We’ve just finished watching the first season of Poker Face. For those who haven’t watched it, the main character has an almost superhuman ability to tell 100% of the time when someone is lying. I bet many of us wish we had this when we suspect someone is bullshitting us!
The main character, played brilliantly by Natasha Lyonne, reminds me a lot of the character Columbo, played by the equally brilliant Peter Falk in a show I watched as a kid in the early 90s. Columbo’s famous catchphrase was “…just one more thing”, which the character would deliver to crack the case wide open at the precise moment the antagonist in the episode felt they had got away with the crime.
I was also thinking about the Columbo character not long ago. I was delivering a training programme to a client and we were discussing the latter stages of negotiations, where some last-minute demands might need to be managed. In many negotiations, negotiators will effectively try a Columbo and ask for one more thing before they agree to the deal. And if they get it, they might even be tempted to keep asking for more which can become very costly to the other side. Therefore, it’s vital to keep trading concessions right to the very end and avoid giving things away for free.
I asked the group if they had examples they could share and one did.
They explained they were working as a broker in rare artefacts at the time and were negotiating the sale of an extremely rare fossil for nearly half a million dollars. The negotiation went back and forward, with various concessions made on both sides, and it felt like it was nearing the end of the process and a deal was close. And in any negotiation, when a deal is close, nervousness about losing it might creep in – a lot of work has probably gone into it and we can imagine what it will mean to finally land it, and therefore the result can often be last-minute demands are giving away for free.
In the case of my participant, the last-minute demand they received was for delivery charges to be covered by the broker. The response? “No problem.”
But later on, while writing up the agreement, my client realised the problem – they didn’t know the cost of delivering such a rare artefact. And unfortunately, it’s not as simple as booking a delivery with DHL. In fact, it’s such a specialist requirement that the cost in this case was £150k, which was a very big concession to make right at the end of the process.
I asked what happened next. “Luckily, the deal fell through for other reasons” my client explained.
They got away with it that time, but there’s a crucial lesson here. When a deal is close, we are more likely to give away things without considering the value and without making sure we get something in return.
My advice? Keep trading demands right to the very end (even if it’s the deal itself as a condition for agreeing to a small, acceptable late demand), know the value of your concessions and keep any last-minute concessions small.