Friday, March 11, 2016

Successful Bargaining: 8 Mistakes to avoid

By Virginia Mburu

In the last article, Mwakazi the Passionate Entrepreneur and owner of Makao Interiors Ltd picked a few lessons on negotiation process to follow so as to clinch that special contract. 

The other day, he was reading the newspaper and this article on how a person had been conned caught his attention. It reminded him of one Esau found in Genesis 25: 27-34.

He decided to now dig deeper to pick some more lessons that would boost his chances of closing a win-win deal with the property developer.  Below are the 8 mistakes to avoid when bargaining he came up with;

Mistake 1....Allow yourself to be vulnerable
Verse 27- 28- “The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents.  Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”

Esau was   a skilled hunter, a man of the open country- where the rule of the jungle -survival for the fittest works. You may or may not catch that animal or fish for the evening meal. Knowing this, he should have developed a plan B,C,D at all times but did He?  Also note the family “favorites” game and its contribution to the vulnerability.

What about us? Do we fail to plan for certain occurrences exposing us to vulnerability? Think about what happens to us when we push buying Christmas gifts / school supplies to the last minute!

Mistake 2.....Bargaining from a point of weakness
Verse 29- Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.” 

Esau’s vulnerability has caught up with him. He had nothing to show for a full day’s work! He is starving and what catches his imagination better than the sweet aroma of some lentil stew Jacob is making! Perfect weakness position!  Just like walking into a candy shop tugging along a three year old toddler!

Mistake 3.....Letting the seller know your weakness
Verse 30- “He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom”  

 How naive! This sentence must have set Jacob smiling. A perfect opportunity had just presented itself! However needy you are, the other party should not get to know. You are in charge and they stand to lose more if they do not take up your offer!

Mistake 4.....Not understanding the person you are bargaining with
Verse 31 – Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
Esau and Jacob were twins. Esau was born first and Jacob soon followed with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he deceives

During birth, he grabbed Esau’s heel to cheat him out of his ‘'first  born’ position but he failed. Now, the opportunity had just presented itself. These were facts in Esau’s knowledge but he chose to overlook them. 

When bargaining, know who will be the best person/s to deal with, their goals, values, interests etc. as this will influence the approach and process.

Mistake 5....Being in a  rush
Verse 32- “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said.........” 

He may not have heard the saying that “Hurry! Hurry! has no blessing”. When bargaining is hurried, one party or both parties end  up with a win- lose or lose – lose deal. 

Only dive into bargaining when you have time on your side unless it is a matter of life and death. Not an assumed ‘I am about to die’ like Esau.

Mistake 6.....Not appreciating the value of what you are about to give up

Continued verse 32 -“What good is the birthright to me?”
Know your facts regarding what you are giving up. Do due diligence... what does it entail and what does it mean to you and significant others now and in the future  versus what you are getting. 

A meal versus a birthright..... The right to be  the first born.. The right to the family name and titles. The right to a double portion of his father’s  inheritance. 

The  right to succeed his father as  the Family’s physical and spiritual leader. The right to perpetuate the covenant made to his grandfather Abraham. 

The right to bless the nations of the earth. Those are the rights Esau exchanged for a meal. Suppose he was to die as he alleged, those rights would have automatically been passed on to his descendants.

Understanding of the value of what you are giving up will assist you decide when to walk away from the bargain. That will also get you considering other options.  

He may have missed out on a  wild catch  today but I am sure in the  same fields were  different types of fruits he could savour! Or he could take the same request to his mother, father or the neighbors. 

He could even decide to take some water and wait for a better tomorrow! After all one can live without food for several days.

As you consider the value of what you are placing on the bargaining table consider the story below  found in  Our Daily Bread, June 7, 1994.  

A story is told of a man who loved old books. He met an acquaintance who had just thrown away a Bible that had been stored in the attic of his ancestral home for generations. "I couldn't read it," the friend explained. "Somebody named Guten-something had printed it." "Not Gutenberg!" the book lover exclaimed in horror. "That Bible was one of the first books ever printed. Why, a copy just sold for over two million dollars!" His friend was unimpressed. "Mine wouldn't have brought a dollar. Some fellow named Martin Luther had scribbled all over it in German." 

Mistake 7.....Have no counter offer
We do not see Esau presenting a counter offer presenting Jacob with a blank cheque.   Nor any resistance to Jacob’s offer! 

Enough said....

Mistake 8.....No termination clause
Verse 33-34- “But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.”

Esau twisted himself into a tight corner by swearing on oath. No room for re-negotiation. No wonder when he ate and drank, he just got up and left. His birthright exchanged for a meal.  

He traded all his future for  temporary gratification. No wonder the writer concludes that he despised his birthright!  Another writer warns people not to be like him and  calls him a profane person (Hebrews 12:16)!  

Over to you Passionate Entrepreneur
  • What are the mistakes we make when bargaining?
  • Which birthrights are a definite ‘NEVER GIVE UP!’ when bargaining?

Share your experiences, suggestions or questions in the comments section below. Who knows- You could probably be the customer who will benefit from the “WIN-WIN”  deal!

Whatever you do, make sure it results in less work, more money and positive impact.


Virginia Mburu
Passionate Entrepreneurs Coach
Virginia empowers and motivates Passionate Entrepreneurs to realize their purpose and pursue it. She then assists the entrepreneurs to clarify, prioritise and focus on management and marketing strategies and action plans that will get them to work less, make more money and positively impact within one year.  Download some of her gifts- absolutely free lessons on

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