What Game of Thrones and the Coronavirus Can Teach Us About Negotiation Tactics

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In a recent episode of Negotiations Ninja, Oren Klaff joined me to talk about negotiation tactics. While I don’t watch Game of Thrones, Oren used an analogy that drove his point home and it is worth discussing.

Winter is coming

“Winter is coming” is a theme running throughout Game of Thrones. While it is layered with meaning, Oren points out that the critical subtext is this: a once in a thousand years winter is coming. Changing of the seasons is a physical force that you cannot escape.

So it is in every industry—there is a nuclear winter coming that you cannot avoid and it will shake things up. When that change happens, everyone must be prepared to act.

In logistings, it’s electric vehicles. In hospitality, it’s the coronavirus and climate change. Medicina is dealing with AI systems that are discovering treatment pathways unique to individuals—which disrupts the pharmaceutical industry.

Per Oren, until the buyer understands there is a clear change in the environment and you are the expert, the stakes aren’t high enough for them to care. “Nobody wants to be in a meeting with you to hear things they already know, opinions that they already have, and hear about things that are changing that they’re already well aware of”.

So how will you position yourself as the expert? How will you show your project that change is coming, and they need to be prepared?

The Coronavirus and Negotiation Tactics

Your job is to highlight changes that will raise the stakes and effect the buyer, or show the investor something new is happening. You must frame yourself as the expert and demonstrate you will get them on the other side of the “climate” change.

Oren works with a company whose purpose is to provide emergency services to large conferences. He shares a hypothetical: I’m speaking at a conference and walk to the edge of the stage and fall off—breaking my leg.

Everyone immediately starts dialing 911 but no one gets through. The lines are tied up and there is very little reception in the building. Someone finally breaks through, only to realize they have to somehow direct EMT’s to the room they’re in—in a 1.8 million square foot conference center. This is where this company comes in. In the case of an emergency, they are on-site and ready to intervene at a moment’s notice.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, they are in the perfect position to provide their services. They can leverage it as a negotiation tactic. They can communicate that they are experts at maintaining a conference in a bad news cycle. They can turn the conference around and provide medical care if it’s needed. It can ease the discomfort of the conference organizers while also putting at ease any attendee worried about catching a virus.

They are highlighting their familiarity with the problem, communicating their solution, and providing value. Listen to this episode of the Negotiations Ninja podcast for more details on pitching, negotiation tactics, and taking your skills to the next level.