Neediness Comes in Many Varieties
Perhaps the category of negotiation in which this neediness dynamic is most powerful and dangerous is the straight retail sales negotiation, in which the golden rule of business is the implicit understanding of both sides: “The one with the gold rules.”
In Western culture, we see ourselves as buyers, don’t we? We proudly buy and consume as much as we can. The salesperson, on the other hand, has a problem with his or her self-image. The very term “sales” is being replaced in many fields by “business development,” because the image of the salesperson is that of the huckster on the street, almost. More important, the salesperson is definitely the dependent party in the negotiation. He or she must be prepared to give, to compromise, while the buyer takes everything he or she can get. After all, the buyer can go elsewhere, in most cases, but the poor seller needs this deal. The selfimage of the individual in the selling role traps him or her in a neediness mode and often leads to bad deals.
Tough negotiators are experts at recognizing this neediness in their adversaries, and expert in creating it as well. Negotiators with giant corporations, in particular, will heighten the expectations of their supplier adversaries, painting rosy, exaggerated scenarios for mega-orders, joint ventures, global alliances, all for the purpose of building neediness on the part of their adversary for this once-in-a-lifetime, career-making deal. Then, when the neediness is well established, they lower the boom with changes, exceptions, and a lot more – demands for concessions, all of them. Throughout this book we’ll see in ugly detail how this works.
Sometimes, however, the buyer, not the seller, finds himself in the potentially needy position. A classic example from history is the Lewis and Clark expedition. When these intrepid explorers really needed fresh horses, the Native
Americans somehow knew this. If the local residents were negotiating to sell less valuable and necessary goods, they came to quick agreements, but when they were selling vitally needed horses to the explorers, they pitched their teepees and settled in for the long haul. They were instinctively tough negotiators. (The journals of Lewis and Clark are excellent reading for any negotiator, because these two great Americans encountered dozens of unusual negotiating situations.)
Sometimes Lewis and Clark were needy, plain and simple. Sometimes they really were desperate for horses and other supplies. Today, in the twenty-first century, we’re not needy. We’re just not, but we nevertheless still hear people say, “I need this jacket.” Or “I need this car.” Or “I need to make this call.” Or “I need this job.” Or “I need to talk to you.” Or “I need this deal.” We use the word “need” much too casually. The only things we truly need are the basics of physical survival – air, water, food, clothing, shelter – and everyone reading this book already has these. We also need the basics of intellectual and emotional wellbeing – love, family, friendship, satisfying work, hobbies, faith – each reader has his or her own list here. But it’s a short list, and it does not – or should not – include the $500 jacket or the $100,000 car, because there are other jackets and cars. It should not include this particular j o b or sale or deal, because there are other jobs and sales and deals.
Nevertheless, neediness is everywhere. Let me tell you the most instructive experience on this subject I’ve had in my own life.