Today, I spoke to Don Hutson and Dr. George H. Lucas, who are the co-authors of the New York Times bestseller, The One Minute Negotiator. In this interview, Don and George tell you why people are afraid to negotiate, what the qualities of a good negotiator are, the benefits and drawbacks of negotiation, and more.

Why are most people afraid to negotiate?

There are several reasons for this. First, they have no tolerance for learning the negotiations process; they would rather live with the status quo than confront others. Second, they have not invested in developing their skills in this critical life area. Even when we run learning experiences for professional buyers and salespeople only about 25% of them have attended a seminar or even read a book on negotiations. Finally, they fail to recognize how often we do or should negotiate each and every day. We use the scanner at the supermarket, often in the self-checkout lane, and we usually shut up and pay whatever people are asking in normal purchase situations. Our book, The One Minute Negotiator will help people treat this fear we call “negotiaphobia.”

What makes for a good negotiator?

Well, the person must be able to deal with ambiguity which requires a good bit of self confidence. Next, the person must be willing to invest in preparation for an anticipated encounter. Third, they need a repeatable process that makes them both more confident and effective. We provide a field-tested process with our EASY formula; Engage, Assess, Strategize, and do all three as part of Your one minute drill to get your head in the game for any negotiation. The person should also continually increase the number of tools and tactics in their negotiation skills tool box. This will help make them more successful as they avoid, accommodate, compete or collaborate. Very few people have only one screw driver in their home repair tool box and a proficient negotiator must have confidence in a wide array of tactics.

What are the benefits to learning how to negotiate? What are the drawbacks for those who don’t have this skill?

We say that America’s “Negotiaphobes” have left enough money on the table to pay of the national debt! It all comes down to a higher degree of personal competence and the satisfaction we gain from positive results. Our experience in negotiation skills began in the mid-1990s as we collaborated with Dr. Patrick Schul on the development of the first graduate level negotiation skills course. As college recruiters found out about this course each semester we had to add more sections. Companies realize that skilled negotiators are a resource to help them grow market share, manage costs, grow their top line, and collectively enhance their profitability. On the personal side, negotiation skills assist people in reducing the stress and conflict in their lives, reduce their cost of living, and have the great feeling they experience as they improve their side of deal, after deal after deal.

The lack of this skill results in the opposite; less success and more stress in life. It also creates a sense of helplessness as people are forced to dance to the music being played by those they encounter who possess greater proficiencies. A lack of collaborative skills, as noted in the book, results in people missing significant life opportunities and failing to get maximum benefit from those they do engage in.

Can you give an example of how someone negotiated a better deal?

We worked with two organizations that had historically been highly competitive and price focused in their dealings. The buying side players had attended our workshop on negotiation skills and were dismayed that most of their vendors lacked collaborative capabilities. During a subsequent two-day workshop where both sides were present, and a collaborative trading alliance was finalized, they discovered a way where tools rusting away in a Connecticut warehouse could be loaned out to customers who bought the supplies to go into the tool. Two companies that had been repeatedly battling over price like dogs fighting over the same bone suddenly had an entire butcher shop at their disposal; a $6 million dollar deal. The key was both sides having collaborative skills that got true needs, capabilities, and working together to craft creative solutions.

When, if at all, should you stay away from negotiating?

Actually, avoidance is a viable negotiation strategy, but only under a certain set of conditions. If you already have a favorable solution via negotiations with another party, why should you waste your time and other resources with an option that is not even close. Also, if you are in a deal you like, and the other side wants to change it to make it more favorable for them, it may be a good strategy to avoid negotiation discussions for as long as possible and try to make the status quo endure.

During times of rising prices, some buyers will skillfully avoid annual price increase discussions for six months and then suggest postponement until next year. Conversely, during falling prices, salespeople will attempt to avoid discussions for as long as possible. The issue is what are the consequences from avoiding? If the other side does not set and enforce deadlines, and any negotiation will lead to less favorable outcomes, and there is not relationship capital to draw on, benefit from and protect, why would you want to engage? The best play is to skillfully draw things out, return phone messages after hours, come down with every malady known to mankind, and hang on to what you have.

Don Hutson is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller, The One Minute Negotiator. He is the chairman and CEO of U.S. Learning chairman of the board of Executive Books, and an accomplished corporate speaker and trainer. He is the author of twelve books, including The One Minute Entrepreneur (with Ken Blanchard) and The Sale. Don is the Past President of the National Speakers Association, a member of the Speakers Roundtable, and won the St. Jude Hospital Humanitarian Award.

Dr. George H. Lucas is the the co-author of the New York Times bestseller, The One Minute Negotiator. He is a senior consultant and member of the board of directors for U.S. Learning. He has conducted negotiation seminars on six continents and is the author or coauthor of several books, including The Contented Achiever and Marketing strategy.