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We give you actionable advice so you can elevate your influence through purposeful negotiation—helping you overcome the hurdles you face in business and life to become even more successful.
Hey guys, welcome back to another NEGOTIATEx podcast. Today, we are privileged to have The Negotiations Ninja , Mark Raffan with us. Mark is an entrepreneur, procurement veteran, speaker and well-renowned negotiation expert.
He has led C-suite negotiations and coached teams and executives at some of the largest companies out there including LinkedIn, Salesforce, City Bank, Nike and Zendesk. Mark has also been featured on tons of different magazines including Thrive Global, Supply & Demand Chain Executive and Fobres. Additionally, he runs his own practice and provides usable, engaging and market relevant trading to an unserved market.
Mark’s journey as a negotiator began when he started working in advertising sales and procurement. Fed up with working in the corporate world, he started his own negotiation training company shortly after and since then has been providing negotiation training to some of the largest companies in the world.
Mark cites the four major foundations of negotiation from his ebook . He highlights that when it comes to acing purposeful negotiations, a lot of things depends on strategy and just being precise about what you are doing and that’s where these four foundations come in.
Foundation number one is knowing what you want. You must ensure that you are making decisions aligned with your goals. If you don’t know what it is that you want out of the negotiation, it could be very challenging to determine if you’ve been successful since you will have nothing to measure it against.
So, it’s always a good idea to know what your original goal is right from the get-go.
The next foundation is: Know what your backup is. This typically means that you should know what your alternative or Plan B is if the negotiation doesn’t go well. If you decide to walk away, do you know whom you will walk away to? If not, you need to be more well prepared.
As far as the third foundation of negotiations is concerned, it is: You need to ask for it. More often than not, negotiators fail to ask for what they want and need from the counterparty, which is a problem because negotiators are seldom reasonable and rational. That said, it’s worth noting that Mark is not advising you to ask for obscene amounts because extreme anchoring rarely works.
The fourth and the final foundation is to record the deal and take notes throughout the conversation as it will help you capture what people are agreeing to and what people are not agreeing to. If you don’t take notes, naturally you will have difficulty translating your discussions into an agreement.
Mark mentions that it is imperative that you know what you want from the negotiation and have some sort of idea about what the counterparty wants. For the first part, you just need to sit down and think about your goals and objectives.
But before that you should understand the difference between needs and wants. While need is a must-have item, want is a nice-to-have item. Also, both needs and wants are not binary, which means it’s not like you either get it or you don’t, there’s a range of acceptable outcomes that you have for each of those things.
So, you need to ensure that you are disciplined about sitting down and developing that list.
Similarly, it’s important that you have some sort of idea about the wants and needs of the person sitting on the other side of the table, especially from a business perspective. That’s because they may not know what they need or want.
They could be going into the negotiation the same way you would have gone if you hadn’t prepared and simply winged it to see what they could get out of it. Simply ask them what they need or want and what they are trying to gain from the negotiations. You must make them understand the deal; otherwise, they won’t take it.
Mark claims that the expression “win-win” (meaning draw) used in negotiations is actually a lie because there can never be a draw in the world of negotiations and business. He takes it a step further and highlights that “win-win” presupposes a feeling of reciprocity or even trading, which is far-fetched in business and that if you take that approach, any astute negotiator will take advantage of you.
Mark then proposes that the expression “mutually beneficial” would be more appropriate in such a context, as it means getting a deal that works for both the parties.
Also, it’s important for you to understand that you are responsible for getting that deal, not the counterparty. The counterparty will be advocating for their needs, not yours. This will ensure that both you and your counterparty are able to generate more value for each other through the negotiation.
You would want to ensure that you don’t make decisions in a vacuum and go into negotiations with only your perspective. If you do that, you might not be open to feedback and fail to realize your mistakes. So, be ruthlessly critical of yourself at all times
Great negotiators often say things to the effect of where they are wrong and tend to do premortem assessments and visualize where their deal could go wrong. When you are critical of yourself and constantly question yourself prior to and throughout the negotiation, it could help you stay grounded on what’s important and what’s not.
If you are negotiating on behalf of someone/client, ask them what they actually need. Make sure that your client’s and your goals are aligned. Internal negotiations are as important as external negotiations.
While talking about Aram’sAram’s and his days as infantry officers in the US Army, Nolan highlights how they used to spend a lot of time in training events and how they used to prepare and have a plan against their enemy. He then asks Mark if a plan could help them better prepare for negotiations.
Mark confirms that it’s an excellent idea to have plans, prepare well and have your move tested in negotiation to get the most out of the deal.
Mark, Aram and Nolan discuss a lot more on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx Podcast. Write to us at email@example.com and share your thoughts on this very informational podcast episode.
Thank you for listening.
Nolan Martin : Hey everyone, welcome to the NEGOTIATEx podcast. I'm your host and co-founder Nolan Martin. And with me today is not only Aram, but we also have The Negotiations Ninja. So, Aram do you wanna kick off the bio here for Mark?
Aram Donigian : I will. Thanks Nolan. Hey folks, we have Mark Raffan of Negotiations Ninja with us today. Mark is an entrepreneur, procurement veteran, podcast host, speaker and recognized negotiation expert. Mark has a passion for influence, persuasion and marketing, and is considered a thought leader in these areas.
He has led C-suite negotiations and coached executives and teams in some of the largest companies in the world, such as Zendesk, Nike, City Bank, Salesforce and LinkedIn. Mark has been featured at entrepreneur Forbes, Thrive Global, Supply and Demand Chain Executive magazine and that magazine recognized him as a 2019 pro to no, and has appeared on a dozen posts on dozens of podcasts. He runs his own practice and delivers engaging, usable and market relevant trading to an unserved market. Mark, thanks so much for being with us today.
Mark Raffan : Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it, guys. I'm excited to have a conversation with you.
NM : Yeah. We're, we're excited to have a conversation with you, especially since you've been doing your podcast for over five years. So, congrats on that. To kind of kick this off. Wanna kind of ask you about your journey as a negotiator. Where did you start? How'd you get there and what were some of the key milestones along the way.
MR : I started out in, gosh, I guess you could go all the way back to the beginning of my life. I'm in a very conflict oriented family. My family doesn't shy away from conflict whatsoever. <laugh> not to say that we don't get along, but we certainly get it out
MR : And so conflict was always a part of my life. It was, um, never something that my family ever shied away from. Um, and as I say that, I recognize that it sounds like I may have come from some sort of like conflict, crazy family, but the truth is I come from a very loving family and they're all amazing, but they're, they're all very comfortable with expressing their emotions. That's been a part of my life since forever. My first job out of university was in sales, worked in advertising sales for quite some time, was very fortunate enough to be successful and paid with all my student loans within a year of graduating, basically.
And then I moved onto the other side of the table and I worked in procurement for quite some time. I worked my way up through category management and led a few categories and then ended up deciding this thing's not for me. I don't wanna do the corporate thing anymore. And at that time I had been writing a lot, writing a lot of negotiation stuff and moaning to my friends that there was no great negotiation content out there. And there was like one or two people doing something at the time. And like all good friends, they told me don't moan about it, do something about it, and I did.
And that was in a bar and I had had way too much to drink. And then I went home and got onto Amazon and ordered far too many pieces of equipment that I absolutely did not need and started the Negotiations Ninja podcast. The next day, that evolved into a negotiation training company. And now we deliver negotiation training to some of the largest companies in the world. So, wild journey, it's been a wild journey.
NM : Fun though. Right?
AD : Some of the best decisions get made with friends at bars, don't you think?
MR : Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, if scotch is involved and friends are involved, you know, it's gonna be a good time, even if it's a bomb of an idea.
AD : So, you know, you wrote about, you just talked about some of your writing and as you know, in preparation for this, I was reading your ebook, which is available on your website. We'll make sure our listeners have that link. You know, I'd love for our listeners to learn a little bit from your experience, Mark. You know, you talk about in that book, the critical importance of understanding these four major foundations of negotiation. Can you share what these are and, and how people can become kind of masters of the foundations?
MR : Yeah. And it's sort of my take on what I consider to be fundamentals that you absolutely have to have to have to have to have when it comes to negotiation. And a lot of it comes down to strategy, but some of it just comes down to being anal about what you're doing. Foundation number one: Just know what you want. So many of us go into negotiations, kind of just winging it. Like us we have no real idea. We have an I, some sort of idea of what we think we might be able to get. And we're like, well, I don't know. Let's see what I can get. And we kind of just go into the negotiation and end up making decisions that aren't necessarily aligned to our original goal because we never really knew what our original goal was in the first place.
And so without knowing what you want, it becomes very challenging to know whether or not you've been successful because you've got nothing to measure it against. So, know what you want. And we can get into details about what that means and how to, to prepare for that if you want to, but let's go into the second foundation.
Second foundation is know what your backup is, know what your alternatives are like everyone's heard the term BATNA before best alternative to a negotiated agreement popularized in the early 1980s by William Murie and Roger Fisher, it's just a fancy way of saying what's plan B, right?
