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pjf (2464)

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I run Perl Training Australia [].

I help with Melbourne Perl Mongers.

I spend an awful lot of time talking about Perl, and have had my picture in the Australian newspapers with a camel. That's rather scary.

Journal of pjf (2464)

Wednesday November 23, 2005
11:47 PM

Turtles; Negotiating and ammunition

[ #27718 ]

Went walking to the shops with Jacinta yesterday via Coburg lake, and much to our surprise we found a turtle along the way. It was small (about 20cm along the shell), incredibly cute, and most of the way up a very tall hill.

I can't even begin to imagine why a turtle would be climbing the hill, but it didn't look very happy about it. The weather was warm and dry, it was a long way from the water, and it would be an easy target for dogs or other predators.

We picked up the gorgeous little turtle and returned it to the water, where it immediately demonstrated that except on land it is a very graceful creature, and can move at very high speeds. During the process I discovered that turtles can get quite excited if you pick them up, and so it's best to have them facing towards you should you do so. They also have amazingly sharp claws, which were thankfully easy to avoid.

I do find it rather cool that our local lake has at least one turtle, and hopefully many more.

Negotiating and ammunition
I seem to do an awful lot of business negotiations. Most of these follow the simple rule of making other people feel good about themselves. While we may be very unhappy about an invoice being overdue, we're very appreciative of the people working hard to make sure it gets paid. This is the key to effective negotiation, getting other people to want to help you. At the end everyone feels good about the outcomes, and you can look forward to a happy and effective relationship for years to come.

Unfortunately, there will be times (rarely) when making other people feel good and using carrots doesn't work. In these situations, it can help to have a way of underscoring the importance of your situation. To do that, you need what's called ammunition.

Ammunition is anything you can use to assist your case, and it can come in many forms. Letters, telephone transcripts, invoices, logbooks, and many other things can be useful and revelant to your negotiations. Usually ammunition is handed to you by the organisation with which you're negotiating, and it helps to be able to organise this effectively.

Probably the best thing we've ever done in our business is to use a job tracking system (we use RT) to manage negotiations with our clients and suppliers. This helps to keep things organised, and ideally results in tickets providing dated logs of previous correspondence. We almost never need this, and on the occasions we do just providing a dated summary of past negotiations is usually sufficient to have your case favourably considered. Of course, this should be done in the nicest possible way, to give the other party as many opportunities as possible to help you.

In all negotiations it's of paramount importance ot have a goal. Maybe you want something refunded, or a discount, or an invoice to be paid, or a particular rate of pay or timeframe. This gives you something concrete to work towards, and helps in being able to state your position and desires clearly. A lot of people make the mistake of submitting a complaint or raising a matter without having a firm goal of what they want in return.

In my recent negotiations with one organisation I've struck a difficult problem. We have plenty of ammunition, but the goal is a difficult one to reach. We want them not to suck. Unfortunately they have an effective monopoly, so finding an alternate supplier will be challenging at the very least.

After months of disputes and problems, it looks like the matter has finally been escalated and is starting to come to a head. It's amazing that our previous complaints (some of which were exactingly to the point) didn't produce the same response as a few words from their supplier that we actively wish to jump ship. We've demonstrated that we have crates of ammunition, and that there are real systemic issues. Unfortunately I don't know if that's going to help us, and the existing proposals for reducing suck coefficients don't fill me with confidence.

Worst case scenario is that we reduce our interactions with this supplier to the point whereby they can suck all they want and still not impact our business. That may involve reducing our interactions to none whatsoever.

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