Based on The 110% Solution (1991) by Mark H. McCormack
by Grady McAllister
Mark McCormack is best-known for his 1985 best seller What They Don’t Teach You in Harvard Business School
. McCormack began his company, the International Management
Group, in 1960 when he left his Cleveland Law practice to
represent golfer Arnold Palmer.
many people have trouble classifying I.M.G.: The same company
that represents race car driver Jackie Stewart also represents
the Noble Foundation. He states that his company’s mission
"to find opportunities for top notch professionals operating
in the international arena." He interprets that mission as
ruling out football teams and rock stars, but it can include
both tennis players and opera stars.
The 110% Solution , his endorsements go on for eleven
pages. Like his clients, they are diverse and range from former
Vice President Spiro Agnew to Christie Hefner, Chairman and
CEO of Playboy Enterprises.
of the most readable of business authors, McCormack introduces
the subject of negotiation with these words:
For eons, philosophers have tried to define what distinguishes
human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom. Some say
what sets us apart is our ability to reason; others, that
it is our use of language…I would like to offer another
uniquely human attribute: Man is the only animal that negotiates.
When lions kill, the strongest lion takes the prime bits,
while the others settle for leftovers. There’s nothing
for lions to discuss…Only humans talk things over
to arrive at a solution. Only humans see the world in subtle
enough terms to realize that decisions needn’t be
all or nothing; some of what you want can be blended with
some of what I want, and the result can be better for both
says that negotiation is so essential that "a 110 percent
approach to life necessarily includes a sensitivity to the
nature of negotiation and a willingness to make it work."
to McCormack, negotiation is an emotional as well as a rational
activity. It acquires a momentum of its own and becomes more
that the sum of its parts. In short, it is "a little drama
all by itself." There is no "airtight formula" for success.
Nonetheless, McCormack suggests that you keep these two elements
Timing. The truth is that people are not always masters
of their moods, judging everything strictly on its merits.
If you are a teenager, you don’t ask Dad for the car
while he is walking in the door grumbling about his job. McCormack
says, "This same commonsense approach to timing pertains to
negotiations where millions of dollars are at stake."
Tone. There is at least some component of conflict in
any negotiation. Otherwise there would be no need to have
a negotiation. The conflict is not, in itself, a problem.
However, "What can become a problem is a hostile or uncooperative
tone that comes in response to the conflict." According to
The importance of tone can hardly be over-stressed. It makes
all the difference between a deal where the two parties
truly feel like partners and one in which people are mistrustful
and uneasy, always looking over their shoulder to see who’s
getting the best of it.
essence of negotiation is "clearing away the obstacles so
that the other party can say ‘yes.’ " However,
sometimes you have to help people to say "no":
There are many ways of persuading people to drop their armor,
and maybe the easiest is simply to allow them the opportunity
to get the no’s off their chest. People need to make
a gesture establishing that they won't let themselves be
working with Arnold Palmer, McCormack would purposefully tell
him about offers that he was sure to reject. Before finally
presenting him with an important opportunity, McCormack might
ask, "Are you ready for a serious question yet, or do you
want to shoot me down a few more times first?"
McCormack says the "golden rule" of negotiation is to have
clear understanding of what the other side wants and how you
might be able to give it to them. This information gives you
leverage: "You create more good will by trying to expedite
the things they want to accomplish. You foster a tone of cooperation
by trying to reconcile their needs with your needs."
Here are some common tactics that occur during the negotiating
The negative attack . You see this tactic when a bully
goes on a tirade about the "one or two details out of a hundred"
in which you performed less than perfectly. These are not
valid complaints but tactics designed to weaken your position.
The counter-tactic is to bring them up yourself, thereby "taking
away his primary weapon."
The ultimatum. This tactic is to scare you into conceding
anything that will keep that person at the table. McCormack
writes: "Ultimatums are rarely the end of a negotiation. They
are often the beginning."
The bulk order. The other party negotiates for a quantity
price and, then, tries to buy a small amount. The counter-tactic
is to "stick to your rate card."
Good cop/bad cop. The opponent sends in a negotiator whose
sole purpose is to wear you down. Then, a "good guy" shows
up who apologizes his associate's bad manners:
Of course, you gravitate toward the good guy -- because
his temperament, demeanor and negotiating position appear
to be more inviting.
The funny thing about the good cop/bad cop tactic is that
I am very good at detecting it--but I fall for it anyway.
In my heart I want to believe the good cop is on my side
even when my brain is telling me he is playing a role and
his act is not necessarily in my interest.
best way to counter this is to "shut out the good guy" and
"focus your energies on turning the bad guy around to your
point of view." If that doesn't work, "you weren't going to
do any better with his partner anyway."
The concession. McCormack describes three types of concessions
that can happen in a negotiation:
The 50 percent solution is to concede but get nothing in
The 75 percent solution is to concede but only for something
of equal value.
The 110 percent solution is to concede, but get more in
One way that negotiators may get more in return is by not
letting the other party know when it is easy to meet their
demands. Also, they may delay making a concession simply as
a negotiating tactic. McCormack states:
There is nothing particularly sly about this. As a negotiator,
you are under no obligation to tell the other side that
a concession is easy to make or immaterial to you. And you
don’t have to concede immediately.
Times of London has called Mark McCormack "One of
the 1,000 makers of the Twentieth Century." In 1995, McCormack
released McCormack on Negotiating , a book that provides
further details about his negotiating philosophy.
Vasthead is the professional web site of
Grady McAllister of Houston, Texas.