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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Review: The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal

I've done quite a bit of negotiating for clients, on several occasions negotiating 7 figure sums (and in one case RSUs that turned out to be worth in the 8 figures), but I'm always trying to improve my art. The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal is a great courses audio series that came highly recommended.

The first couple of lectures were repetitive, boring stuff. It's not until chapter 8 where Professor Freeman gets into BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Settlement), which I feel is the first effective method (and the most effective method for most engineers) when it comes to negotiating compensation: basically, if you don't have any alternatives that pay better than the company you're negotiating with, then you have no leverage.

Starting with chapter 8, however, Professor Freeman gets into a framework for negotiating that I think is potentially useful, including a framework for discussing different types of negotiations: distributive negotiations (zero sum games) vs non-distributive negotiations. One interesting point  that he makes is that stepping away from the negotiating table and taking time to prepare is a great approach and often improves outcome. This fact alone explains why my clients frequently do better than clients who try to negotiate on their own: to make full use of my services they have to step away from the negotiation and call, e-mail, or text me and wait for a reply, and that distance keeps them from panicking and accepting a suboptimal offer.

Similarly, the framework introduced in chapter 14, "I FORESAW IT" is a good one to use and encourages people to try for creative negotiations.

There are several places where Freeman clearly doesn't negotiate as much as I do in certain domains. For instance, he claims that you can negotiate vacation as part of a compensation package. In my experience, it's very rare that companies do so. On the other hand, some of his case studies are great: there's one example in chapter 14 where an apparently great deal turns out to be a terrible one, and Freeman explains why and how.

For parents, there's also a chapter about negotiating with kids. (It's a stand-in for negotiating with difficult people) It's good and I wish there was more of that in this audio series.

All in all, I thought the series could stand more of the case studies I described above, but even I learned quite a bit from it so I can recommend it!

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