As a top sports agent for over 15 years, I negotiated over $500 million in contracts and represented over 300 of sports’ biggest names, including Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, PGA TOUR golfer Matt Kuchar, broadcaster Erin Andrews and basketball championship coaches Tom Izzo and Doc Rivers.
While every deal is different, I began to see patterns of mistakes that could kill a deal. So here are my top three mistakes to avoid during a negotiation.
Negotiation Mistake #1: Lack of Full (360-Degrees) Awareness
Basically, this is a failure to ask enough questions, and the right questions. You have to build a strong baseline of knowledge early in the negotiation (or even before) or you will not be positioned to make your most optimal move. You have to continue to be 360-Degrees Aware throughout the deal, expecting everything to be fluid and confident in your ability to know as much as possible about the factors that matter most. What are important questions to nail down?
Attaining 360-Degrees Awareness starts by knowing the goals, needs, gaps, values and fears of the other side, so your actions can parallel where they are or will be as the negotiation unfolds. Solid questions will help you understand the other side’s inner baseline, what the values (beyond money or status) that will provide an engine for reaching a mutually beneficial deal. Being 360-Degrees Aware poises you for future deals with the other side, because you are not just about gaining information. You are relationship building.
Negotiation Mistake #2: Forgetting to Pause
“Doing nothing” after making a confident ask is, in reality, doing everything to help you negotiate. Pauses are uncomfortable, especially in negotiations. We want a response right away. We read into the silence all of our doubts and anxieties. Often, we forget to pause because we are afraid of the ambiguity. Your negotiation results will be far greater when you Embrace the Pause, as detailed in my book. The moment of quiet between the ask and the answer is your chance to think and reflect, for you to send the message that you are very comfortable with your position.
Negotiation Mistake #3: Not Knowing When to Leave
One of the most difficult aspects of negotiation is knowing when to stay at the table and when to walk away. You might walk away to pursue an alternative or backup plan that is a better solution than the offer on the table. You might walk because the other party is unable to fulfill your interests. Or they might be exhibiting questionable behaviors. Many negotiators ignore that walking away is even possible.
Negotiation is rooted in understanding what you are willing to give up and what you aren’t. You always want to consider the breadth of possibilities and then narrow that menu to which ones are acceptable to you. Leaving should always be on that menu. A successful negotiation will end with a result that is better than your best alternative; if you are willing to settle for less than that, that’s what you most likely will get. If you are aiming for the best yes, there are signs to look for and tools you can use at this point in the negotiation to determine when and how to extricate yourself.
If good negotiators learn from failure, they can become great negotiators. Sometimes overconfidence can lead to skipping an important step in a negotiation. Stay grounded in your own game plan by staying fully aware (part of Setting the Stage), Embracing the Pause and Knowing When to Leave. These negotiation tips are my best response to the most common questions coming my way since the publication of my book. I hope they help you!
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Molly Fletcher is the Founder of Game Changer Performance Group. The organizations leverages a variety of learning experiences to help clients unlock peak performance by activating individual purpose and connecting it to a clear vision of professional potential.