, for example. Someone has to be on the cover. Why not him?

It might be valuable "real estate", so to speak, but it doesn't cost more than the paper and ink, right?

In the same way, doing a speech, he might normally charge a large appearance fee. But to deliver a talk doesn't cost him that much more than not doing the speech. But it has tremendous potential value to that magazine, if their employees find out what Voss knows about negotiating.

And because it's unlikely these 1,000 or so employees are going to read his book, even if you got each one a copy, at a cost of $25 per print. And the book isn't customized to the audience for greater relevance. And the book doesn't stay to do Q&A afterwards, either.

In other words, doing a speech accomplishes much more than buying $25,000 worth of Voss's books, right? And in less time than it takes to read the book, the most important points are delivered to the magazine. It ensures many more of the employees will read or refer to the book in the near future, and be able to use some of the tips they learn, multiplying the impact on the magazine's own negotiations.

Looking at it that way, the speech is worth many times more than the book alone. Maybe $100,000 or more to the bottom line. But it doesn't cost Voss $25,000 to provide the books and the speech. It's paper and ink, maybe a flight.

What about adding more Q&A time? An extra hour of Q&A doesn't cost more than 10 or 15 minutes worth, because all the travel time and prep time is about the same. He's already there. He can talk to each department separately and customize his answers for each one.

It doesn't cost much more to allow the company to record the talk and provide seat licenses to include it in DVD format or in the Learning Management System for new employees, annual refreshers, continuing education etc.

Each of these small, optional additions cost very little, but could increase the actual appearance value by far more than a $100,000, $200,000, or $500,000 appearance fee, which might be far greater than the hard costs and opportunity costs of putting Voss on the cover.

Nobody loses.

The readers get a better, more valuable magazine issue than they otherwise would, with an exciting story inside about how the FBI's top man reveals how he handles Liam Neeson-style "Taken" scenarios in the real world, when screw-ups cost lives, how he trained to to perform under pressure.

Which, if you think about it, could easily be relevant to many of our stressful lives, allowing Voss to be booked on morning talk shows where viewers and listeners are more interested in the emotional drama, tips on handling stress on the one of the world's most stressful jobs (without gaining weight from stress eating, for example).

Very few people on earth seem to spend much time innovating in these areas, believing it's all been figured out and never changes, but Chris Voss is one of them. His book, Never Split the Difference, was an incredible read, and proves we can continue to find new and better and more relevant ways to communicate, expand the possibilities, build value in our dealings so that nothing we negotiate degrades into the false reality of a theoretical zero sum game where someone wins and the other one loses.

Even when the winner, the FBI hostage negotiator, gives the other side nothing, and takes everything, there's always a way to increase the scope of the value and possiblity by increasing the quality of your communication.

What did he offer hostage-takers when they knew the best they could get was jail time? Well, just as Jesus came so that you'd have life, and have it more abundantly, Voss could always offer a chance to survive the sitation, to have someone listen to them, understand what they're going through, to carefully document the hostage-takers demands and make them a matter of public record, and a profound sense of relief once it's all over and you made it through to the other side ok.

Logically, those things could happen anyway, all on their own.

But if you communicate well, those things can be very cheap and easy to provide, even when you can't meet any other demands, and could be perceived as extremely valuable in a stressful moment, even priceless things a man might desperately want, and want to live for, when losing those things is the only other option.

We wouldn't be employed or be in business unless we were bringing something of far greater perceived or actual value to an employer, a client, patient or customer than what they're willing to pay.

And because that's true, our unique knowledge, access, abilities, connections, talents, and insights are cheap for this blogger to provide, but may be incredibly valuable to its reader.

If you'd like to be as valuable as you can be, and communicate in ways that create a bigger pie, make sure you're on the email list.


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