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Practical Negotiating: Tools, Tactics & Techniques by Tom Gosselin

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The Paradox of Power

Salespeople lament:

Power! Are you kidding? Our customers have all the power? How can we negotiate when they’re holding all the cards?

Managers complain:

I really feel like I have no alternative but to work through that department. I mean, they’re the people who are supposed to help us, but it’s like trying to get blood from a stone!

Purchase agents ponder:

That vendor is a sole supplier. I feel powerless; as if I have to put up with any price or conditions that they set. They’ve really got us over a barrel—at least for now!

In numerous seminars with salespeople, managers, and others who have to negotiate for resources, I find an interesting phenomenon. Most people approach a conflict feeling like they are in a less powerful position than the other party. Many conclude that there is nothing they can do to affect the situation. This self-defeating attitude leads to inaction. Both parties are generally interested in reaching a workable agreement, so why do people feel powerless?

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