Like if you get into a negotiation and that negotiation doesn't go, well, what's plan B, where are you gonna take it from there? Where are you gonna go to? And if you do decide to walk away, the fundamental question you do have to ask yourself is where do I walk away to? And if you don't have a good answer for that, you need to be more well prepared.
MR : Foundation Number three is: ask for it. And I know it sounds super simple, but so many of us in any kind of negotiations fail to ask, ask for what you want, ask for what you need. And as crazy as it sounds, ask for more than what you need, because we think that most people are gonna come into a negotiation being rational and reasonable actors. And the truth of the matter is they may not be very well prepared either. So you may be able to get good value out of asking for more than what you need.
Foundation Number three is: ask for it. And I know it sounds super simple, but so many of us in any kind of negotiations fail to ask, ask for what you want, ask for what you need. And as crazy as it sounds, ask for more than what you need, because we think that most people are gonna come into a negotiation being rational and reasonable actors. And the truth of the matter is they may not be very well prepared either. So you may be able to get good value out of asking for more than what you need.
MR : If you're not doing that, it's gonna be very, very difficult to be able to translate all of your discussions into an agreement. And even if you do miss something that was meant to go into the agreement, at least then you have some sort of foundation to go back to to say, okay, Hey, we missed this collectively. We both agreed that this was a thing that we should have included. Can we make an amendment to the agreement? So that's really, really important. Those are the four foundations, know what you want, know what your backup is, ask for the deal and record the deal.
AD : Now those are great. And I hope we can dig into each one and any illustrations you're able to share. I know a lot of the work that you probably do with clients is confidential, but even from your own experience, if we can dig in, uh, I think we've got some follow up questions here. Kind of digging into each one of those a little bit more.
MR : Okay. Yeah. Let's dig into them. Yeah.
NM : And it's great that you said the, know what you want kind of aspect, cuz you had said that people just seem to wander into negotiations and that's kind of where our tagline actually derived from it's elevate your influence through purposeful negotiations because you know, too often do people just find themselves haphazardly walking into a negotiation, zero preparation. So absolutely agree with the first part there,
AD : I'd add too, Nolan and, and mark, get your take on this. You know, sometimes people don't even realize they're in a negotiation and that's problematic in terms of knowing what your goal is.
MR : And I mean, if you're in, if you do any kind of frequent communication, if you're in a sales role, a communications role, a procurement role, a legal role, whatever it is that you do, if you communicate often, you're in a negotiation more often than you think, because all communication in and of itself can be framed as a negotiation or a goal to get to at some point in time.
And a lot of people say things like we need to get alignment on something. Well, what does that actually mean? It means that we're gonna negotiate with each other to determine what alignment is and then we're gonna do the thing that we're gonna do.
NM : Yeah. And it's great that you had said kind of the, know what you want, cuz a lot of time, it's also equally important to know what they want or at least have an idea of what they want if you're trying to do adequate preparation before a negotiation. So I kind of wanna get kind of your input on how important that is and, and kind of where you see that, how that plays out during a negotiation.
MR : Yeah, two things I'm gonna break this into like two parts. I think that was two questions. So, the first question is how do you know what you want and how do you determine that? And then the second part is how do you determine what the counterparty wants in the conversation? So the first part of knowing what you want is as simple as just sitting down and thinking, what are my goals? What are my objectives? And I think there's a big difference between let, maybe add a layer of detail to this.
There's a difference between needs and wants. A need is a must have item, like I have to achieve this thing. A want is a nice to have item, it would be great to get it. But those things are also not binary, meaning it's not like you either get it or we don't get it. There's probably a range of acceptable outcomes that we have for each of those things. So, just be detailed and disciplined about sitting down and developing that list.
And what I mean by this is like a lot of salespeople I work with will say things well, my need is to get a good deal. That's not a thing, right? Like, I mean, the deal is the outcome. Obviously we want to get a great deal. But what we're talking about here is what are the components that go into making a good deal? What are the terms? What is the pricing? What's the scope, what's the delivery, all that kind of fun stuff of like, okay, now we can start breaking it down and actually have things to negotiate. We have to know what it is that makes up that good deal. Some people say things like, well, I want to build a better relationship.
MR : What this forces you to do is define what a better relationship actually means and what are you gonna do to improve on that relationship? So, it can be used in interpersonal, it can be used in business, however you want to do it.
