Bullies are alive and some live in Kansas. Bullies take no hostages and revel in unearned victories.
The Fearless Negotiator met her match in the form of a 250 pound, 6’6”’ car repair shop owner and his tow truck cave man accomplice.
The mission was to help get a friend’s car out of the repair shop following an accident. A friend and I entered the body shop, introduced ourselves and shook hands. That was the last cave man socially acceptable action that the two bully business owners took.
The negotiation goal was to get a tow bill explained and hopefully a slight reduction in an exorbitant tow and storage charge for a two-mile tow.
Within 30 seconds of our arrival, the two men proceeded to yell insults at us, threatened to call the police, pounded on their chests in a primitive behavior, strutting around the lobby while telling me to shut up when I attempted to ask a question. Additionally, their logic included suggesting that people of my type, were one of the primary reasons that the United States of America was in disastrous shape.
Two petite American females were contributing factors in ruining America for the loyal red, white and blue Neanderthals that strutted before us. I had no idea that my physical stature could so do much damage to the Free Enterprise System by attempting to get a copy of an invoice and receive an explanation for the tow charges.
Bullies are not rational nor do they approach a discussion in a logical manner. They may choose to forgo doing business with someone again rather than risk losing a negotiation, especially while they promote their position in front of an audience. The body shop lobby confrontation had drawn a peanut gallery of tow truck drivers and mechanics who wanted to add their two cents with occasional laughs, snorts and grunts. For awhile the scene resembled a spectacle between four gladiators in the Roman Coliseum.
Tips When Facing a Bully Negotiator:
- Do the Homework First: Research the company you intend to negotiate with. If the opponent is a tow truck operator or body shop, consider watching Tow Truck War TV shows that deal in the world of vehicle towing. Know your opponent!
- Show No Emotion: Do not raise your voice, yell or use profanity. Bullies want a fight and love seeing their opponent love their composure.
- Avoid Physical Violence. This is a battle of the mind, not a street confrontation.
- Call Them On Their Game: Say, “Most people don’t find it necessary to raise their voice when speaking to me. I am interested why you need to do that.”
- Anticipate their Tactics: Address upfront, by saying, “I do hope that you’ll yell at me at least once during this conversation. If you don’t you will not live up to my image of people in your line of business.
I’d love to report that I reasoned with the two business owners and they understood my concerns. Or that they gave my friend a discount. Neither happened. The only method of payment they would accept was cash. No checks nor credit cards today at least not from the two people who could ruin the American way of life by asking for a discount.
We paid cash and got out before we were physically harmed. Sometimes it’s best to walk away. As Kenny Rogers sang in in The Gambler, You’ve go to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em and know when to walk away.
I am wiser today. If there is a next time, I will take someone who speaks Neanderthal.
How often do you sign a contract without reading it? You do that for hundreds of reasons. Six Common Excuses:
- If I delay to allow time to negotiate the contracts, the deal might go away.
- Been doing business with them for years. They’ve always done what they say they’ll do.
- They said the contract is non-negotiable.
- Lawyer cost too much.
- Contract is 2 pages long, how bad can it be?
- “It looks standard to me.”
If you’ve money to burn, sign a contract without reading it thoroughly and negotiating it aggressively. If you don’t ask for help, be prepared for a bumpy ride. Why? A written agreement remains long after the honeymoon glow wears off. Equipment breaks. Service falters or is inconsistent. The equipment doesn’t do what they promised it would do. Supplier and financial companies’ plus their contracts are frequently sold to competitors. You have new relationships to build. When times get rocky, neither old nor new relationships may carry much weight. Contracts are written by attorneys to protect their client, not you. Written agreements are one-sided and the balance on this teeter-totter is never equal. What can you do?
Play Worst Case
Assess the potential damages if the deal blows up in the first year. Be sure to add in the cost of paying the other guys legal fees, assumed damages, fines, late payment fees and penalties. If the case goes to court, there will be an expense to hire your attorney, pay court costs, filing fees, tax penalties and the list goes on. This expense is to defend you from the “unprincipled scoundrel” who used to be your trusted vendor/buddy.
Penalties usually include paying all remaining payments for the full term plus an amount to make up for lost profits the supplier experienced during the legal battle. And you still need to locate and pay for replacement service providers or equipment.
Weigh the Options
1. Read the agreement yourself. Consider how often you read contracts. What is your familiarity with the legal and contractual terms contained in the agreement? Do you know the laws in your state and how they apply to this contract? How familiar are with the laws in the state in which the case might be litigated. Seldom is the matter handled in your home state.
2. Hire an attorney. You can save the attorney a little review time by highlighting what you are most concerned about after you’re read the contract. Ask for a flat rate to review the agreement.
3. Hire a contract expert who is not an attorney. Propose that they work under a gain share agreement. Some agree to a flat rate (lower than that of an attorney) and a percent of the savings they achieve for you through their review and negotiation process.
These experts usually come from within your industry and have specialized knowledge of either the equipment or the service you require. They should also have knowledge of contract terminology and the financial terms and conditions specific to the project or transaction.
Did you open the doors to your company to serve your employees or to attract loyal customers? Sometimes those two groups appear to be at odds with one another. Choosing between the two may require the wisdom of Solomon to decipher where allegiances lies.
Many business owners say, I want both reliable employees and dependable customers. Successful companies want customers with whom they forge long-lasting business partnerships. Those businesses pay their bills on time, make reasonable service requests and treat your employees respectfully. In return, they rely upon you to help them achieve their growth goals. When they prosper, your future expands with theirs.
Entrepreneurs search for employees who, follow rules, policies and procedures, possess great attitudes,treat customers respectfully, arrive punctually,work for a fair wage, are competent to perform the work for which they are hired and are honest.
When conflict arises, being the boss gets complicated.
The Owners Dilemma.
EMPLOYEE Alienation : Side with the customer and the employee may feel you let them down. They were following orders when refusing to honor the customer’s special request.
CUSTOMER Abandonment: Back your employee and you risk losing a customer for today and maybe forever.
- Listen Care-Fully. “When you listen carefully, you show you Care-Fully” about both sides and their viewpoints. Sometimes you’ll locate some fine print in your policy and procedures manuals or sales contract that would allow this situation to be treated as “business as usual.”
Maybe neither your employee nor customer took time to read the agreement. Knowing your contract may save you from setting a new precedent. The fine print saved you.
- Make an Exception. As the boss, you have the right to make an exception for special circumstances. Let’s assume this buyer is one of your top 10% customers. They request a discount after your End of Month Inventory Reduction Special expires.You may choose to grant a one-time rule exemption. Explain your decision to both your employee and the customer so that everyone is clear this is a one-time occurrence granted as a reward for the client’s long-time loyalty.
- Back the Home Team. The final decision rests with you. Perhaps the request for a special discount is from someone who has never done business with your company before and has a “slow-pay” credit reputation. It’s easy to go with your employee on this one.
- Exception Exemption. Follow the original sale deadline, no discount extension granted. You back your employee AND offer a special customer discount, product rebate or incentive for their next purchase. Advise both parties that with the next purchase, the customer will receive advance sale notices and a bigger discount than all other customers because they were so accommodating this time. You rewarded them for their loyalty and patience.
You indeed are as wise as Solomon. Well done, boss!