Life at the bargaining table would be a lot easier if you could dispense with recalcitrant negotiators by using billionaire Donald Trump’s trademark catchphrase “You’re fired!”
Alas, things aren’t so simple outside the world of reality television. That’s why George Ross’s book Trump Style Negotiation: Powerful Strategies and Tactics for Mastering Every Deal can come in handy in tough situations. Ross, executive vice president and senior counsel for The Trump Organization, has faced every conceivable personality in his 50 years of negotiating with, and on behalf of, the biggest movers and shakers in New York’s cutthroat real estate industry.
Here he suggests how to come out on top if you have to negotiate with the following three classic types of difficult people.
Ivan the Intimidator: keep your cool and stand your ground. The high-school bully who never grew up and who has terrorized his way into the corner office, Ivan likes to use his physical presence, social stature, booming voice and/or reputation to get his way in the business world. Don’t escalate the situation by trying to match or exceed his aggression, because that would play right into his hands. Instead, if you can control your emotions, Ivan will drop his steamroller approach once he realizes it has no effect on you. And take care to protect his tough-guy reputation among his colleagues by ensuring that you meet with him in situations where he can safely drop his facade, such as on the phone, one-on-one meetings or over cocktails in private.
Know-it-all Charlie: exhibit extreme humility. Perhaps he has a great reputation or decades of experience in the industry. Whatever the case, this narcissist loves nothing more than the sound of his own voice, and impressing upon everyone that he knows more than you. Gain concessions by stroking his ego, which will cause him to drop his guard and make it more likely that he will listen to you. Simultaneously flatter him with bon mots, and play down your knowledge of the business. This will encourage him to talk even more and boast about himself, losing his focus on the deal. That loss of focus is your opportunity to gain the upper hand.
Waffling Wanda: move steadily forward and be stingy with concessions. This type of negotiator changes her mind frequently, twittering back and forth over even the most basic decisions. She’ll want to revisit points you’ve already discussed and agreed upon in previous meetings. Your job is to keep things moving forward. For example, Ross suggests you adapt a variation of this line: “We started with five points and agree on three. Now we have the remaining two.” If she persists in re-opening discussions on already agreed-upon terms, then you’ll need to find out why she’s wavering and address it. Then move forward. Finally, keep things simple — don’t give her too many concessions or you’ll just add to her indecision.