I recently sat on a plane next to former NBA All Star player, head coach and long-time TV analyst Doug Collins, who has spent over 40 years negotiating with almost everyone in the NBA world. Given his unique perspective and excellent reputation, I asked him to share his keys to negotiation success in that challenging environment.
Here are a few of his nuggets.
1. Focus on your goal
Collins told me he tried to never compare his deals to others – instead solely focusing on his goals. He said he “never geared what I’ve gotten based on what others get.” This is especially important and unusual in a field dominated by many with significant egos, who care more about doing better than their colleagues than the extent they get their own interests satisfied.
Collins pointed to current NBA All Stars and San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as similar examples of folks who put their own goals – a team first attitude and an unwavering focus on an NBA Championship – over their individual egos. Each, according to Collins, is being paid below market compensation. Yet, each year the Spurs are in the top tier of teams competing for that NBA ring.
2. The value of truth and trust
“Everything I do is based on two words – truth and trust.” If I have a relationship with an owner or player or agent based on trust, then I can tell them the unvarnished truth. If that relationship is not based on trust, though, it can become very destructive.
This applies equally in negotiations. You can say what you want in a negotiation, but if they don’t trust that you’re telling the truth, it’s far more difficult, challenging and sometimes even impossible to get that deal done.
Collins said “trust is easily broken and hard to build – and it takes a lifetime to do it.” This is wise counsel, especially from a current broadcaster who needs coaches, players, owners and others to trust him with their information so he can effectively do his job.
3. Basketball negotiations are extremely relational
The legendary Miami Heat President Pat Riley did not get LeBron James to Miami with the promise of money. He sold it as the best opportunity to get James that NBA Championship ring – and he delivered. Most top high school basketball players in the country do not, according to Collins, pick colleges based on the school and its environment. Instead, they choose based on the coach and their relationship with them.
Many negotiations revolve around non-financial elements like the relationships between the parties. Don’t underestimate the power of real relationships.
4. Analytics and numerical analysis play important roles
Some negotiations primarily rely on relationships and personal chemistry for success. Other negotiations are driven by the numbers and analytics. According to Collins, the best teams today rely on both to drive their success.
The best deals, I would argue, also depend on both for true long-term success.
Published April 6, 2014 The Arizona Republic