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Win-Win Is For Losers

Entering any negotiation with a win-win mindset is short-sighted, irresponsible, and immature.

Win-Win Is For Losers

Earlier this year, I recommended the Straight Line System developed by Jordan Belfort, an infamous penny stock broker portrayed by Leonardo Di Caprio in "The Wolf Of Wall Street". There are countless books, courses, and other resources devoted to sales and negotiation, but I consider Belfort's Straight Line System the ideal starting point for complete novices and experienced veterans alike.

(Belfort shares a lot of content for free on his YouTube channel, but if you want an all-inclusive reference, then his book, "Way Of The Wolf", is your best value-for-money option. His online courses are much pricier, but they do provide very helpful demonstrations of tonal patterns and other key tactics).

While Belfort's approach is a great place to begin, it's obviously not the last word on making sales and negotiating agreements. Two additional resources that I strongly recommend are "Never Split The Difference" (by Chris Voss) and "Start With No" (by Jim Camp).

Both Voss and Camp advocate a philosophy that, at first glance, is almost offensively contrarian: the entire win-win approach to negotiation ("find middle ground", "deal in good faith", "protect relationships") is bullshit. In short, win-win is for losers.

It sounds extreme, but it makes more sense when you probe below the deliberately provocative surface. Voss and Camp don't abhor win-win outcomes. Rather, they warn against a win-win mindset that presumes concessions and compromises where none may be necessary or desirable.

The first, and most obvious, problem with the win-win approach is that it leaves you incredibly vulnerable to negotiators who focus exclusively on their own best interests to the potential detriment of your own. Some might be maliciously exploitative, but many will simply not concern themselves with your interests because that's not their responsibility. It's yours.

Not only will a win-win mindset compromise your own best interests, it can also harm your clients and industry partners. A deal based on concessions and compromises is harder to fulfill because you're doing more for less. At best, it's risky. At worst, it's unsustainable. In extreme cases, it might mean running at a loss due to poorly conceived promises, and going out of business doesn't benefit anyone.

The alternative is simple: get fair value for the solutions you provide. Don't allow yourself to be manipulated into one-sided agreements by ruthless sharks or your own misplaced sense of fairness.

That's easier said than done, but both Voss and Camp get into plenty of highly actionable tactics that you can apply immediately. These are essential resources for anyone who has ever felt frustrated at not getting what they know they are worth, especially when dealing with people who appear to have all the leverage.