Negotiation is a fact of life. Just the way you feel hungry or thirsty, every single day you will face countless situations where you have to negotiate your way through to an outcome of your choice. It is so much a part of our lives that most of us are not even aware that literally every minute of the day we are locked in one negotiation battle or another!
Negotiation is also a great leveller in the sense that there is no human being exempt from this. You may be a beggar on the street or you may be a CEO of an MNC. Situations, risks and the expected outcomes may be different, but negotiate you will.
When you are an entrepreneur, it goes without saying that your entire journey is peppered with negotiations. It starts with you negotiating with yourself whether you should be an entrepreneur or not. Then you negotiate with your family for their buy-in to your decision. You negotiate with your friends or colleagues to join you as co-founders. As you start ideating on the product, you negotiate with partners to develop the product and later for a whole range of services. As you start hiring, you negotiate with your employees. When you go to market, you negotiate with your customers. As you start to grow and the business needs more oxygen, you start negotiating with investors interested in funding you.
Qualities of a good negotiator
After 20 years in the corporate and 12 years as a mentor and teacher, these are some of the home truths Nandini has arrived at that make you a better negotiator:
- Do your homework before coming to the deal table. The homework is about the person at the other side of the table, the situation, how much he has at stake and how much you have.
- Be empathic. You are not the teeth-baring, chest-beating bonobo here. Good negotiation is one where both parties go home feeling good about themselves. It will never be an equal outcome for both parties, but the one who does not have an upper hand can still go home with his self-esteem intact.
- Be prepared for a surprise. The surprise could be both good and bad. A good surprise can trip you as much as a bad one.
- Send a woman in to negotiate. I find this works because women being emotional creatures have a highly sensitive antenna for emotional shifts in the other person.
- Don’t be overbearing. My way or the highway is the worst attitude at the deal table. And god forbid if your attitude is communicated in your demeanour!
- Keep a tab on time. The best negotiations are those that are wrapped up quickly. The more you dawdle, the more you lose time and the longer you keep the negotiation open the fewer chances of either of you going home with a winning decision.
- Give something unexpected. Most people assume that in a negotiation both parties should only grab, grab and grab. I have sat at many negotiation tables where one party decides on generosity as a winning strategy. Believe me, that party gains a lot more than when he set out.
Our recommendation, if you want to know more about negotiation with examples, is Nandini’s book, Startup Stand up.
When giants lock horns
Let us understand the negotiation with the live case of Apple and Samsung and the numerous times they have come to the negotiation table in court over the last few years.
When Apple filed a lawsuit in April 2011 against Samsung for copying the iPhone’s look and feel in their Galaxy line of phones, it shook the world of business. After all, Samsung was one of Apple’s biggest suppliers. Shouldn’t that have persuaded the two companies to negotiate and move ahead?
It didn’t – and by December 2011, the fight had extended to 30 cases across North America, Asia, Europe and Australia. The court-mandated mediation between the CEOs of both companies lasted just two days and ended in an impasse. Neither was ready to blink. By July 2012, both sides were engaged in 50 lawsuits across the globe.
Advantage One went to Apple in the United States when in August 2012, a California jury ruled in favour of Apple and ordered Samsung to pay more than $1 billion in damages for patent violations of Apple products (this was subsequently scaled down). In spite of this victory, a permanent injunction against the sale of Samsung’s alleged infringing products was denied in December 2012, and they remained on sale. Elsewhere in Asia, UK and Europe, Samsung scored a few legal wins.
Between 2013 and May 2018, when Apple was finally awarded $539 million (against their original claim of $2 billion), it was an intense seesaw and one of the most closely watched legal battles. Soon after, in Jun 2018, Apple and Samsung sat down at the negotiation table and brought the seven-year legal fight to an end. The settlement amount and terms are yet to be disclosed.
“And if I had to characterize it, it didn’t really accomplish anything.” These were the words of a Santa Clara law professor who had been closely tracking the Apple-Samsung legal feud. Apple counters this reasoning with the philosophy that
“the case has always been about more than money…It is important that we continue to protect the hard work and innovation of so many people at Apple.”
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