The fine art of negotiation: It never goes out of style.

Harvey Mackay
Harvey Mackay

Many people in business know about Harvey Mackay.  The chairman of Twin Cities-based MackayMitchell Envelope Company became famous as the author of the book Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, and six subsequent business best-sellers.

In the years following the release of his first book, Mackay became something of a business guru in the same mold as General Electric retired chairman and CEO Jack Welch.

The advice of these two men, borne out of their experiences in the corporate world, was a refreshing change of pace from the pronouncements of other authors who speak from their perches in academia.

In recent times, the thoughts and ideas of “sages” like Mackay and Welch might seem to some a little old-school – even quaint.  But I don’t think that’s the case.

Take Mackay’s thoughts on the art of negotiation.  The other day, I came across some points on that topic that Mackay first put forward about 20 years ago.  Reading through his points now, the advice seems as valid today as it was back then.

As for particular “do’s” and “don’ts” of the art of negotiating, here are a few points that Mr. Mackay makes:

  • Never accept any proposal immediately – no matter how good it sounds. 
  • Don’t negotiate with yourself – don’t raise a bid or lower an offer without first getting a response from your original position.       Otherwise, you’ll give the other side information and ammunition they might never have found out themselves. 
  • Don’t negotiate a deal with a person who has to get someone else’s approval. Effectively, it means that they can take any deal you’re willing to make and then renegotiate it. Why give them two chances to your one? 
  • Nothing is ever truly non-negotiable, no matter what someone might have you think at the outset. 
  • If you can’t say ‘yes’ … say ‘no’ and step away. (‘No’ can be just as good an end-result as ‘yes’.)

negotiatingAs for the dynamics of effective negotiating, Mackay’s pointers are equally valid:

  • Instinct is no match for preparation: Rehearse your positioning and pre-anticipate the other side’s response. (Even try role-playing.) 
  • Be respectful and courteous when negotiating. If you don’t think you can do that, have someone else negotiate your side of the deal instead.

As a final note, Mackay makes the point that “a deal can always be made when both parties see their own benefit in making it.”

It’s a positive parting thought – and it’s even better because it’s true.

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