When is it better NOT to negotiate?

when don't you negotiate
My mother’s idea of fun was negotiating with the Fuller Brush man (Generation X, Google it) or the gas station attendant. Even if she only got 10 gallons of gas, and not the 18 required to earn the drinking glass, she wanted it. Remember that?

My house was oddly un-American, as my mother did not think negotiating was low class or rude like most Americans did 30 years ago. I think it was her Lithuanian background. She had a “my jeans for your light bulbs” mentality.

She passed that attitude on to me, so negotiating does not embarrass me. And as a negotiation consultant, although I make my fair share of mistakes, I pretty much know what to do.

Yet, there are still people I don’t negotiate with. For example? The wonderful person who cleans my house every week. She says she wants a raise and my response is how much? What I currently pay her is the competitive rate. Even so, I still need to stop myself from offering back pay for the raise.

Why don’t I negotiate with her? Plain and simple, she has too much leverage. Does the person who cleans for you have your house key? Mine does and is often at my home while I am away. She has worked for me for 16 years and she has a waiting list of people who would offer her more money to clean their house the day I die. Yes, even my best friends would not wait for me to be in the ground before they would call her up with enticements.

Is she such an outstanding and supreme cleaner? I don’t know; noticing dirt is not my strong point. But when I watch her in action, she does seem to look for dirt without waiting to trip over it. Equally important, she is reliable and trustworthy. This is rare.

Does anything like this ever happen in the business world? We are asked for a concession and we should just say yes without attempting to get a trade? My answer will surprise the people who have attended my workshops as my mantra is, “not yes, not no, but yes, if”. Yet, there are exceptions to even this mantra. Perhaps it’s an employee that’s gold, or a supplier that is irreplaceable and doesn’t take advantage of it, or a customer that represents the majority of our sales and is a pleasure to work with.

That much leverage is uncommon and certainly the exception to the rule. Because of this, we need to read the cues of when to just say yes.

Recently I was in a negotiation where one side was acting in good faith, making concessions and seeking a solution that was good for them, but not bad for their counterpart.

The counterpart on the other hand was not reciprocating. He seemed more interested in impressing us with his expert negotiation skills than making an agreement. I honestly am not sure why, as I strongly suspect his Plan B or BATNA was not as good as what was being offered. What happened? Not surprisingly, the other side got fed up and walked out.

Knowing when to ask for more is certainly essential in a negotiation. But it’s equally important to know when to say yes.

Remember to Negotiate Smart™ (and “like” this post on LinkedIn!)

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