1: In 1977, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat strikingly advanced the Egypt-Israel peace treaty negotiations when he made a surprise speech to the Israeli Knesset.
As negotiators, there is a lesson we can learn from this dramatic gesture: Be aware of opportunities to pivot to non-monetary terms.
The FBI’s former chief hostage negotiator, Chris Voss, notes that this “generous gesture that did not involve making any actual concessions but did signify a big step toward peace.”
Too often, we get hung up on “How much?” Chris observes.
A better strategy is to not focus on numbers in isolation.
“That leads to bargaining, a series of rigid positions defined by emotional views of fairness and pride,” he writes. “Negotiation is a more intricate and subtle dynamic that that.”
Some items are often important to one side but not the other. And vice versa.
Since knowing what might be important to the other side is sometimes tricky, Chris recommends “throwing out examples to start the brainstorming process.”
“Not long ago I did some training for the Memphis Bar Association,” he writes. “Normally, for the training they were looking for, I’d charge $25,000 a day. They came in with a much lower offer that I balked at.
The conversation took a turn for the better when they offered to do a cover story about Chris in the association magazine.
“For me to be on the cover of a magazine that went out to who knows how many of the country’s top lawyers was priceless advertising,” he writes.
“They had to put something on the cover anyway, so it had zero cost to them, and I gave them a steep discount on my fee.
“I constantly use that as an example in my negotiations now when I name a price,” he writes. “I want to stimulate my counterpart’s brainstorming to see what valuable non-monetary gems they might have that are cheap to them but valuable to me.
An added benefit for Chris? His mom was really proud of it!
2: Another smart negotiation strategy? Surprise the other side with a gift.
“Unexpected conciliatory gestures like this are hugely effective because they introduce a dynamic called reciprocity,” Chris notes. “The other party feels the need to answer your generosity in kind. They will suddenly come up on their offer, or they’ll look to repay your kindness in the future.”
3: One final recommendation from Chris: Be pleasantly persistent on non-financial terms.
“Pleasant persistence is a kind of emotional anchoring that creates empathy,” he notes, “and builds the right psychological environment for constructive discussion.”
The more we engage in discussion around non-financial terms, the more likely we will learn the full range of their options.
If the other side can’t meet our non-financial requests, they may counter with more money.
One of Chris’s students had been born in France. “She kept asking—with a big smile—for an extra week of vacation beyond what the company normally gave. She was ‘French,’ she said, and that’s what French people did.
“The hiring company was completely handcuffed on the vacation issue, but because she was so darned delightful, and because she introduced a non-monetary variable into the notion of her value, they countered by increasing her salary offer.”
Reflection: Consider an upcoming negotiation. Brainstorm what non-financial terms are more important to me than the other side, and vice versa.
Action: Make a list of the items above.