In November 2020, Lev Lester’s webinar was held, during which the topic of negotiations was revealed and important rules were highlighted that must be adhered to by those who want to succeed in negotiation skills. During the webinar, Lev Lester received a lot of questions that were not included in the live broadcast. We publish the answers to these questions in this article.
What strategies would you recommend using in negotiations with a weak position, when BATNA of the other side is much better?
Lev Lester: The first tip is to forget that you are in a weak position. If you negotiate knowing that you are in a weak position, that is half the battle. You can win with a weak position, or you can make a strong one from a weak position. I won very often with a weak position, watch my lecture on this, there are many practical recommendations. Most importantly, consider your position to be strong. Believe it. You will respect yourself, others will respect you.
One of the negotiators has a clear informational advantage. He, by limiting information, uses deception. What to do: reconcile, accept for a lesson, or still challenge the contract? But after all, when challenging, the “experts in the matter” will again have an informational advantage.
Lev Lester: The fundamental point in your question is what to do if you see a deception. You saw it, you felt it, you know that this is a deception. What to do? Continue negotiations, pretend that you have not understood anything, and so on? My advice: as soon as you saw that you are being deceived, then you will not be deceived (because forewarned means armed). In this situation, you have to look with different eyes and understand why you are being deceived, how they are deceiving and why.
It is best not to have anything to do with those who are deceiving you. It is enough to somehow show them that you understand that you are being deceived. Normal people in this situation will stop cheating and behave differently. If they continue, abort the negotiations. You don’t need these people.
Can you reveal the names of your teachers? Were they professional negotiators? In what ways did they transfer their knowledge?
Lev Lester: I had a life as a teacher, I learned by doing and there were no such special teachers. I don’t call anyone my teacher, that’s how it turned out for me. At the time when I was learning the basics of mastery, there were almost no teachers. And there was no such science, negotiations. You are more fortunate now, there are more opportunities to learn, take advantage of these opportunities.
What issues should not be raised in negotiations?
Lev Lester: During the negotiations it is not necessary to raise those issues that cause a negative reaction. If you know the answer is no, leave these questions alone. If you know that your questions can hurt some subtle feelings of your partners, do not do it. If possible, it is necessary to touch upon everything that brings together, leads to agreement, and as seriously as possible to avoid that which brings negativity and conflict. Work on the positive side and avoid the negative.
How to make sure that a significant difference in the status of negotiators does not affect the quality and result of the negotiations themselves?
Lev Lester: It’s very simple. You are talking about a situation when two persons of unequal position meet. And you are probably talking about a situation where the other side has more credentials. Because if you are a more authoritative person, then, most likely, it bothers you less.
So, you met someone who is more deserved, more authoritative, high-ranking, and he makes you feel it. How to behave in this situation? You have to behave very simply and talk about what is interesting to him. As soon as he hears something interesting to him, he will forget what your position is and will understand that you are talking about what is important to him.
And the second element: you must have enough authority to , what are you talking about. If you talk about what you can do. And if he needs it, he will immediately forget about the difference in positions and will be an excellent conversationalist. Therefore, always talk about what other people need and after that get from them everything that you need.
Your opinion on business negotiations between a man and a woman. In your opinion, are there any peculiarities in them? Is there something to focus on?
Lev Lester: This is an interesting question. To my shame I can say that I have never paid much attention to this question. At one of the webinars, I received this question and thought about it. I wondered. Now I will answer on the merits, and before that I want to say a little about another aspect.
You see, we pay a lot of attention to political correctness. Women have achieved that, in general, the word “woman” soon will not be used, as well as “man.” Just like “boy”, “girl”. Our political correctness goes so far that it gets scary.
A couple of days ago, I asked my son, who is a big leader in one of the most famous companies in the world. He worked a lot with women and was not always successful.
I told him: Let’s write a book about how women negotiate . He really has something to write with me about.
He said: “No. It is very dangerous. Whatever we write, two men writing about how women negotiate? This is, in general, a “firing squad” number. We will lose anyway “. And I agreed with him.
