Negotiating tips from a sports agent

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:

<strong>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 had 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 really 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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