“We’ve already established what you are - now we are just haggling over the price”. This story is so well known that I don’t need to describe the full scenario - but do you know who said it?
Variously attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx, Mark Twain, W.C. Fields and the list goes on, in truth, no one really knows its etymology. The likelihood is it began life as a joke which was subsequently retold using various famous characters.
The interesting question it raises for me from a negotiator's perspective is the idea that everyone has their price and ultimately it’s us who choose when we agree to be bought. Is it true that regardless of our principles we can be influenced or motivated to do something different if an appropriate financial reward is offered?
Enter stage Left, Gifton Noel-Williams - ex-Premier league player and owner of one of the truly great footballers names. He caught my attention this week with this statement “If I don’t become a manager because of my hair that’s ok”. It’s hard to become a football manager and statistically, the odds are against a black player becoming a manager: only 4.4% of manager-related roles are held by black players, despite them representing 43% of players.
Rationally, you might argue that cutting your hair is a pretty small price to pay for getting the job you want, especially if you have as little as I have. However, we are all differently shaped by our experiences, beliefs, values and sense of right and wrong. Gifton started growing his hair out of respect for his uncle, a Rastafarian, who was going through cancer and losing his own hair. So, the hair is staying.
Whilst I am slightly in awe of this principled stance, the point here is not about right or wrong but about how we all see the world differently and how all perspectives are equally valid. So, does everyone have their price? I don’t think so - I can’t see Gifton change his principled position based on financial reward. Me, on the other hand?
It’s important as a negotiator to understand whether an issue is a point of price or principle to the other party. One way to do this is to make proposals both specific and vague e.g. a seller may say to a buyer “If you give me 100% of your business I might be prepared to reduce my price”. In this situation the seller is making a specific demand and a vague concession, the important part is the response. If the buyer looks to explore the size of the discount it would indicate that the issue is a point of price. If, however, the response is along the lines of strategically managing the supply chain to ensure availability and competition the issue is more likely a point of principle.