Now in essence. You see, it’s not a secret for anyone that a man and a woman are different. We think differently, make decisions differently, see events differently. Therefore, we negotiate in different ways. What catches your eye? These are the following things: women are more sensitive than men, they feel better about deception. A man may not feel, but a woman feels that she is being deceived. In this regard, women have a great advantage.
Women are more practical. When trying to discuss something with a woman, the issue of dividing something, for example: we will divide part now, the rest – later. So women will pay more attention to “now”, she loves tactical things more than strategic ones. And from this we can draw a very interesting conclusion: when you are negotiating with a woman, it turns out that the man sees the big picture better. He sees the goal, the steps towards the goal. The woman does not see this, but she sees the details better. Therefore, when negotiating with a woman, do not be surprised when more attention (maybe undeservedly) is paid to details, and women are strong in this.
An interesting question is women’s attitude to risk. They do not like him, but they like to make decisions not risky, so that someone else does it. Men are much more risky.
And the list goes on: women and men speak differently (men speak more in negotiations, women – less). Men interrupt more often, but women listen better. The list of these things goes on and on. The differences are very big. Therefore, if each of us has a certain style of negotiating, we must change this style depending on who we are negotiating with. And in this case, if we are negotiating with a woman, we must make an amendment, otherwise we will lose.
How to determine a specialist on whom a positive decision depends on negotiating a contract?
Lev Lester: How can you define a person who makes decisions in someone else’s team? Very simple. See who the team reacts to, who speaks louder, who starts laughing first, who turns around. This is very clearly visible, even if a person tries to keep silent, an experienced negotiator will find him. By the fact that other members of the team all the time turn around at him, look around. They watch how he reacts, how he listens, what he does. Therefore, this person is very easy to identify.
How did you meet Vladimir Konstantinovich Tarasov? Which of you two made the first offer of cooperation? Do you believe that the rules of business negotiations, which you declare in your courses and in books, are 100% applicable in modern realities on the territory of the post-Soviet space in small and medium-sized businesses? What are the main reasons that do not allow negotiators to “mature” to the business level.
Lev Lester: Naturally, in my contact with Vladimir Konstantinovich, I took the first step, because he is a lump in the Russian learning process, negotiations, and personality development. Naturally, I found his school, I offered my services. He immediately answered, we began to communicate, then we began to cooperate. I began to read one course, then the second, now the third, but I was so sold out that I had already prepared the fourth. The initiative was from me.
Do I believe that my methods work? Yes, they work, they work great, and in this case it is not the theorizing of some scientist, scientific worker. This is, in general, a statement of practice. Therefore, everything works, and I have no doubts in this regard.
Why does it take so long for masters to grow and how to become a master? In order to become a master of negotiations and reach decent heights, you need practice, teachers, hard work. And a little bit of success doesn’t hurt either. This is the cocktail that leads to good results.
What tools in negotiations should be used against the pragmatic logic that is so inherent in women?
Lev Lester: This term characterizes such a quality of women as self-righteousness. Indeed, in fact, a woman does not always care whether she is right or not, and sometimes it does not matter. Here she believes that she is right, and for many this is enough. Good enough reason to say “I want to get this” . And why does she want to receive it, is it due to her? And that’s another story.
If you try to explain to her that she is wrong, you will definitely fail. This is impossible because she believes that she is right, and in the end, she has the right to believe it. Therefore, you do not need to explain to her that she is wrong.
Give what she wants, but you must give in such a way that you get what you want from her. After all, if she and you get what you need, let her believe at least ten times that she is even more right than she really is. Start negotiations by offering your partners, your interlocutors what they need. And after that, get what you need.
What if you don’t find this “golden mean”? After all, there is not always such an opportunity in negotiations (including with women). We cannot always give what the other side wants.
Lev Lester: We said earlier that women are realists. They do not want a pie in the sky, they need a bird in their hands. And whether this titmouse is put to them or not is another question. The bottom line is that she wants a tit, and you only have a sparrow. If there is no tit, well, then convince her that you only have a sparrow, and she can get it. If you are convincing, it may very well be that she will agree to this sparrow and be happy.
