Thursday, March 15, 2007

Who Can Do It?

My wife, Wendy, and I have been negotiating lately. Not with each other but with some real-estate brokers and house developers. As a result of these negotiations I've been reminded of all the times that I negotiated over the years; to buy houses, to buy cars, to get a new job, etc.

It all reminded me of an incident that happened to me many years ago when I was working at Oracle. At the time I was the director in the IBM product's division and I had a meeting coming up with IBM. We were negotiating over something or other and it was time to make something happen. I was going to have a meeting with some vice-president of something in IBM as a final meeting and to attempt to close the deal when I got a call from someone one level down.

The lower-level person at IBM told me that an IBM vice-president was like a senior vice-president at Oracle and, therefore, I should have an Oracle senior vice-president at the meeting.

I was somewhat dumbfounded and wasn't quite sure how to react. After a few seconds thought I replied, "I have the ability to say yes to this deal, does Mr. IBM vice-president?"

I was met with momentary silence, followed by, "This isn't about saying yes."

My response, "We'll have the meeting when you have someone who can say yes representing IBM."

It was an important lesson for me that's been repeated often - always know what you want and be sure you're meeting with the person who can deliver it. Otherwise, you'll never get what you seek.

1 comment:

Wrbanek said...

This is a great anecdote and crystallizes a lesson too few people really embrace. So many times we negotiate in good faith, come to conclusion, only to find another level we must discuss with and many times start fresh.
I have also found myself on the flip side of this where you are giving authority, come to a fair arrangement, only to find my authority was pending another approval or held to a previously unknown budgetary cap.
Add-on lesson, just because someone thinks they have final authority may not mean they have final authority.
Love the story and I may use this in the future (giving you full credit of course...)