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When you write a book, especially in the area of sales, you learn quite a bit as you do your research. This was true when I wrote one of my first books about negotiating. One fascinating area for me was when we interviewed some of the world’s best negotiators. They ranged from a politician, a sports agent, business moguls, people in the entertainment industry to Major League Baseball players. All the names are recognizable as leaders in their respective fields.

The interviews took place in person or by telephone, and I found them truly enlightening.

Sometimes it is fun to not think too much about a thing and just wait to see what happens. I did that in the interviews. The people interviewed were from all walks of life and many occupations. Despite the jobs and personalities, the results of the interviews – to my surprise were – similar.

Each person interviewed was self-taught in his or her personal style. Each person had mentors or teachers.

Each person relied on his or her instincts, and a unique and individual view of the world in personal and business life. But when it came to sitting in a room to negotiate, they all followed rules that were similar. Each felt it was necessary to possess certain skills to have an edge.

While nobody talked directly about it, everyone had a degree of confidence that was truly amazing. There was little self-doubt. The experts were well-spoken and made me, the interviewer, feel like their equal. They were not trying to show off or to make themselves seem more important or better than I am.

They were compassionate about their occupations, definitely down-to-earth and determined to stay at the top of their game. I found each to be fascinating to the point that, when the interview was over, I just wanted the conversation to keep going.

Regarding negotiations, each basically said the same things. When in a negotiation, you absolutely must be a good listener, know your boundaries and know when to walk away. You have to go in knowing you are going to compromise and not try to take all the marbles. Preparation is everything, so always do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the other people you are going to be with, and of course, know your subject matter inside out.

Even on the winning side, you will make mistakes through life – and you will not win all the time. That’s just part of life and in the scheme of things, it will serve to make you better. As we all know, we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.

Don’t try to beat up your opponents. They want to win also. Your reputation will stay with you forever. The experts had stellar reputations as honest, decent people. They were not just workaholics, but are also actively involved in their communities, charities or philanthropic causes.

Most writers probably wouldn’t admit it, but we really don’t know it all. Sometimes, we are not even experts in our field. I surely was not that well-versed in negotiating until I started doing research. What really made me feel like an expert were the interviews. By absorbing nine different points of view, experiences and accomplishments, and hearing their stories and what works for them, I feel qualified to be an authority on this subject.

I guess we all learn as we go through life.

Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at


Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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