by
Randy R Cox

Sooner or later you will be tempted to use alcohol as a negotiation tactic. Since the day fermented beverage was discovered to alter mood, alcohol has been used to loosen the purse strings. In many cultures it is the traditional way to build relationships of trust before commitment is made. Conference table or campfire, the jug has been passed around for centuries.Malt Whiskey


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If your prospect orders a martini, it is a little awkward to order a Dr. Pepper. Keep in mind that even a single drink can influence the parties of a negotiation significantly, perhaps positively, perhaps not. If you use it, the absolute rule should be to use less than your negotiating partner. The successful negotiator maintains control.

As I negotiated as an electrical contractor, or more recently an insurance adjuster, alcohol use would have been unthinkable. Either of these activities are sensitive enough that alcohol would be an inexcusable mix. On the other hand, as an art dealer holding public art shows for our stable of artists, we always provided wine and cheese. Customers seldom regret purchase of art but closing the sale is difficult when it concerns relatively large expenditures of money for things that just hang on a wall or sit on a pedestal. Most of the larger art sales happened later in the evening when walks were wobbly and tongues thick. Sometimes when people spend their hard earned money, they want to feel good and have a good time.

I just heard about a deal maker (everybody is a deal maker) that decided to do a little fishing and relaxation between negotiations. He’d been at the lake for a while casting his artificial lures to and fro, but having no luck at all. Not far from where he stood, he spotted a cottonmouth water moccasin with a frog in his mouth.

Frogs make good bass bait!

Being an aggressive bargainer–always ready to make his move when the advantage is right—the fisherman decided the snake could not bite him with the frog in his mouth. Quick as a wink, he grabbed that snake just behind the head and took that frog for his own hook.

Now he had a problem. He had the snake well in hand, but that cottonmouth was not in a good mood at all. How could he release an angry snake without it coming back to get revenge? He looked around. He didn’t have much to work with, but a good negotiator works with what he has. The half filled whiskey bottle he had brought for relaxation and companionship was stuffed in the fork of a low tree there beside him.

He took that whiskey bottle, popped the cork and poured three of four generous slugs down the captive snakes open mouth. When the snake’s eyes crossed, he figured he was safe enough. He flung that snake as far as he could throw him into the lake, and he went back to his fishing.

After a few minutes he felt something tugging at his pant leg. He looked down, and there was that snake looking up at him–this time with two frogs in his mouth. He had come back for another drink!

Alcohol can be an effective tactic, but it can be dangerous when it gets out of hand. Plying your negotiating partner with liquor is like playing with snakes. You have to be very careful or it can come back to bite you!

As long as man adapts there will be new techniques for negotiation. There is no complete source but the one book that delivers seasoned tactics and strategies to the experienced and inexperienced negotiator is Negotiate to Win by Jim Thomas
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