You must start by understanding what this person wants. After all, sometimes your interlocutor does not know what he wants, and this is generally a dead end situation. Sometimes he asks one thing and wants another. So you must have such skills in order to understand what he really wants and give it to him. And he will be happy. In my lectures there are several examples of how, in a weak situation, I was lucky to guess what another person needs and twice more lucky to be able to give it to him.
There is a sparrow, and that’s not bad either. Let’s dance around a sparrow.
How to negotiate if you have to defend the interests of a party whose ethical principles you do not share?
Lev Lester: Very often in the Russian press I come across some references to ethical principles. It would certainly help me to understand what you mean by “ethical” principles.
Let’s say I work for a company whose manager does not comply with my ethical principles. Maybe he is a deceiver, or someone else, and he does not correspond to my ethical principles. Can I do my job as a negotiator or as a specialist? Certainly can. By and large, what do I care if he’s so imperfect? I shouldn’t love him, and he shouldn’t love me. I have to do my job and do it honestly, professionally. And how he acts, by and large, is not a matter of principle.
In fact, it is very difficult. I see this as an example of my son: he has made a great career and moves very quickly. Very often he has misunderstandings with his leaders. He does an excellent job and wants to be loved, encouraged, appreciated by the leader. But this does not always happen, and he is offended, hence conflicts arise.
I am trying to explain to my son that the boss should not love him. Sometimes the boss is a bastard, for example, a bad person. But he’s the boss, and you work for him. Therefore, you should not pay attention to what is not necessary. Do your job and do it well. Whether they love you or not, this is how the card will fall.
Pay less attention to these terms, do your job better, and the result will be better.
During the course you said that you could become a negotiator with Berezovsky, but he did not take you. Would you like to try yourself in this role?
Lev Lester: I told a little differently. At the time of our meeting, Berezovsky received a contract with AvtoVAZ to improve the control system. He needed a team of specialists who would solve a specific problem. At that time I was already a Doctor of Science (how long ago it was) and was one of the best (and perhaps the best) specialist in the Soviet Union on these issues. That is why Berezovsky looked at me.
We were brought together by a famous person, Peter Aven, now a major oligarch. Berezovsky looked at me, and I did not suit him, he did not take me for this role. He took on another person who brilliantly solved the problem.
Would it be interesting for me to work with him? Of course. He is an interesting person, open-minded, and it would be interesting for me to work with him. Have I worked with other oligarchs? Yes, I did. As a rule, they were not masters of negotiations. They solved their problems in other ways.
What is one of your favorite systems for changing the Picture of the World that you have used?
Lev Lester: Not an easy question. Picture of the world, what is it? This is how you see the surrounding reality, how you act and how you are used to acting. Can someone change your Picture of the World? Of course. What is needed for this? To prove to you that you are doing something wrong, wrong, that something can be done differently.
Here is someone who can prove this to you unobtrusively, not rudely, and you will do as this a person has recommended or advised you (or you read it in some book), this is changing your Picture of the World.
Do I change the Pictures of the world of others? Yes. I don’t want to do this, but in many cases my listeners tell me: “All my life I have negotiated like this. And now I realized that I was leading them incorrectly, that I had to conduct them like this ”. This is what changed the Picture of the World. And I hear it almost every week. The online school education system allows teachers to advise you on the right and reasonable things, which in some cases tell you that you need to change yourself, you need to do something differently.
For example, a person says: “ I have negotiated all my life, proposing first. I thought it was right and I was taught that if you want something, come and make your proposal, and start discussing it. ” In my lectures, he saw and understood that it was wrong, that we had to wait for the proposal on the other hand.
The same is the acceptance of other proposals. You have been made an offer you cannot refuse. You agreed, great proposal. Did you do the right thing? No, it’s wrong. But it was in your Picture of the World, you are used to it.
And there are a lot of such examples.
How to sell in conditions of dumping and high competition?
Lev Lester: It is better, of course, to avoid these situations … These are the most difficult situations when there is a lot of goods on the market, the same as yours, and even someone is dumping. If you try to keep normal prices, you will lose. If you compete in dumping, you will not win either. What to do?
