Learn to negotiate better

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Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg welcomed everyone to the regular Sunday meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club on February 13, 2011 at Amari Resort’s Tavern by the Sea. After the usual opening announcements, he introduced Bobby Covic, our guest speaker and author of the book Everything’s Negotiable – How to Bargain Better to Get What You Want. Bobby was formerly a nationally recognized speaker on the subject of negotiating with the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). He is now a “rapidly retiring” tax litigation consultant and soon to be full-time Pattaya resident.

Bobby said he has given many presentations on negotiating and during his presentation, he would try to bring in a few pointers on negotiating with Thais.  He started by asking, “Who is apt to negotiate?”  The answer was “Everybody.”  He pointed out that there is one person that you must negotiate with all the time; you yourself.  Often you have to argue (negotiate) with yourself about something you may want to do or not do; something you may want to buy, but think about what you might be giving up if you do, and so forth. The next question is “What do you negotiate?”  The answer was “Everything.” This was followed with “When do you negotiate?” The answer was “Almost always.”

Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg introduces Bobby Covic, our guest speaker and author of the book Everything’s Negotiable – How to Bargain Better to Get What You Want. Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg introduces Bobby Covic, our guest speaker and author of the book Everything’s Negotiable – How to Bargain Better to Get What You Want.

A general rule of negotiating is the first person to mention a number, loses.  Bobby said that professional negotiators can go on for days discussing everything but a number because they know that the first one that mentions one will lose. Bobby pointed out that Thais will often not state a number, instead they often say “Up to you” or “How much you want to pay?”  This, Bobby says, is a trap, trying to get you to state a number.  Instead, he suggests you answer their question with a question such as, “How much do you want?”  The one that asks the most questions, most often prevails.  Bobby remarked that most Thais like to bargain and it is expected.  It is not adversarial, it is fun.

Bobby said to remember the A, R, C triangle.  The “A” is for affinity – a liking and care for each other.  The “R” is for reality – making an agreement that two people will realistically be expected to make. The “C” is for communication – you have to keep communicating.  He emphasized that if one of these three “legs” falls out; you need to emphasize the other two until you get things back on track.  When negotiating, don’t approach it as a one time thing.  Instead, approach it with the viewpoint that you will be negotiating with this person again in the future.

Bobby makes a point about negotiating with locals - including the famous phrase ‘up to you’.Bobby makes a point about negotiating with locals – including the famous phrase ‘up to you’.

Another thing to have is knowledge. You need to know who you are negotiating with and have some idea of the value of the item you are negotiating about is to them. For example, if negotiating over the price of a hotel room, you should know that a corporation can be in a much better position to substantially reduce their asking price. But, if you are negotiating with some little old lady in the street that needs to make some money in order to live, you need to expect that they may not be able to discount their wares much without adversely impacting on their livelihood.

Bobby continued with several insights and suggestions on negotiating techniques and concluded with the admonishment that negotiation is fun; remember to smile, be polite, show respect, even joke, and be aware of any cultural differences.  In Thailand, Bobby strongly believes that the ability to speak some of the language is important if you really want to be on a better footing when negotiating with Thais.  If nothing else, he said at least learn the Thai words for numbers.

After Bobby answered many questions from the audience, Richard Silverberg updated everyone on upcoming events and called on David Meador to conduct the always informative and sometimes humorous Open Forum, where questions about living in Thailand and Pattaya in particular are asked and answered.