Valentine’s Day: for those of us lucky enough to be with somebody we love, it can be a source of renewal, affirmation, happiness – and, once in a while, stress and frustration. Usually, when trying to book that special table in the lovely little place we both decided we’d have to come back to…
If you’ll forgive me for surgically removing the romance from Valentine’s Day, there are perhaps a couple of key insights that a curious negotiator might think about in relation to their own deal-making. Firstly – and perhaps most obviously – there’s the rather expensive business of differential value. Is that bouquet normally that price? Does the set menu at our favourite haunt usually look quite so toppy? What possessed me to order the champagne, instead of the prosecco?
For myriad reasons, many of us will be more than prepared to dig that little bit (or a lot) deeper into our pockets than usual come Valentine’s Day. To a negotiator, it’s a crucial skill to build in terms of recognising that differential value can improve the quality of our deals – all year round. Variables that we might find relatively easy and simple to concede (usually because they have little value to us) could have a far greater importance to the other party, and exploring that value – and trading against it – will unlock other value that we are more interested in.
Amplifying this is the other transferable variable Valentine’s Day illustrates well: time. A dozen red roses on the 14th of February vs the 16th? It’s fair to say that in most scenarios, there’s a distance between them in terms of the likely reception. Of course, this also introduces no little pressure into the occasion – there’s a fairly clear and immovable deadline here, after all. But creative negotiators will also think about time – does a buyer have the flexibility in their strategy to enable a purchase decision to benefit from the hockey-stick effect at the end of a supplier’s financial quarter? Can a commercial negotiator use time to create scarcity while still allowing for the deal to be made? Time is both infinitely flexible and absolute – which end of that spectrum works in your best interests?
Having rather harshly de-romanticised the occasion, I’ll leave the last words to Katharine Hepburn – it’s my favourite on the subject. Quick caveat – try not to apply this advice to your negotiations! "Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get–only with what you are expecting to give–which is everything."