In such cases, you should try to work individually with your customer, expand the services that you give him. The “pie” of negotiations should expand. You have to offer him something that is different from the market and does not fall into this whirlwind of dumping. Then you will be working normally again. Therefore, study your customers, study what they need, and come to them with suggestions that distinguish your products from other products that are competitive to you.
Tell us about your favorite tricks in hard negotiations, if any?
Lev Lester: Very good question. In Russia, tough negotiations are very common, they like to “break on the knee.” Many listeners write: “A tender is announced, I come with the products, I say what my budget is” . They say to me: “Now the budget is in half and we will talk” . These are tough negotiations, they “break”.
I was lucky that I did not get into tough negotiations (except for literally one or two cases). I sometimes asked myself the question: here I work, I am in business and do a lot of what others do. They are being deceived, and why are they not deceiving me? They are “broken through the knee”, why don’t I have this? I even asked my partners what was the matter.
They say: “You see, it’s obvious that it will be useless. In your case, it is clear that you are a serious, experienced businessman and such “tricks” will not work with you. ”
If you inspire respect with your reputation, your behavior, then the more you inspire respect , the less there will be attempts to take you to the “gop-stop”, it is pointless. I have met only once in my life with tough negotiations, with “gop-stop”.
One very famous oligarch told me that he would not pay debts. And it was about two million dollars. I had no resources, no leverage. Nothing. My company thought it was useless to even negotiate, Al Capone. But I negotiated for two years. And he paid two million dollars (there was still a small discount, but that’s not the point), paid from a pure “gop-stop” without any leverage.
Even if the toughest negotiations are being held with you negotiators, do not give in, analyze the situation, look for resources. It is not necessary to go to court or an attempt to respond with harshness to harshness – most likely, nothing will come of it. Look for ways out of difficult situations, very often they are found.
Describe how you need to prepare for negotiations when you need to sell your idea to people who are not interested in it, but the owner is interested .. At the negotiations – his deputies.
Lev Lester: Do you have an interesting idea, and you know that it is interesting to the owner? You should have some kind of information confirming that he is interested. And you met with “sixes”, “eights”, with deputy deputies. How to sell them?
You see, they fear their boss even more than anyone else. If you know how to sell an idea and know that the owner is interested in it, you have great leverage in your hands. You must inform them, remind them, contact them, tell them that the owner is familiar with the criteria and he expressed interest that there were some preliminary contacts, and no one will “cut off” you. Nobody will take it upon themselves, and suddenly your idea is really interesting. They do not know this.
But in any case, you must be able to sell. If you emphasize that “the owner is interested in this, but I will not even spend time on you,” then it will be a mistake. You should sell to everyone who negotiates with you, but cite the highest authority for them.
Do you think any negotiations can end successfully if you are well prepared for them? Or there are situations where no matter what we do, success cannot be achieved due to the opponent.
Lev Lester: If the opponent does not want to negotiate with you whatever you do, you will fail. If you’re dating someone who doesn’t need your product, no matter how well-prepared you are, you won’t get anywhere. There are many situations in which no negotiation is possible, no matter how good your product is or how well you are willing to negotiate. But if you meet with people who might be interested in your product and you are well prepared, most likely it will end with success.
After all, one of the prerequisites for negotiations is that you must meet with someone who is in you. interested in who needs something from you. And if they need something from you and you know how to sell it, then sell it. You will succeed.
What communication strategy is better to conduct in a tense dialogue with an opponent due to a situation caused by an external factor? The main problem is that the opponent behaves unprofessionally and even childishly: he raises his tone, hangs up the pipes and tries with all his might to get away from the dialogue, where it is necessary to jointly make a decision in a changed situation. A vivid description can be the phrase of the opponent: “Don’t tell me bad news. Only speak good. ”
Lev Lester: As funny as it sounds, your opponent is right, because you don’t have to say bad news. Why did you come to him with them? You are talking about good things. After all, one and the same thing can be said both as bad and as good. So learn to work in a positive way. This is the first thing. And the second is that the person is running away from you, does not want to negotiate with you. It means that he is not interested in you, he does not need you. You need him, you want to coordinate something with him.
