Effectively Streamlining Contract Negotiations

By Todd Ryan Director of Sales & Marketing, Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel | July 14, 2013

I would like to think that I am a great negotiator. If you have kids, you may recognize the following exchange, or some similar version of it, that I just had with my 3 ½ year-old daughter.

Devyn: "Daddy, I'm done eating. Can I have a Popsicle?"
Me: "Did you eat your broccoli?"
Devyn: "No."
Me: "You need to eat your broccoli."
Devyn: "I don't want to."
Me: "Then you don't get a Popsicle."
Devyn: "If I eat my broccoli then I can have a Popsicle?"
Me: "Yes. You need to eat your broccoli and then you can have a Popsicle."
Devyn: "Okay, two bites. Then can I have a Popsicle and watch a show?"
Me: "No. You need to have three bites and then you can have a Popsicle
and watch a show."
Devyn: "Okay, Daddy, three bites. Then can I have a Popsicle and watch a show and snuggle with you?"
Me: "Yes. Three bites, put your dish in the sink then you can have a Popsicle, watch a show and snuggle with me."

What just happened? Before you answer that, remember that this is an article about negotiation and not about judging my parenting skills. I entered into a negotiation because my daughter wanted and asked for a Popsicle. I can only assume that in her 3-year-old brain, this is all she wanted and there was no other motive. If she would have finished her dinner before asking, this negotiation would never have started. Yet, it did. When my daughter presented me with an offer, I made a counteroffer. I wanted something in return. In the end, she got what she wanted and then some: a Popsicle, a show and a snuggle. In exchange, I convinced her to eat three additional bites of vegetables and for her to put her dish in the sink. As a result, we were both happy.

I love negotiating. For me, it is about exploring various alternatives and finding a solution. It is something that I have enjoyed since I was a kid trading baseball cards and working business deals with my parents in terms of how much allowance I would get for each chore. I remember trading my Twinkies for cupcakes in the elementary school cafeteria or doing a favor for one of my friends if she would bring her attractive friend to the movies with her for a chance meeting.

When I entered the hospitality sales industry, negotiating sales agreements became a passion and I began to read everything that I could to better myself. Just like anything I have incorporated into my business philosophy, I took those things that made the most sense, added my own personal style, dismissed those things that I did not agree with or felt did not represent my personal brand and refined them over the years.

There are so many theories about negotiation and various tactics one can employ that the subject can be nauseating. I was once told that the first to speak during a negotiation always ends up losing, that you must control the agenda, always start with a high offer, and never show all of your cards. One of my favorite quotes is by Henry Clay of Kentucky, an early American statesman who served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate during the early years of our nation. He was known as "The Great Compromiser" and is quoted as saying that "A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied." Really? How about when both parties are satisfied that they reach the best deal that they could in their best interest?

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