The Most Toys Wins

“She (or he) who dies with the most toys, wins!”

Have you heard that said, somewhere?  Whether said in fun or seriously, the sentence conveys a delighted “It’s all about satisfying me!”

Applying the idea to  negotiations, we might say, “S/he who develops the most options, wins” …

… and it’s all about “satisfying US” – finding creative paths to satisfying ourselves AND our negotiating partners.  Win/win.

Negotiation resolves differences that remain at the end of sales processes.  We trade ‘things of value’ to reach conclusions.  When there is only one issue on the table, usually price, there’s no negotiation.  It’s a haggle, typically with both sides moving toward the middle between them.  If there are multiple items of value on the table, the parties can bargain or trade some issues against others, say, a reduction in nominal interest rate in return for commitment of deposit balances, in order to reach a conclusion.

We may see even more interesting and valuable options if we have explored our clients’  situations broadly and listened carefully.

For example, suppose that, during the course of several discussions about a potential loan, we hear the customer’s challenges with competitive pricing pressures, billing and collections, contracting with customers or vendors, dealing with legal fees, making investment decisions, developing a junior manager in the company, dealing with an aging board member, and considering preliminary ideas about retirement.

On the surface, few of those items related directly to the terms and conditions for a loan. However, faced with a gap between ‘bid and asked’ on loan terms, there may be ‘other things of value we could do’ to help a company or its owners with cash flow or other challenges that would help grease the skids on the loan discussion, move conversation forward, and enable bank and customer to come to agreement.

S/he who develops the most options and tradeoffs has the best chance of reaching agreement!

Action Item: When planning negotiations, list all of the customers’ needs, wants, and challenges you’ve heard during conversations to that point.  Assign value to them (high, medium, low) for the customer and from your own perspective. Look for options to address them or use them as “tradeoffs” when working toward solution.

Nick Miller is president of Clarity Advantage, Concord, Mass., a firm that helps banks generate more profitable relationships faster with small- and medium-sized companies, their owners, and employees. He can be reached at

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