Therefore, understand his interest and come to him with what is interesting to him. As soon as you come up with something that interests him, he will stop hanging up and start talking to you. Get ready, determine what you have from what he is interested in and start with that. And no negativity. The more you discuss the negative, the more you run into a negative decision.
How to behave if the other side makes seemingly minor violations of the settlement agreement reached in a conflict situation, and our comments about it not responding? Sharpen your attention or pretend that nothing is happening?
Lev Lester: Don’t notice further – you will get even bigger violations. To notice and react sharply means that something is holding you back, you are afraid of something. How to proceed?
Notice, show the other side that you are not a fool, that you know the essence of your agreement and see violations. After that, there may be a double reaction, or maybe this will be enough and they will stop deceiving you. Because it makes no sense to deceive a person who already sees deception and is wary.
Or they will continue to deceive. If you continue, then specific steps are required from you. First, proceed from the fact that maybe it was a delusion, this is how the situation developed and the other side does not want to deceive you, just minor procedural violations. Show that you saw them, but not abruptly, but correctly, and see what the development of events will be after that.
How to negotiate with people who are committed to some idea and not perceive arguments and logic?
Lev Lester: I’ve always acted through interest. I have sometimes come across a situation when a person was sitting opposite whom “cannot be moved”, he is like a wall. And he was a wall until I found his weak point, his interest. And as soon as I found his interest, he turned out to be the nicest person who wanted to solve something of his own and at the same time was not averse to solving what I needed. Therefore, whoever is sitting opposite you, look for interests. Look for interests in production, his personal interests, look for the interests of his family. Look wide.
Very often it turns out that the wall that stood in front of you is actually not a wall, but just some kind of curtain.
Tell us how you got to America and why did you decide to stay there?
Lev Lester: Oh, what a question! In 1988, the borders were opened, I started driving. I went to Australia, to the USA several times, I took groups of directors there for training (by the way, in San Francisco). I realized that I know nothing about this country and everything I know is completely untrue.
Example. Once I brought a group of directors and during the day we studied, and in the evening we went shopping. I looked, my directors caught someone, they began to circle around. I approached, there was a boy from Omsk or Tomsk. It turned out that a couple of years ago he graduated from some agricultural institute, he is a specialist in tractors and something else. There is no work. He was sitting at a vegetable warehouse, sifting through potatoes.
And so he and his wife left. They went from empty space to California. No specialty, we went to the courses of programmers. Their engineering education was enough to be programmers in 6 months.
He got a job and they began to pay him, for example, ＄ 40 thousand, and his wife ＄ 30 thousand. And now a boy and a girl, who can’t do anything, suddenly earn ＄ 70 thousand in America and have everything. My directors torment them with questions, everyone has longing in their eyes.
One of the directors was very young, he was in his early 30s. He was the general director of the association, which employed almost 30 thousand people, Sergey Kozlov. I look, he has a terrible longing, he looks at them and thinks: “Guys, you don’t know how, you don’t know anything, and you are paid ＄ 70 thousand. And if I came here. How much they would pay me, because now I don’t even get thousands of dollars a month, but I’m pulling such a “clamp”.
People who have come to America ask themselves the question: can I be here? Will I succeed? ”. Here I, like everyone else, asked myself this question. We all have a good opinion of ourselves and everyone is responsible for himself: “I will definitely succeed.”
But then I had the opportunity to go to America and I went, at 42, without knowing English (I could not say two words in English). Without a specialty, because I was a professor of economics, Soviet economics, do you understand? What is the demand for professors of Soviet economics and communist countries? We need drivers, electricians, mechanics – people who can do something with their own hands. And my hands grow out of the wrong place, but I can do a lot of things with my head, with my hands worse.
I was looking for a job for a long time, almost 3 years, and when I found it, I started to move faster. I was an idealist who took such a step and I understand what he is doing. Because if a person understands what he is doing, he will stop three times before doing something. And when he doesn’t understand, he rushes forward. So I did it, and I have no regrets. Everything turned out interesting for me. But this is not an easy decision, it is a very individual decision.
