The Fairness Strategy: Negotiating for the Long-Term

Negotiation is a part of business. Whether you are hiring a team, agreeing to terms with a client, or ironing out a deal with a vendor – negotiation sets the tone for the relationship. Of course, you want a good deal. Everyone does.
Some people take the aggressive approach: asking for more or offering less than they think is fair. The brash business figures of the 20th century were infamous for aggressive negotiation practices. The strategy here is to purposefully exceed the boundaries of fairness with the understanding that you’ll need to take a few steps back.However, by doing so, you are setting an antagonistic precedent. Screwing over the other party creates distrust and insecurity – very shaky ground for collaboration.

If you’re buying a car or a piece of real estate, aggressive may be the right strategy. But, when it comes to negotiating partnerships for bold, long-term creative pursuits, relationships and precedent matter. In fact, the relationship matters more than the extra spread you might gain from being aggressive.

When it comes to negotiating partnerships for bold, long-term creative pursuits, relationships and precedent matter.

When negotiating a deal that will result in an ongoing relationship, consider the “fairness” strategy. It’s simple: Have a discussion up front with your counterpart in the negotiation. Make the case that you want to reach a fair deal for both parties.

Then, in preparing to make your offer, put yourself in your counterpart’s shoes to determine what they should fairly expect (and deserve). Do the same thing for yourself. Ultimately, you will arrive at a number that can (hopefully!) be backed up with a transparent analysis that you’re willing to share with your counterpart. If the relationship is healthy, you will both want what’s fair.

Bottom line, the “fairness” strategy will pay off over time. Next time you enter a negotiation, think beyond the number. Remember that the end of a negotiation is the start of a relationship with the potential to create tremendous value over time.

More insights on: Clients, Collaboration

Scott Belsky

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Scott Belsky is Adobe's Vice President of Community and Co-Founder & Head of Behance, the leading online platform for creatives to showcase and discover creative work. Scott has been called one of the "100 Most Creative People in Business" by Fast Company, and is the author of the bestselling book, Making ideas Happen.
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