Who doesn't wish to go back in negotiations skills and tell their younger self all the things we have learned along the way of life that we WISHED we had known oh-so long ago? I recall one of my first sales gigs was a vacuum cleaner salesman for Kirby Vacuum. Door-to-door no less. I rode around all day with my demo-vacuum in a van full of people trained less than the first-timer in a hopeless MLM. I recall mostly my poor attitude, my lack of willingness to get rich off of the comical selling of vacuum cleaners in upper middle class neighborhoods full of vacuum cleaners. The first day of that sales gig would be "when" I'd go back and whisper whatever my resistant younger self could hear.
What would you tell your younger self and "when" would you go back? I would give my younger self a few tips. The first tip I would give is that anything you are willing to offer someone else you must first offer it to yourself. In my many sales negotiations skills tours I always talked to the sales force as if that one thing I had to say in the moment was the only thing they would ever remember of me or my knowledge. What I told them, I would of course go back and tell myself: A client can have anything they want (no matter what) as long as they are willing to pay for it. If I have to offer this to myself first before I can offer it to the client - what does that mean? It means in the world of Negotiations that the only thing that limits my deal-making is the edges of my absurdity.
It's absurd enough to get in a van full of sales-pretenders, each armed with a vacuum cleaner. It's more absurd to walk through negotiations skills you have never been to before and stroll around in the hot sun with your vacuum cleaner door-to-door with the hopes of selling those 5 vacuum cleaners you have to sell before they will start paying you. It's absolutely absurd that some stranger would let you in their house, vacuum the underside of their bed and then write a check for 500 percent more than the vacuum cleaner costs you.
And of course - selling vacuum cleaners is not nearly as absurd as I wish to stretch my sales force, your sales force, negotiations skills or anyone else that REALLY wants to master the art of the deal, but it's a start.
Resourceful Questions is the one thing I would spend endless days teaching my younger self if I could. The Art of Deal is almost completely about capturing, directing, redirecting and mastering someone's attention. Where negotiations skills go, energy flow is not just some flimsy metaphysical idiom - it's pure science. In nearly every negotiation you will ever make - the person you are negotiating with (I call them my negotiating complement) is focused on what he's suppose to get from you and how he's supposed to do that. Even power negotiators sometimes get caught in this trap and as they do - their attention moves away from the absurd and toward the predictable where they will loose their shirt to the patently absurd negotiator.
Here is a guide (though you can certainly be more creative than I) to getting in negotiations skills for the absurd negotiator: If you are Negotiating for a bag full of golf clubs - see if you can get your negotiating complement to throw in a golf-car, golf-course or trip on the golf-yacht. If you are ordering a burger from some nasty fast-food restaurant - ask them to cook the meat well done, toast the buns twice, have them grill your onions, pickles and request they put all your condiments in small containers instead of on the burger.
If being blatantly absurd is too scary then just ask questions all the time to people until you realize they will tell you negotiations skills and let you say just about anything to them. Interview everyone you meet in your daily life if you get a chance. The Arab-sounding woman that is taking your drive-through order -- ask her how many hours of English she's studied, where she studied it at and what the requirements are at "that" restaurant to be work the drive through in terms of basic English.
If you are braver than the drive-through litmus test, then lets step up the challenge to determine your maximum absurdity. Start by reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Never let your complement determine the terrain where you negotiate. The more absurd the location of the negotiation, the better. One of the rules of N.L.P. is that people can consciously focus on 7 plus or minus 2 things at any given time. Your job is to fill up the buffer of your complement's conscious mind with irrelevant things. As he drowns in the noise of Chucky Cheese restaurant where 6 different birthday parties are going on at the same time and struggles to maneuver you into a position where he thinks he can reach your business jugular vein, simply have your secretary or maid call your cell phone every 10 minutes. Always over or under-dress for a negotiation. The Art of the Deal has almost nothing to do with the logic of negotiations skills. Deals are made and broken on the passion and fears of your complement. They either go for what you offer because of hope or dread.
True absurdity for a Negotiator means turning your complement's "set" into a minor sub-set of your own negotiation. Most people are not trained as Negotiators - they just think they are Negotiators. Asking Resourceful Questions really just means getting the Complement to tip his hand completely. Once your negotiations skills give you the very strategy to wrench the lion's share of the Negotiation from him, then all that is left is to decide how long to gloat before you rip it from his paws.
If you are still unsure which way is up on The Absurd Factor, then go rent a clown suit and sell your daughters Girl Scout cookies door-to-door in some strange negotiations skills. It is all the places that our complements WONT go that makes us powerful as Negotiators.