Good repping is the art of persuading people to agree to your terms. Not all salesmen are lawyers but all good lawyers (and agents) are salesmen. You can sell hard or you can sell soft. Over time, many Reps develop a belligerent or schmoozy negotiating style because it works for them (or it doesn’t and they’re just built that way).
However, situational awareness is key to achieving consistently good outcomes in negotiations, regardless of leverage. The savvy Rep modulates her negotiation approach to conform to a given situation rather than the other way around. See my post on the importance of regularly watching Animal Planet here to learn how animals (including humans) instinctively do this.
What follows are a number of movies that portray agents and salesmen in roles a Rep typically confronts (or becomes) during negotiations. The movies are all critically acclaimed and enjoyable to watch. For our purposes though, the story lines are secondary to the archetypes of the characters.
1. Glengarry Glen Ross
Here’s Alec Baldwin’s motivation by dominance. “Always Be Closing”:
Contrasted with Al Pacino’s softer, I feel your pain and you feel my empathy approach:
2. What Makes Sammy Run?
Sammy must win even if he loses:
3. Broadway Danny Rose
Our instincts naturally pick up on Danny’s desperation vibe which only serves to work against him:
4. Swimming with Sharks
The Alpha in the room. Win by domination and dominate to win:
These archetypes shouldn’t be viewed as role models though I have to admit a fondness for Pacino’s portrayal. However, Reps (as well as principals) like those above abound in different permutations in the negotiation culture.
You need to be prepared to deal with them as the situation requires.
In the early 90’s, I occasionally played in a monthly poker game. The regulars were all guys; mostly lawyers; mostly working in the entertainment business. One of the regulars was a guy named Joey DeMarco.
Joey was working in business affairs at Fox (and later, Fox Searchlight) and was a rising star at the studio. Although the location varied, I seemed to play most often when he hosted the game. Joey lived in a large house on Stone Canyon near the Bel Air Hotel. Despite the impressive zip code, the decor was decidedly single straight guy with a set of weights and a bench press prominently on display in the living room of the 1940’s ranch house.
The vibe was more “Lord Of The Flies” than a friendly game of poker and on the nights in which I played, Joey dominated if not controlled the game. He clearly knew the odds of each hand and usually did quite well against the rest of us. Joey often had the cards to beat; and when he didn’t, he was quite good at bluffing. Even when you were sure he didn’t have the cards, you dare not call him on the bluff. He was so good at it, that you usually doubted your own judgment.
I negotiated against Joey only once and it was years after I stopped playing in the game. Given past experience, I braced for what I thought was going to be an aggressive negotiation with a formidable alpha-male. He surprised me by being straightforward and fair from the very start. Joey didn’t try to dominate or bluster through the open points and we “got the deal done” in short order. Later, I learned that the tone of his negotiations was more the rule for him than the exception.
Joey died two weeks ago at the age of 48. Although it’s doubtful that I will ever be as skilled a poker player, I will aspire to be just as good a negotiator as he was. Joey epitomized skilled negotiating without the need for hostility or dominance. For him, the best negotiating didn’t need to feel like negotiating at all and it was OK if everybody left feeling like a winner.
Still, every good negotiator needs to be prepared for any contingency. I missed the funeral but was told that his poker buddies placed four playing cards in his grave: an ace-king suited for high hand and a deuce-seven for the bluff. Just in case.