The past week has been a good one for me. What started out with the sudden and unexpected news of my unemployment has given me the opportunity to touch base with many friends and business acquaintances. Too often I throw so much of myself into my current project that I neglect to maintain those tertiary relationships. I'm excited to explore new opportunities to help build value in businesses in the gaming and gambling sector. Feel free to email me at email@example.com if that proposition interests you.
For today's blog, I want to discuss elements of another call I wasn't expecting this week. This one came from my last manager from my international art gallery that closed in 2006. He had a client interested in a certain artist and he wondered if I still had any of their sculptures. I have held onto quite a few sculptures over the years that I felt had value and an impressive aesthetic. Luckily, I had just the right outdoor piece for this client. But how to determine its current value?
One of the major life skills I developed from my travels in Africa and running the gallery was the art of negotiation. Unlike most commerce in America, in Africa there are often no set prices. It is part of the culture to haggle. Negotiation and communication are part of your transaction. I have even had vendors refuse my initial higher than expected price because it cut short the transactional experience. They understood at a very base level that if people negotiated, they invested themselves in the process and were more likely to return as a satisfied customer
Zimbabwean artists are very shrewd negotiators. This was observed hundreds of times in interactions with artists who adjusted the selling price of their sculpture depending on who the buyer was. They would evaluate the buyer and determine what they felt they could get out of them. The most noticeable difference being the price offered to a local vs. a foreigner. My partner in the early years of the gallery was a local, but he now lived in the United States. Even though he spoke their language, they were able to notice that he wore clothes or sneakers that weren't available there so they ultimately offered him a middle ground price that wasn't offered to me.
Back in the gallery, American art buyers were all too eager to replicate that experience of negotiating the final price of a sculpture. They were looking for the best deal they could get. Even if you had a sale going on, they wanted more. Although it was a constantly shifting playing field, there were some key lessons I learned from the art of successful negotiation.
1. Everyone wants to come out on top. Negotiating brings out the competitive juices in everyone.
2. Show respect and understanding for where they are coming from. Everyone feels their position is genuine and compelling.
3. Remove your ego, as much as you can, so you can focus on creating a win-win for both parties.
4. Approach your negotiation as if this will only be one of many future negotiations. By making it a positive experience for both parties, it will encourage future business. Drive too hard of a bargain in your favor and risk alienating them forever.
5. Many believe negotiating is all about bluffing and bravado, but showing some vulnerability and honesty can often speed the transaction and satisfaction afterwards.
6. There are times where one party clearly has the advantage and upper hand, but accept that sometimes you need a deal to go through and that next time the dynamic might switch. I can recall numerous times when big bills were due that I sold a sculpture for much less than normal in order to get access to the funds immediately.
7. Elicit their limits, and determine yours. Determining the reasonable range for negotiation cuts out a lot of needless time. Understand that sometimes walking away from a negotiation, despite wanting it completed, is the best option.
8. A successful negotiation increases the respect that exists between both parties.
Focus on the results and not the people. Don't make it personal, it is only a transaction.
The negotiation has begun. I'll let you know how it turns out.