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Frame negotiations: the "just this small issue" technique (Charisma on Command)

Charlie and Ben wanted to join a business course.

But the course provider asked for 10% of revenues.

That didn't work for Charisma on Command obviously (could have worked for early-stage or not-yet-started businesses).

The two different approaches:

  1. "This isn't gonna work", that Charlie wanted to reply
  2. "We're excited to join, there is just this one small thing" that Ben went for

Ben's approach often gives you higher odds of reaching your goals.
For a reason they don't share, they didn't end up joining, but as Charlie says, that approach worked well for Ben.

Charlie says that it was very uncomfortable for him to use Ben's angle.
It seems like he felt it was disingenuous.

And he might have a point.

Not only disingenuous but, in my opinion, it was a bad take of an otherwise great technique.

I think Ben overdid it with the "we're excited to join" and overdid it with minimizing the coach's request.
That approach makes it less effective in my opinion because pretending the coach requirement is a non-issue is very power-taking for the coach. It makes a mockery of his request. And serious business people don't usually like being overpowered that way.

But if he had said something like:

"That's cool, it seems awesome. We really wanna join it, we just have this thing... ".

Now you pull him up, you still frame it as a small issue that can be overcome, but you also recruit him to help you find a solution.
Whereas Ben's frame could have seemed manipulative, the above statement is just plain good win-win framing.

And if they really wanted to up their odds, they could have said:

"we also have a big audience and we're happy to mention how this course helped us if it ends up delivering good value".

Now that would have changed everything.
And it's a format I use sometimes as well.

Matthew Whitewood and Transitioned have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodTransitioned
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Hmm it works well in this context. I m wondering how to adapt it for the workplace.  Where there is no natural win win sometimes I ve said that big bosses forum wants this and I will make sure your support is recognized.

Then they often come back with we don't need that we just like to get things done.

Basically saying we re above you and there s nothing you can offer us.

I m trying to think of a way I can make sound less transactional and likely to trigger this reaction.

Maybe:. Your team has been such a great help for us.  Because of your support on the procurement we can get that feature out that the business really needs.  Oh and of course that will be recognised by the big boss forum.

I m try make the thanks sincere and the main topic.  And that just a small throw away offer at the end.   Like ' of course it should be that way"

 

"We're excited to join, there is just this one small thing" that Ben went for

Charlie seemed to paraphrase Ben's words in the email a bit differently.

Ben said

I talked to my cofounder. We would love to join. Just one thing.

So I think Ben phrased it in a manner more closely to Lucio

"That's cool, it seems awesome. We really wanna join it, we just have this thing... ".

Digging Deeper into Why the Coach Offers Such an Exchange

But the course provider asked for 10% of revenues.

That's very high.
Y Combinator asks for 7% in exchange for $125k investment, the brand name and the environment.

We'll invest $125k in return for 7% of your company using a “post-money” Simple Agreement for Future Equity

I think that's why Charlie had such a strong reaction to the offer:

"This isn't gonna work", that Charlie wanted to reply

Maybe the business coach could be helping people with extremely vague ideas to start a business.
In a way, he could be doing a lot of the work initially.
This is why he asks for 10% of the revenue.

In addition to what Lucio mentions which highlights the value Ben & Charlie bring to the table,

"we also have a big audience and we're happy to mention how this course helped us if it ends up delivering good value".

they could explore another avenue to meet the interests on both sides:

  • Coach: Interested in getting a new revenue stream in exchange for business knowledge, experience, etc.
  • Ben & Charlie: Interested in learning more about business in exchange for some fair monetary value

Ben: We would love to join the course.
We have an existing business with a large audience.
And we are always interested in new ways to expand our business and get new revenue streams.
Maybe we can explore some new revenue streams where you can get 10% of the revenue.
Happy to involve our audience with your course if it suits your interests too.

So, instead of the existing business becoming a "problem", it is a source of value and leverage on both sides.

  • 10% of a new revenue stream leveraging an existing business would probably be more than a new business from scratch
  • Shows the value of the existing business via the large audience
  • It pulls the coach up because it shows that Ben & Charlie have an existing business value yet are open-minded and want to find ways to work together.

Mindsets from the Book Negotiation Genius

Digging Deeper into the Coach's Interests

The worst you can do is to start negotiating with the belief that your assumptions are correct.

Ben assumed that the coach wanted 10% of the revenues of his & Charlie's business at face value.
And there's no way that he can give 10% to the coach.

So he wants to find a way to either minimise or go around the request of the coach.

Give More Talking Points, Bring Up Opportunities for Value Creation, Logrolling

Ben & Charlie became overly focused on the issue at hand

Joining the course in exchange for 10% of their existing business

This naturally brings up a competitive mindset.
This is why Ben wants to minimise and go around the coach's requests.
It doesn't work if that's one of the current main points in the value exchange of the negotiation.

