Life is so Unpredictable

Published: Nov 19 , 2011
Author: Stephen White

No matter how interesting and varied the job might be, most workers will tell you that after a time life becomes routine. For those who are office-bound the glamour of the international traveller looks enticing, but the traveller will tell you of the interminable boredom they experience during the process of flying. When I was a child someone told me that people who work in a sweetie factory could eat as many sweets as they wanted - every child's dream; years later when I started work I spent a lot of time at the Cadbury factory in Bournville with people who were so bored with chocolate they never ate it; the availability of chocolate for them had become routine (although it never was for me!).

The predictability of routine can unfortunately lead negotiators astray. Doing similar deals over and over again leads to a blasé approach to Preparation. So there is a likelihood that the negotiator will only have one plan - to 'wing it' because there is unlikely to be anything surprising in the next deal to be done.

And a second problem which often trips the lazy negotiator is an expectation that answers to any questions they might ask are predictable, so it is a waste of time asking them. Similarly, questions the other side ask are also predictable, so the lazy negotiator doesn't need to prepare, and doesn't listen carefully when these questions are asked. The result is an answer which turns out to be inappropriate, and sometimes very damaging.

Many years ago, during a sales pitch for a sizable amount of negotiation skills training courses, a client asked me a series of questions about the training we were offering. I had been asked these same questions many times before, and the answers needed no thought or preparation on my part. Finally the client said, 'One more thing. We are asking you to deliver 10 courses. This is a big piece of business. Will you…….'

I interrupted because what was coming next was predictable - a request for a discount. 'I need to tell you that we consider our fees to be fair and reasonable. Certainly we are competitively priced in the market. So we don't discount the course fee,' I said, trying to structure his expectations.

There was a pause. 'That's not what I was going to ask. I was going to ask, 'Will you have enough resource to teach these courses in a 3 month period?''

We didn't win the business.

Stephen White


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About the author:

Stephen White
My background is sales and marketing. I read Law at University and worked for 2 major packaging companies for 13 years in sales and sales management. I joined John McMillan and Scotwork in 1984. For the next 25 years together with our colleagues we delivered training and consulting, built the global business and developed the Scotwork product portfolio.

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