Five Ways to Win in Any Business Situation

Want to know who’s right?

Well, determining the best approach to any business relationship or negotiation is very much situational, but still, relatively straightforward.  Whether it’s a job opportunity, a consulting opportunity, a potential vendor or customer, an internal relationship, whatever, it’s more common sense than you think.

That said, it does confuse and confound a lot of people, even senior executives and business leaders.  For example, a post by Niland Mortimer on BNET starts out like this:

The rules of business decision making more often than not are based on the principle of “I win.  You lose.”  Companies, and their employees, proceed invincibly down the path of unilateral rightness.  Compromise is out of the question.  Collaboration is tantamount to defeat.  I win.  You lose.  Damn the consequences.

Now, I’m not going to say “I win – you lose” never happens.  Sure it does.  In fact, it makes complete sense … in certain situations.  For example, it’s the only way to approach competitors because market-share is more or less a zero-sum game.  But otherwise, that’s neither the way to win nor the way it works in the real world.  Frankly, I don’t know where Mortimer’s assertion comes from, but it’s not consistent with my experience.

So, to clear up all the confusion and distinguish between the different approaches, here are 5 Ways to Win in Any Business Situation:

  1. Internal relationship between coworkers. Win-win, collaborate, all the way.  Anything else is dysfunctional.  Sure, the dysfunctional stuff – back stabbing, taking credit for someone else’s work, sugar-coating BS, CYA – all exists, but don’t fall into that trap.  You either have to play it smarter or find a company that doesn’t accept that kind of crap. 
    Goal: Win-win
  2. Boss-employee relationship. Again, Win-win, collaborate, all the way, same as with coworkers.  Companies don’t exist for you, your boss, or your employees.  They exist for two reasons: to provide a product or service to customers, and to provide value to shareholders.  All employees at every level should be aligned to do that, simple as that.
    Goal: Win-win
  3. Competitors in the marketplace. I win – you lose.  Period.  Market competition is a zero-sum game, simple as that.   To suggest otherwise is idiotic.  And yes, you should befriend your competitors, call them frienemies, hang out and party with them, anything you like.  Just listen more than you talk.  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right? 
    Goal: I win – you lose
  4. Customer-vendor relationship. Customer-vendor relationships should always yield the perception of a win-win, especially if you want an ongoing relationship.  That said, when you approach negotiations, your goal is to get the better deal while the other guy thinks he did okay too.  I think of that as “I win – you don’t lose.”  Camp provides a pretty good approach for doing that.  It’s not easy at first, but you do get better at it with experience. 
    Goal: I win – you don’t lose
  5. Job or consulting opportunity. It’s important to note that, in this situation, you all have to live with each other after the fact.  So, whichever side of the equation you’re on, don’t overpromise and risk underdelivering or underplay your hand and risk losing the gig.  Best to be genuine.  That said, when it comes to negotiating dollars and cents, it’s the same as customer-vendor. 
    Goal: I win – you don’t lose

Hope that helps clear things up.  Now go negotiate something!

Reproduced with permission from author Steve Tobak from BNET’s The Corner Office blog,

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