What can I give up the least to join the course?

Instead, if they bring in other opportunities for value creation, it will be much easier to negotiate and agree on something that both sides are happy with.

What I Draw from this Issue

Sometimes it's a good idea to go around and minimise some issues in negotiation and persuasion.
Especially if it's a hidden advantage on your end when you have more control over the narrative.

However, when it's the biggest source of value from your counterpart, minimising that is like trying to hide an elephant in the room.
Your counterpart will think you are either not taking him seriously (like Lucio says, mockery) or you're trying to play some games.

As such, if your counterpart's main demand involves high costs for you, one should look at how to

  • Meet your counterpart's main demand via other value creation opportunities
  • Meet your counterpart's main demand in a way that doesn't incur high costs for you

Highlighting the possibility of a new revenue stream seems to meet both objectives in my opinion.
Plus the added benefit and lower risk of leveraging Ben's and Charlie's existing business, know-how & audience for both sides.

Lucio Buffalmano and Ali Scarlett have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoAli Scarlett
Quote from Transitioned on October 8, 2021, 12:18 am

Hmm it works well in this context. I m wondering how to adapt it for the workplace.  Where there is no natural win win sometimes I ve said that big bosses forum wants this and I will make sure your support is recognized.

Then they often come back with we don't need that we just like to get things done.

Basically saying we re above you and there s nothing you can offer us.

I m trying to think of a way I can make sound less transactional and likely to trigger this reaction.

I do think it's hard to use this technique here as you advised.

I think it's challenging when cross-functional teams are involved because there are different interests at stake.
So one has to rely on aligning interests, negotiating interests & goodwill.

Do you think it's an issue of

  • Power, control & authority - they want to remain in control of their tasks and the way they do things
  • Misalignment in interests - doing these tasks are not in their interest.
    Maybe they report to another boss and this IT project is not a priority to that boss.
  • Laziness & lack of proactivity - they basically don't want to do things outside their job scope.
    So they use whatever reasons to shirk your request.
  • People are overwhelmed - too few workers on too many projects.
    I once worked for one of these companies before.

I could be misunderstanding your office environment.
It does seem quite complex.

Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned
Quote from Matthew Whitewood on October 8, 2021, 9:38 am

"We're excited to join, there is just this one small thing" that Ben went for

Charlie seemed to paraphrase Ben's words in the email a bit differently.

Ben said

I talked to my cofounder. We would love to join. Just one thing.

So I think Ben phrased it in a manner more closely to Lucio

"That's cool, it seems awesome. We really wanna join it, we just have this thing... ".

Thank you for properly re-analyzing and fixing this, Matthew.

And I also agree they may have over-focused on that 10%.
It wasn't a question of "either deny it outright, or minimize it", and plenty of other options might have been available.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

I agree.  There always will be siloes and agendas and lately an overlay of high school clique politics brought in by the use of social media in the workplace.

Any thoughts all on the approach I suggested to adapt this tactic?

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood

Let me have a go and you can help me if I misunderstand your office context.

Your team has been such a great help for us.  Because of your support on the procurement we can get that feature out that the business really needs.  Oh and of course that will be recognised by the big boss forum.

I do think this is a great way to frame this collaboratively and let them know

  • Their support helped the business
  • This support helping the business will be recognised by the big boss forum
    (they gain value from their efforts via recognition)

With a caveat that they care about supporting the business and being recognised by the big bosses.

Then, if you have any issues to resolve on your side requiring their help, you can use this collaborative frame that you have set up to convince them.

For small tasks, I wouldn't frame them as small.
It may come across as a bit manipulative because it may not sufficiently acknowledge their time & effort costs of attending to the issue.

If it's small meaning it takes up only 10 minutes, then I think highlighting it would be good.
For example,

Your team has been such a great help for us.
Because of your support on the procurement we can get that feature out that the business really needs.

I need your help with this approval as you have the authority on this aspect.
Here are the steps:

  • Step 1
  • Step 2

It should take around 10 minutes but let me know if it will take up more time.

I will help to present your work in this project to the big boss.
Or if you would like, I could include you in the discussions as well.

I may also frame small points of frictions between the teams as small in the context of the larger collaborative frame you advised:

Your team has been such a great help for us.
Because of your support on the procurement we can get that feature out that the business really needs.

[Outline the tasks, milestones, context, etc in the project]

We may have minor differences in the processes between our teams.
Happy to discuss and see what works best for both of us.

Looking forward to getting these tasks done together and presenting the results of this project to the [insert big boss name] soon.

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Transitioned
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