Which famous person, in your opinion, is the best negotiator?
Lev Lester: Perhaps the best negotiator among famous people (I’m not sure if he is famous for you) is Vladimir Ivanovich Shcherbakov. Once I went into the office of the deputy general director of KamAZ for finance, in the office of 150-200 meters, and there was a handsome young guy, vice president of finance sitting at the table. It was Vladimir Ivanovich Shcherbakov.
After that, he became Minister of Labor, then Deputy Prime Minister, then Prime Minister (during the time of Gorbachev). He was a very talented person, he negotiated brilliantly, and now he is still active, he is the owner of the Avtotor concern. He negotiated heavily. Perhaps, of all those with whom I met (and I met with many famous people, ministers), he was the strongest of all. Does he belong to the category of famous people? It’s not for me to judge anymore.
How to properly retrain with a person when an agreement has already been reached, and the results after a certain period of time do not suit you at all? How to prepare for such a conversation if you initially know that the interlocutor will refer to: “We have already agreed with you how to do it” .
Lev Lester: You are talking about a situation where you entered into an agreement with someone that seemed normal to you at the time. But then something happened, the situation changed, and this agreement became unprofitable for you? What should you do in this situation?
This is a classic situation and there are three independent solutions .
The first model of behavior in this situation is American and German. American and German businessmen in such a situation say: “You entered into an unsuccessful agreement, you were mistaken. Pay. ” This will lead to costs, to losses, and if you can not go broke, not go out of business and do it, do it. It is not always necessary to earn money. Take responsibility for the consequences of your decisions. This is an American approach.
There is a Japanese approach . In a similar situation, they say: “Listen, we are partners and must understand each other. We have concluded this agreement, the situation has changed. This agreement is now unprofitable for me, these conditions must be revised “. And the Japanese partner understands this, and the South Korean, and sometimes the Chinese partner also understands this. The Asian model is different. They understand that the situation has changed and we need to renegotiate.
There is a Russian model when they say: “The situation has changed, the contract is now unprofitable for me, and I will not do it … It is unprofitable to me. I got what I needed, and now don’t let the grass grow .
Here are three models. How should you behave? How did I behave in a similar situation? I have never got into such a situation from the side of a losing situation. I was lucky in my life, or I seriously worked through my contracts and I did not have a situation when I could not fulfill my obligations.
But I faced a situation where the other party could not fulfill their obligations. She came to me and said: “Well, I got it. Let’s change the terms. ” I agreed, because I always believed that you don’t have to win in everything, you don’t have to earn money everywhere, and something is better than nothing. I understood that if I refuse him, I will not get anything. I went to the costs.
I’ll tell you one case as an example from the practice of my listener. One of my listeners borrowed money for business development, ＄ 100 thousand at 12% per annum. When he borrowed this money, he believed that he was doing everything right. That was good in the market at the time. Some time passed and it became unprofitable for him, he realized that it was dear to him. What should he do? Go to the lender and say: “Listen, you lent me money at 12%, but forgive me 4%, let me pay you 8%.” Most likely, nothing good would have come of it, there would have been insults, would have become enemies.
What did he do? He took and returned this ＄ 100 thousand to the creditor, and said: “If you want to lend me this money on other terms, for example, at 8%, I will take it.” The lender kept silent, did not agree to this, and after a while he called and offered to take the money at 8%.
I think my listener made an excellent decision, he created a wonderful example. An attempt to come to an agreement “head-on” would have led nowhere. And this approach led to an excellent result, they remained friends, partners and he received a discount. This is what you are asking me about. Need to renegotiate? We need to think about how to do this so that the other side would understand and benefit from it. It’s very simple.
From all readers and listeners of the online school, we express our deep gratitude to Lev Lester for interesting answers to questions. Your recommendations, advice and examples will undoubtedly be useful to our readers and they will become one step higher in negotiation skills. And we look forward to the next meetings!
The article was prepared based on the video materials.
Useful articles and materials:
Article “Lev Lester. Answers to questions on negotiations. Part 1 ”
Article ” Lev Lester. Answers to questions on negotiations. Part 2 ”