Overheard at Angus Vol. XII: The art of negotiation

Listen to this tasty morsel of a conversation I eavesdropped on just last week . . .

Producer #1:  How are negotiations going with the actors for NAME OF NEW PLAY?

Producer #2:  I came up with a really good plan for the offers.

Producer #1:  Really? What’s that?

Producer #2:  Instead of giving them one offer, I gave them a choice.  $5,000 flat per week, or $4,000 per week plus a percentage of the gross.

Producer #1:  Interesting.   How did that work out?

Producer #2:  They all wanted $5,000 plus a percentage of the gross.

Offering options in a negotiation always seems like a good idea.  You’re being flexible.  You’re allowing the negotiatee to choose their own fiscal fate . . . more or less risk . . . it’s up to them.

The problem is that once you throw out options . . . people only see the best of both . . . and then they want a hybrid.  In other Angus-like words, they want to order off the menu.

So, unless you’re willing to say “take-it-or-leave-it”, don’t lay out different paths for your intended to take.  They’ll just see the best of both options and ask for it all.

And then you’ll be on a path to the poor house.

(For a great book on negotiating, check out this classic.)


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  • Kile Ozier says:

    I don’t know that I agree with that.

    Wearing my Producer Hat and receiving that response to my offer of the two options, I’d likely then offer a choice between $4000/week or $3000/week + %age of the gross.

    The simple fact that the actors WANTED the larger weekly figure + percentage certainly doesn’t mean that’s an available option. Of course, they want more: we ALL do.

    My sense is that Producer #2 was offering a bit of risk for a possibly greater reward…an opportunity for the talent to “invest” in possibility and potential. For the actors to come back with a third, un-offered option that is outside the parameters of the first two seems simply greedy and arrogant…imho…

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

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