Then thinking about the counterparty, that's the other side of the table. We're thinking about what they need or want. It's really, really important in my opinion, to try and forecast what they may need or want. Talking purely from a business perspective here, because other disciplines may say, hey, we don't know yet. But it's important to forecast because they may not actually know what they need or want. They may be going into the negotiation in much the same way as you would have gone if you had not prepared by just kind of winging it and seeing what they could get out of it.
MR : Now, that doesn't negate the need to vet whether or not your forecasts into what they need or want are correct. And that comes through the conversations that you have with them, but try and forecast ahead of time, what you think they may need or want, and then ask them in plain English, what do you need? What do you want? What does success look like for you? What are you trying to drive out of this? What does a better relationship look like and ask and be bold about those questions don't fart around. Just ask and it's as simple as that, like it, it doesn't need to be more complicated than that.
AD : What's the benefit of doing that? Well, can you, I mean, what's the wide, uh, I mean, I get the wide understanding of mine and, and, and we talk about this all the time. What's the wide understanding of their priorities and helping them even pull 'em out when they don't know 'em, what’s the benefit?
MR : Because if they can't get a deal, that makes sense for them. They're not gonna do the deal. Like there's no point, like, I mean in much the same way. If you can't get a deal that works for you, you are not gonna do the deal. So, we need to know what they want to drive for so that we can create a mutually beneficial outcome for the negotiation. Now, this is where I'm gonna say something very controversial to a lot of negotiation people. I'm gonna for sure get hates on this. Notice that I said it was mutually beneficial. I did not say win-win.
AD : Yes
MR : That is because I think win-win is the biggest lie that's ever been told in the negotiation world.
NM : Why is that?
BR : Win-win presupposes that first of all, what is, win-win, just break down the language. It's a draw. There are no draws in negotiation. It doesn't happen, it's not a thing. Also also when, when presupposes that you can know the complete value of that deal over the course of the relationship of that deal, which in the business world is almost impossible. Like it’s almost impossible to know it also presupposes that if you have less leverage and less ability than I do, then I need to advocate for your needs and wants, so that you get a win and get 50% of that deal. And that's also not gonna happen. Like I've never seen that happen in the business world. And I don't think it should happen. It also presupposes that the feeling of whole reciprocity, like, you know, even trading and all the rest of it and kumbaya and let’s hold hands is a thing. It's not a thing you will get absolutely raked over the coals in a negotiation. If you decide to go that approach, because I promise you an astute negotiator is going to take advantage of you.
Mutually beneficial, which is what I think a lot of people think that win-win means is about you get a deal that works for you. I get a deal that works for me. You are responsible for getting that deal for you. I'm not responsible for you getting that deal. I am responsible for me getting the deal that I want. We're gonna have a conversation about it. We're gonna talk about each of our needs in once, but I'm not gonna advocate for your needs. I'm advocating for my needs.
So, ensuring that we do that generates more value for us in the negotiation. Now, when I say that, I know for sure that there are gonna be people that listen to this podcast that go Mark, how can you not believe in win? When it's the foundation of the program on negotiation, William brewery, Roger Fisher, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, right? Like it's all gonna happen. But if you really think through it, it doesn't make a lot of sense. And I think that a lot of people, when they hear that and they think about how win, win, applies, believe that it makes sense because it sounds fair.
AD : Yeah. Well, and I think win-win, so my problem with the win-win expression is it often leads people down a path, which is lose, lose. We both give up to give something. Yeah, exactly, which doesn't make sense. Yeah, or, or the idea that from a fairness perspective, that fairness always means 50-50. And the moment you start saying, well, you know, whose idea was it? Who, you know, contributed to the intellectual property who put, you know, who's assuming the mobile risk, any sort of variable you start putting in there? Uh, well, 50-50 we would never say is what would be the right distribution.
So, we're, we're not gonna 50-50 doesn't mean fair. So I think there's, I, I mean, I think mutually beneficial is a nice way to frame that.
MR : Can I jump on one thing that you said there, because you said something really important, that reinforces my point. And I feel like I'm gonna take advantage of that now. So, you said something that is critical, where you said you have to determine who came up with something and what is the value of that thing? Are you gonna go through the entire agreement and determine the objective shared impression or perception of what the value of each individual clause is? That's bananas like that's crazy.
Someone says, well, we're giving up X part of the limitation of liability and that's worth this amount of money or what, like, man, it's, it's, it sounds great in theory, really difficult in practice.
AD : Yeah. No, I, I think, and I like that was one of your points earlier, too, which is over time, the value, uh, you can't, you can't imagine, right? And, the implementation is hard. Um, and I, and I assume you see that in your work, the challenges with implementing negotiated agreements and, and how much value actually gets captured versus how much gets lost.
