I love negotiating! Whether it’s with a seasoned NFL salary cap manager, a friend, a car dealer, or a vendor in a foreign country, I’m always ready to get the best deal I can and have some fun doing it.
I just returned from a twelve-day trip to Turkey where I spent some time in the Grand Bazaar haggling over some leather goods, jewelry and other items the Turks are known for. If you’ve never been to the Grand Bazaar in Turkey, imagine a swap meet with over 3,000 shops spread over 61 tightly woven covered streets in no particular pattern. In essence it’s a shopping maze where you can purchase old maps, diamonds, silver, gold, daggers, robes, spices, purses, lamps, hookahs, art work and thousands of other quality and imitation items. Selling these items are most likely the best negotiators and salesmen on the planet.
If you’ve been an NFL agent as long as I have, you have negotiated against some shrewd individuals. However, the Turks were as formidable as the toughest NFL exec I ever went up against.
Here are two tips on how to negotiate what you want:
1) Get to know your opponent: When you show interest in a product in Turkey and present yourself as a legitimate buyer, the Turks will take their time in getting to know you. They will offer you a Turkish coffee or some of their favorite tea. They disarm you with some hospitality and take some time to chat with you on a personal level before they go in for the kill.
When Andrew Brandt first got the job as team negotiator and salary cap manger with the Packers in 1999, he did something very wise. He hit the road and visited all of the agents of his team’s core players. He bought lunch, dinner and/or drinks with all the agents he would eventually negotiate with. I know getting to know him made my dealings a lot easier. Trip MacCracken, salary cap manager of the Chiefs, did the same thing when he started with the Browns. He later told me it really helped to speed up his dealings with agents.
When Bill Parcells was Czar of the Patriots, there was a window of time where he was without a cap manager and was handling some of the player negotiations. I was having a rocky time getting a second deal done for starting Guard Todd Rucci, and I knew there would be a showdown with Bill and I in the near future. So before I got in the ring with him I had a few chats with him on a personal level. Then I called some people who worked with him in the past to see what made him tick.
I was told by people who knew him well that he would try to intimidate me, that he has to “win” a negotiation, and that he respects fighters and people that won’t back down from him.
So when the time came to do a deal, sure enough he tried bullying me. So I told him to, “call me back when he wants to be more professional”, and hung up on him. The next day he called me back and said the only reason he was calling me back was because Linda, his secretary liked me. It was his way of apologizing. After a quick chat I got right to the point and told him I will fax him three contract options for Rucci. In the fax, I pointed out that “Todd deserves the 1st option. That the 2nd option would be a compromise. And the 3rd, well, I don’t like it but I would settle for it.” Knowing that Parcells had to win, I knew he would pick the 3rd option, which was a shorter-term deal we wanted. I got what was best for my client and Parcells felt like he won. He has been an ally for me in this business ever since that deal.
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2) Have fun: Most people take negotiating, and themselves, way to seriously. If you have fun with the process, you will soften your opponent and they will enjoy doing even more business with you in the future. When you have fun with it, it makes it a positive experience for all involved. Even though negotiating NFL contracts can get abrasive at times, a sense of humor can help over come sensitive objections and issues.
While at the Grand Bazaar I wanted to buy some gifts. A Turkish friend also recommended if I do buy anything, to buy leather goods, which Turkey is well known for. So I wandered into a leather jacket shop to see if anything would jump out at me. After trying a few items I found one I wouldn’t mind taking home. So after some tea (served to soften me up) and a label price of $800 US dollars, the haggling session began. The owner/salesman spoke clean English very well and very softly (with about 300,000 people, mostly tourists, visiting the bazaar daily, most Turks can speak at least 5 languages). They also know every single negotiating tactic in the book.
My negotiation became a tennis match of banter and the usual tactics. Every offer he made me was followed by a story of quality craftsmanship, or a Turkish economics lesson. While my offers, which started at $100 US, were followed by jokes. At one point, I had all of his salesman trying on the jacket knowing I had time on my hands and they had other people to service. After 30 minutes of back and forth, lots of laughs, and me headed for the door, he stopped me and we agreed to my final offer of $240. For me, the experience is worth more than the jacket.
I was once doing a deal for Bucs WR/KR, Karl “The Truth Williams”, with then salary cap manger, John Idzik, now GM of the Jets. We were about two hundred thousand dollars apart on a signing bonus for Karl. So I called John and told him that Karl signed with the Cowboys for the signing bonus I wanted ($200,000 more than his last offer). He was really disappointed Karl moved on and said I should have given him one more chance. I asked him how he high he would have gone. He said he would have gone another $120,000 higher. I said, “Really?” Well John, April fools buddy!!” It was actually April 1st, and the only day I could have pulled that off. John laughed, and he increased his offer by $100,000 and we got the deal done on that call. We still can laugh about today and he knows better than to negotiate with me on April 1st.
So whether you are buying a car, doing a real estate deal or are in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, have fun and think of a negotiation as a process where you can offer an experience to your adversary. The adversary who you should get to know first before starting the process. The adversary who you can turn into an ally willing to offer you the best deals available.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta