Negotiating tips from a sports agent

A sports agent of 25 years shares some negotiating tips and stories from the trenches. Jack Bechta

Print This June 19, 2013, 12:00 PM EST

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 with me in a soft clean English (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 itself 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 from the Bucs ($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. And of course, the adversary who you should get to know first before starting the process. The adversary who you can even turn into an ally willing to offer you the best deals available.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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