MR : Yeah, exactly. And I look, I, I don't want it to sound like I'm dogging a, another type of negotiation theory here. I just think that the language is a bit loose. I think we could tighten it up a bit.
AD : So, in your book and, and, um, you wrote, or in your book, you talk about the importance of creating wins for the other party. So, how do you reconcile that concept of creating a win for the other party, with the, you know, you need to advocate for your own interest, which is fair. I mean, it's a fair request to say, I'm advocating for mine. You need to advocate for yours. I still want to know what your interest may be. Your concerns are, those needs, those wants, how do you, how do you reconcile those kinds of concepts?
MR : I want you to feel as though you've won. So, I think there's a big difference between objectively win-win and the perception of a win. And that's where I have the issue with that theory, because a lot of people say that are advocates of the whole win-win methodology. They say, well, no, it's a feeling that you have. Okay, but then the entire theory is now you've just proven my point, the entire theory falls apart right there. So, I don't think you can win for win-win objectively. And then also say in the same sentence, no, no, it's just a feeling of a win. I think you therefore need to be against win-win as a theory, or maybe critical of it. Maybe not against it, critical of it. And then you can say something to the effect of no, no, we're creating the perception of a win. If you can create the perception of a win, that's very different than an objective win-win because my job in a negotiation is to influence and persuade you. That's my role. And if I can change how you think about what you are achieving throughout to make you think that those things that you're achieving are more valuable than they actually are than I am creating the perception of a quote, unquote, win for you. And therefore, congratulations, you gotta win. If that makes you feel better about it, I'm gonna do it all day.
AD : Well, can we go back? This has been great. Can we go back to, you were talking about, you know, your priorities, you used the word alignment earlier, um, which is a negotiation. So, you have a sanity check in your ebook about ensuring that your list of priorities aligns with those of your sales or procurement team, your manager, your leader. We know that some of the most difficult negotiations we can ever be involved in are with internal stakeholders. Those are, those can be very challenging to manage. So what's your advice about, Hey, you gotta have these conversations with your leader, uh, especially when you may disagree about priorities and what's most important. What, what sort of advice do you give for having those internal conversations?
MR : You can't make decisions in a vacuum and you can't go into negotiations with just your perspective, because if you do what you're doing is you're putting blinders on horse blinders on. And now you're, you're not open to where you may be wrong. And that's, I think one of the things that makes a lot of great negotiators great, instead of just average, is they are ruthlessly self critical.
And before they go into a negotiation, they say things to the effect of where am I wrong? And they do premortem assessments that say, you know, if this deal fails, let fast forward three months, this deal has failed. Where did it fail? And asking those questions prior to going into the negotiation and throughout the negotiation helps keep you grounded on what's important and what's not important. Also when you go into a negotiation without first getting an alignment with whomever you're negotiating on behalf of, how do you know that that's what that person wants, right? Like whether you're representing someone legally, whether not you're representing someone in a sale or buying something or an MMA transaction.
Yes, you know, the strategies and the tactics to be able to achieve those things. But obviously you need to chat with your client to say, what do you need? What do you want? Let's get in line. This is what I think you might need or want, but what do you actually need or want? And so the internal negotiation becomes equally as important, if not more important than the external negotiation.
AD : Yeah. Yeah. We see that time and time again
NM : And to kind of build on that Mark. So I think, you know, Aaron and I, we're both infantry officers in the US army. And so we spend a lot of time in training events or even on deployments. And one thing that we always do when we're developing a plan is kind of the red pin aspect. So, how is the enemy going to influence my plan? Cuz the enemy always has a vote. And so we like to use that same kind of method when we are dealing with any of our clients who understand just as you had said, if this is going to fail, where is it going to fail? Why is it gonna fail? And can we influence that? Can we have a plan against it ahead of time to be better prepared? So I love that you had kind of said that.
MR : I find that people with a military background tend to get this sort of intuitively because they're so especially if you're part of an operational type team, if you've been in the infantry or something like that, you've practiced your field operations over and over and over until it becomes sort of rote knowledge.
And then when they bring in that red team to be able to expose all of those weaknesses before you go into the field, that's not a fun experience. <laugh>, it's the worst thing in the world, right? But it's so critical because what you don't wanna have happen is you get into the field, you haven't tested your moves and then you get destroyed. The same thing is true in negotiation. You can take that same army learning and apply it to negotiations.
NM : Everyone. Nolan here, gonna have to jump in and end the conversation right here. Please join us next week. As we finish up our conversation with Mark.
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