Negotiating: What we can learn from the ladies of The Bachelor

Most people don’t like to negotiate.  But almost everyone wants to be a better negotiator, if for no other reason, than people don’t want to overpay for a car or a consulting contract.

We tend to talk about negotiating as it pertains to business deals, but anyone who has dated, been married or raised children knows that being a good negotiator is crucial to harmonious relationships.

If you’ve ever watched The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, the elimination style dating shows, you’ve seen poor negotiators in action.  When twenty-five people compete against each other to win the heart of a desired mate, logic goes out the window.  They forget the basic rules of negotiation.

For starters, the competitors forget there are two types of negotiations:  short-term win versus long term deal.  It’s no coincidence that The Bachelor franchise has produced very few actual marriages.  When you negotiate for the short term win, your deal rarely sticks because it’s based on poor tactics and false information.  Here are three big negotiation mistakes that erode long-term success:

  1. Sabotaging competitors

When you focus on destroying the competition, you don’t create value (or happiness) for the buyer.  I cringe when I see the ladies of The Bachelor undermine each other.  While it might be flattering for a man (or woman) to be pursued aggressively, do you really want to be in a long-term relationship with someone who is quick to backstab another human being?  In business, someone who sabotages their competitor will just as easily undermine their employee, or cheat their customers.  Smart buyers know the truth of Maya Angelou’s famous quote, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

  1. Putting forth a fake self 

When you’re in it to win it, and the cameras are rolling, you put forth your best self. Sometimes you even put forth a self that is not actually you.  It’s funny, twenty-five out of twenty-five young women competing on The Bachelor all love to travel, have fun, and be wild and crazy at a moment’s notice.  Yet they’re also all homebodies who adore cooking and puppies.  The men on the Bachelorette all want a family, don’t like to drink much, and have big plans for their careers.  Just like all the men you knew in your twenties.  Right?

Playing to the stereotype of what you think your customer wants is a terrible negotiating tactic.  Smart customers see through it, and it robs you of the opportunity to sell your real value.  Believe it or not, some people want an artist who loves gin.  Successful long-term deals are built on your best assets, not your imagined assets.

  1. Focusing on winning the deal, not living the deal 

As a sales consultant, I’ve seen organizations over promise to win a deal that falls apart at the first bump in the road.  It’s a classic short-term tactical mistake.  Bachelorettes envision walking down the aisle in 27679918_stheir dream wedding, but very few think about, how will we handle it if one of us gets sick or loses our job?

A good relationship outlasts the signing ceremony.  When you’re overly attached to the win, you don’t set the stage for a successful implementation.  Effective negotiators discuss how to handle setbacks and problems before they sign the deal.

The ladies of The Bachelor, and their counterparts on The Bachelorette, aren’t bad people.  They just forget, winning is the start of the process, not the end of the process.