How my very first negotiation went wrong.
I was very excited when I started my very first big-time negotiation. It was over twenty years ago now, and looking back, it wasn’t even that big of an issue. Just a small contract with a vendor that my boss had tasked me with. “Get a great deal,” he said. He gave me a budget. I wanted to come way under.
But this was my very first negotiation, so I treated it like I was arguing a case in front of the Supreme Court . . . with cameras watching.
And I thought I was ready. I mean, I had watched enough LA Law as a kid (in fact, I wanted to be a lawyer at one point . . . so that’s all it takes to be a good negotiator, right?).
And at some point in the negotiation, it started to go a little sideways. I thought I was being treated “unfairly” . . . so I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I blew up. And I said some things that I thought would make the vendor give in.
You know what happened? Instead of giving in, they dug their heels in . . . and while I did come in a sliver under budget, I know I could have done much better with a different approach. And instead, I walked away with an ok deal and a vendor who didn’t like me oh so much.
Is the takeaway of this blog not to blow up during negotiations? Actually no. (There is a time and place for the right amount of steam-blowing depending on the issues and parties involved.)
The biggest lesson that I learned from my very first negotiation happened after the negotiation was completed.
The very next day, my boss called me into his office and said, “We’re doing a reading of a new show. There’s no budget. We need a favor from VENDOR. Call them and see if they’ll help us out on this one for next-to-nothing.”
Here’s the thing about this industry. It’s about the size of a pin head on a pin head. That means you have to be very careful with how you treat people during your negotiations, because odds are, you’re going to be in another negotiation with the same parties very soon (the very next day in my case!). And one bad negotiation with another party, can lead to a lifetime of them.
I ate major crow that day with the vendor and managed to salvage the relationship (took me about three lunches, a Yankees game and a popcorn tin at Christmas to do it), and it’s a good thing I did, because I’m still negotiating with them TODAY.
Negotiating is one of the most important skills an individual can possess. Everything in our business (and in our lives) is a negotiation. Whether that’s a theater deal, a deal with a writer/actor or designer, or whether that’s negotiating with an employee to make sure they finish a project by a deadline, or negotiating with a spouse on where to go on vacation, or who should walk the dog at night.
Without a doubt, a skillful negotiator can achieve success in their chosen area much faster than someone who just watched a lot of LA Law.
That’s why after my first botched negotiation, I studied the art of deal making like I was preparing for a Supreme Court case. I read books, took seminars, engaged in live-negotiation exercises and more. And, I’ve spent the last twenty years, honing those skills in all sorts of negotiations with agents, unions, theater owners and more, all while learning the very unique nuances of negotiating in the arts (which is different than any other industry).
Since negotiating is such an important part of what we all do, I’ve decided to make it the subject of my next webinar, The Art of Negotiating . . . in the Arts . . . which will take place next Wednesday, January 11th at 7 PM.
During this one hour session (including a Q&A), you’ll learn:
- The most important part of any negotiation.
- How do deal with . . . ahem . . . “difficult” negotiators (and we’ve got a lot of them in this biz).
- When to walk away . . . no matter how hard that may be (this is so hard in the arts since we’re so emotionally attached to our projects).
- The one thing you can do to get an advantage in every single negotiation you have.
- The tricks skillful negotiators will use on you and how to avoid them.
The webinar is $149. Click here to register now.
Or you can save over $50 and get it for free when you join TheProducersPerspectivePRO for only $97.
And when you join pro, you get full access to PRO including all the other webinars from this past year, contacts lists, my monthly newsletter, networking events (including one on the 21st) and more. Click here to learn more about PRO (including video testimonials from members).
The average person will enter into thousands of negotiations every single year . . . from in-depth business negotiations (including for your own salary) to negotiating with an airline to get reimbursement when they lose your bag (I just negotiated a free ticket from a major airline when they lost my bag yesterday).
I guarantee you’ll end up getting more out of your negotiations this year when you take this webinar.
See you next Wed.