How to negotiate ANYTHING
by Mike Lander, Founder and CEO, Piscari

Mike shares his step-by-step guide on how to negotiate anything and outlines what negotiation mistakes to avoid. 

18th March 2022 Read time: 5 minutes Watch time: 49 minutes

Whether you’re a marketer negotiating for a budget with your CMO, or negotiating big deals with big brands, reaching the best outcomes takes skill. Mike Lander is the Founder and CEO of Piscari, a negotiation specialist. He joined the What’s Possible Community to provide a step-by-step, straightforward guide on the basics of negotiation. Crucially, he also highlighted what negotiation mistakes to avoid.

Mike is a successful entrepreneur and expert negotiator with a proven track record of buying, growing, and selling businesses for seven-figure sums. He has a unique perspective on negotiating commercial deals, having worked as a procurement director and an entrepreneur on both sides of the table.

Lessons in negotiation

Mike believes that marketers should be taught negotiation skills when they start their careers, if not sooner.

I’m staggered that we don’t teach negotiation skills in secondary and higher education. It makes no sense to me,” Mike said. “Because we negotiate every day. We might not think we are, but the basic principles are the same. So, it’s really important, really early on. People think negotiation is a bit of a frightening thing; sometimes adversarial, it doesn’t have to be. You can be a very collaborative, partnership-oriented negotiator.” 

Mike has written a definition for what a negotiation is: “A series of interactions (e.g. discussions, emails, contract mark-ups) between two or more parties, aimed at reaching an agreement that satisfies, sufficiently, the interests of all parties, (usually) based on objective criteria”.

A story about baseball preceded his first negotiation lesson for the Community. The Boston Red Sox lost a star player because they had botched their opening offer in a contract re-negotiation. They offered $70 million over four years, whereas a rival team offered him $155 million. He was offended by his home team’s offer.

The lesson: Preparation and understanding your counterparty’s goals and desires are critical in negotiations.

Strategic advantage

We go into negotiations quickly. We think the negotiation is the thing at the table; it’s not. 80% of the value of a negotiation is way in advance of sitting down and talking some more,” Mike says.

Sometimes there are variables in the negotiation process. Multiple parties are involved, personal agendas could be at play, one-sided demands are forwarded, and the motivations of the counterparty are often hidden.

This is where the need for negotiation training comes in.

However, Mike says that negotiation skills training courses have historically been overly complex and that the templates they provide negotiators are too technical. Even worse, according to Hermann Ebbinghaus’ ‘forgetting curve’ theory, 80% of most learnings in the course are forgotten by students within 4 to 5 days after training.

For strategic advantage in a negotiation, Mike has a four-step process on getting ready to negotiate anything:

  1. Know the context of the negotiation. Have your goals ready. Find out your counterparty’s goals. Have shared criteria you will negotiate upon. Ensure you have your BATNA ready: Best Alternative to a Negotiation Agreement (BATNA) if the negotiation isn’t meeting your criteria.
  2. Draw the ideal timescales to complete the deal and the big milestones.
  3. Brainstorm all the negotiation variables and your ideal outcome PLUS the least acceptable outcome.
  4. The negotiation is on. Engage with your counterparty and keep track of all their issues and concerns

Collaboration is key

Mike positions the art of negotiation as something that ‘can be an enjoyable process – just like marketing can, as a creative discipline.’ He also cautions that tone of voice and speed of voice is essential when you enter the negotiation.

He warns that there are still table-thumpers out there in the world of negotiation who try and scare their counterparties into deals with raised voices. Mike prefers the calmer, more collaborative style of negotiation.

He believes that a collaborative approach is the best trait a negotiator can have.

Finally, to avoid mistakes, Mike encourages negotiators to leave their emotions at the door, aptly prepare for a negotiation, share their view on objective criteria, and set the ground rules at the start.