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Framing negotiations through music

A light-hearted look at how to create the right mood for supplier meetings with the help of some classic tunes

 

Summer 2006

 

by Søren Vammen and Robert Ibsen

 

What will have the biggest effect on your next negotiation? One option could be softly playing With A Little Help From My Friends or, alternatively, You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' on the hi-fi in your front office or lobby while your supplier is waiting to see you.

 

Why? Well, consider the way furniture is used at job interviews, with the interviewer's chair hiked up a notch or two compared to the interviewee's, just to convey, however subtly, who's in charge of the situation. Such a mood can be created and reinforced by any number of ploys, including room temperature, catering, reading material, the decor in general... You get the picture.

 

At a semi-conscious level your guest's expectations in relation to the impending meeting will be influenced, positively or negatively, by these factors in the minutes leading up to it. These influencing factors constitute a sort of "framing", a term often used in connection with negotiating and influencing practices.

 

What we present for your consideration here is a brief guide to framing using nothing but music played on the front-office sound system, whether it be an old-fashioned stereo or the latest in cool-design iPod technology. In this day and age, where we can burn our own CDs for personal use and download entire MP3 playlists, it's easy to create just the right genre-specific selection that will either make your suppliers smile or set their teeth on edge. Remember, it's OK to keep your suppliers' musical preferences (and pet hates, too) on file. After all, they keep track of your golf handicap and your children's birthdays.

 

But first a health warning: we have not suggested any dirty tricks or foul play by recommending that you play lousy music, only good music (we like to think), which can push the atmosphere in the desired direction. At the same time, we recognise that our choice of music is likely to appeal primarily to the 40-plus age range of CPOs and other purchasers.


We have not recommended generic, piped elevator music, Bucks Fizz or Johnny Logan, James Last, death metal, gangsta rap, hip-hop or any other types of music of which we have little or no knowledge.

 

Pleased to meet you

 

Let us begin with the positive scenario, where you want to assure the supplier that he or she is securely in your good books and that you are fully prepared to continue or initiate a partnership with his or her company. We suggest that you get the ball rolling with Canned Heat encouraging your guest with Let's Work Together , followed by the Beatles singing We Can Work It Out . Next, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, sings Respect and Dr Feelgood , followed by the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations . Another diva, Diana Ross, sings Reach Out I'll Be There , before a bit of soul-funk from Sly and the Family Stone, I Want To Take You Higher (perhaps the Woodstock version).

 

If you and your guest are in the initial stages of relationship building, try playing Eddie Cochran, Three Steps to Heaven , and Dave Edmunds' (Springsteen-penned), From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come) . If, though, you wish to relaunch a relationship of some standing, which has been temporarily on the skids, we recommend the greatest soul singer ever, Otis Redding, who'll implore your guest to Try A Little Tenderness , followed by Karen Carpenter with: "We can't go on hurting each other."

 

Finally, right before the meeting begins, you'll play the one song which more than any other illustrates the whole idea of common destiny and mutual dependence in a partnership - namely, the soul duo Sam & Dave with: "When something is wrong with my baby, something is wrong with me." Now the atmosphere should be just right for a trust-based negotiation.
 
Walk out the door

 

Should you, conversely, wish to create a negative atmosphere, try opening up with a couple of old blues songs with poignant titles, such as I Asked for Water (She Gave Me Gasoline) and Pouring Water On A Drowning Man. You could indicate that your relationship is in need of serious cold-starting by letting The Who (of course) ask Who Are You?, leaving it to the supplier to finish the sentence "... and what can you do for me?"

 

Now it's time for the Rolling Stones, five in a row: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction , Under My Thumb , Out Of Time , Play With Fire and You Can't Always Get What You Want. At this point your guest should be able to read the writing on the wall. If you feel so inclined, you could give them a bit of a breather by playing a couple of film scores. We suggest Lalo Schifrin's super title track Mission: Impossible , but seeing how he also wrote the film score for all the Dirty Harry movies, you could also go down that road playing the one that starts "Do you feel lucky...?" Then again, perhaps that would be too much of a good thing.

 

Of course, your guest could be made of sterner stuff - we all know the thick-skinned type of supplier who is impervious to subtle hints. In that case, it's off with the kid gloves and on to 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover (Paul Simon), followed by the Inmates (now there's a nod and a wink) singing Mr Unreliable , a clear indication that you have got him or her sussed. The good old Kinks go next with Low Budget , which should indicate the expected price level, Smokey Robinson's Shop Around signals that you are prepared to do multiple sourcing, while Bob Dylan's Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine should speak volumes about the expected time horizon for the relationship.

 

The Ramones singing "beat on the brat with a baseball bat" (no, we are not making this lyric up) add a bit of menace before Sir Paul McCartney sings (and waves) Hello Goodbye . Should your supplier still not get the message, then you simply crank up the volume to around 110dB and play, vicious as it may seem, the one song that better than any other illustrates the essence of the zero-sum game - Ry Cooder's superb The Very Thing That Makes You Rich (Makes Me Poor) . Enough said.

 

If you should feel that you're not quite ready to use musical framing, then we hope that having read this article you at least feel inspired to fish out and play some of your old records - perhaps even a few of the big, black vinyl ones from the basement. That should keep you busy on any wet summer days, may they be few and far between.

 

 

OUR TOP 20 PLAYLISTS FOR...

 

FRAMING IN A POSITIVE DIRECTION

 

1. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby - Sam & Dave
2. With A Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker
3. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel
4. Hurting Each Other - The Carpenters
5. Lean On Me - Bill Withers
6. Let's Work Together - Canned Heat
7. We Can Work It Out - Beatles
8. Try A Little Tenderness - Otis Redding
9. Respect - Aretha Franklin
10. From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come) - Dave Edmunds
11. Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys
12. Give Peace A Chance - Plastic Ono Band
13. Three Steps to Heaven - Eddie Cochran
14. Reach Out I'll Be There - Diana Ross
15. I Can Help - Billy Swan
16. I Want To Take You Higher - Sly and the Family Stone
17. The Long Run - Eagles
18. You've Got a Friend - Carole King
19. Cheaper To Keep Her - Johnnie Taylor
20. The Ties That Bind - Bruce Springsteen


FRAMING IN A NEGATIVE DIRECTION  
 
1. The Very Thing That Makes You Rich (Makes Me Poor) - Ry Cooder
2. Most Likely You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine - Bob Dylan
3. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' - Righteous Brothers
4. Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley
5. Low Budget - Kinks
6. 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover - Paul Simon
7. Pouring Water On A Drowning Man - James Carr
8. I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline) - Howlin' Wolf
9. Mr Unreliable - Inmates
10. Mission: Impossible - Lalo Schifrin
11. She Said The Same Things To Me - John Hiatt
12. You Can't Always Get What You Want - Rolling Stones
13. Hello Goodbye - Beatles
14. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - Rolling Stones
15. 991/2 Won't Do - Wilson Pickett
16. I Hear You Knocking - Dave Edmunds
17. Shop Around - Smokey Robinson And The Miracles
18. Beat On The Brat - Ramones
19. Trouble - Elvis Presley
20 You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet - Bachman-Turner Overdrive

 

Søren Vammen  ( sv@dilf.dk ) is chief executive and Robert Ibsen is programme director (negotiations) at the Danish Purchasing and Logistics Forum (DILF), based in Copenhagen


 

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