Negotiation Tips from Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs was a great man. His overall impact on consumer technology was undeniable. What helped make him an exceptional talent was his way with words. His speech at Stanford in 2005 turned what could have been another geeky top tech CEO into a straight up tech gangsta. Since that speech, I yearned for further wisdom and insight from Mr. Jobs.

Below are five pieces of negotiating advice siphoned directly from Jobs’ email negotiation with book publisher HarperCollins. In this email negotiation, Jobs masterfully executes a negotiation that earned Apple the key to ebook success and profitability.

Here are 5 strategies to negotiation domination as presented by Inc.

1.  Hesitating on negotiations – a no-no.

When important negotiations arise, don’t hesitate to jump on them like an orangutan. When Mr. Jobs was negotiating a partnership deal with publisher HarperCollins, he sensed the pressing importance of this negotiation because it would determine not only the success and profitability of ebooks published by HarperCollins, it would affect all future negotiations Apple had with other publishers. Even with a millions things (give or take) on his to do list, Jobs pushed everything aside and picked up his phone right away to begin the negotiation process. Realizing the importance of negotiation doesn’t mean call your boss after you finish your game of Call of Duty, it means don’t think you can just “wing it.” Start preparing NOW.

2.  Show that you understand the context and why your proposition is better.

Do your research and don’t go into a negotiation demanding the ocean. Be smart and realistic about your negotiating position and focus on why your pitch or position is better than any of the other options available instead of what you want. In Jobs email with HarperCollins, he addressed Apple’s opportunity to partner with HarperCollins through research and understanding that HaperCollins’ business with Apple’s competitors was not sustainable in the long run.

3.  Show both sides of value.

At the negotiation table, show the other party not only how they would benefit from your proposition, but more importantly, show them what they would lose without you or your offer. Even though proving yourself beneficial is indeed important, effectively showing the other party what they will be missing out on will often leave more of a lasting impact. This is exactly what Jobs did. He pointed out the benefits of partnering with Apple but he also explained “we have four of the six big publishers signed up already,” effectively illustrating that HarperCollins would be left in the dust of their competition. Do this.

4. Lay out the reality.

There is no denying cold hard facts and numbers during negotiations. Whenever possible prepare and use facts to support your case because, if used right, your facts will paint the reality of the situation in your favor. HarperCollins kept pushing back on Jobs’ price point requirements for Apple’s ebooks. As a result, Jobs hit HarperCollins with the reality that HarperCollins effectively had no choice but to accept Apple’s terms.

5. Play to emotions.

Never forget that negotiations are heavily influenced by emotions. When you try to highlight the key points to your position, paint pictures with your words instead of simple pro and con statements. For example, Jobs explains to Murdoch that Apple has “120 million customer credit card numbers on file.” Instead of simply stating “Apple will provide you with huge gains in profit,” Jobs statement left HarperCollins salivating at the picture of potential profits. Make the other party salivate.

(image via Both Sides of the Table)


by Derrick Huey