September 24, 2018

Perfection not guaranteed

Share Button

Is there such a thing as the perfect deal? Is it a myth or is it achievable? If it is achievable, how do we measure it?

First we have to define the perfect deal.

Does it mean:

  • I’ve done well in the deal? (But this suggests the other side didn’t get much from the deal, so can it really be perfect?)
  • the other party has done well in the deal? (But we never really know what the other side wanted, so how can we know they’ve done well?)
  • both sides are happy with the deal? (But is it possible to tell how happy each party is, and does their happiness need to be equal to be ‘perfect’?)

Even if you think you’ve made a good deal, you are always prone to wondering ‘Could I have done better? Should I have asked for more?’ Can you ever be truly satisfied you got the best deal if the other party feels the same? If there’s money left on the table, how can it be the perfect deal? Or should you just relax a little and analyse things differently? Perfection doesn’t always come from hitting targets and number crunching.

If both parties walk away, happy and confident they got a good deal, that has to mean something – but is it the perfect deal?

Does such a thing exist? Consider this true story.

A teacher on holiday in the West Coast of Scotland met a few of the regulars in his hotel’s bar, including Jim. Jim was a troubled man who owned a wrecked boat (with a large hole in its hull) that was taking up space in the local marina and costing him money every month. His wife had finally had enough and given him a month to fix the boat up or get rid of it. Jim couldn’t afford the £3000 to get it back on the water, and nobody would touch it without it being watertight. A friend offered to remove the boat if Jim paid him £125. Not only could Jim not sell the boat, but it would cost him £125 to dump it!

On the last night of his holiday the teacher was amused to see Jim in the bar with a huge smile, buying drinks for all his friends. Jim told the teacher that someone had bought his boat for £1000. He couldn’t believe his luck; he would have bitten her hand off for a mere £200!

That night the teacher bumped into an old pupil. She greeted him and asked if he’d like to join her for dinner because she was celebrating. He accepted and asked what the special occasion was. ‘I’ve just bought a boat for only £1000,’ she said, as a bottle of champagne was delivered to the table.

The teacher was a little worried. Had she just bought the rust bucket Jim had sold? Did she not realise she had paid over the odds for it? Surely this was the worst deal he had ever come across.

‘I’ve got a new job,’ the student explained. ‘I work for the BBC as a props manager. We’re filming up here next month and I was sent by my boss to buy a boat with a budget of £18,000. He’ll be delighted when I tell him I secured one for only £1000.’

The teacher was speechless. He was about to offer his former pupil some advice on negotiation but instead asked, ‘You do know there’s a huge hole in that boat?’

‘Of course!’ she replied. ‘It doesn’t matter. We need the boat for an explosion scene. The props department will make it look good for the camera and then we’ll blow it up, so the hole’s not an issue.’

The result? Two people, both completely happy with their deal. Each could have secured a better deal, but would that have made it any less perfect

Florence Kennedy Rolland, Lead Tutor About Florence Kennedy Rolland, Lead Tutor

Managing Director of Negotiate Ltd & Approved Tutor and examiner for the Negotiation elective.