In the TV show “Suits” (just renewed for a fifth season) attorney Harvey Specter—brilliantly played by actor Gabriel Macht—is known as “the best closer in New York City.”
He’s confident and speaks his mind. Quick-witted and intelligent. And he delivers great one-liners.
Of course, he’s not without his flaws but he thinks outside of the box and when it comes to the art of negotiation he’s talented and usually gets what he wants. He believes in the big W—winning.
So what can we learn from the Harvey Specter character, especially in a negotiating situation?
1. Don’t give the game away
Never show your hand. Never show all of the cards that you are holding. It’s vital to keep your adversary guessing. Keep them on the defensive. Keep them wondering what advantages you hold and what end result you will settle for.
It’s a bit like being a quarterback on the football field. The quarterback analyzes all of the options, weighs up the defensive positions and calls a play designed to outfox and maneuver beyond the defense. What kind of play only he knows…until it’s too late for the other team to block. That’s where you need to be.
2. Don’t get emotional
As Harvey says in one episode, “I’m against having emotions, not (against) using them.”
We all find ourselves in situations where we have extremely strong feelings, especially when we feel that we have been cheated or exploited. Harvey is perhaps an extreme case of keeping cool under extreme pressure. The message is not to let your emotions get the better of you but use them to empower you to achieve your desires. Don’t let emotions get in the way of rational thinking. Keep mentally cool and calculating. That’s when you’ll win.
3. You’re stronger than you think
It’s highly likely that you have more bargaining power than you imagine. You just have to discover what it is! Never enter a negotiation from a position of weakness—or feeling that the other side has the upper hand. That’s a loser’s attitude. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities and you’re much more likely to get what you want.
Thoroughly research your adversary and analyze where they are coming from and what they need. Find a way to let them seem to get what they want while, more importantly, you really get everything that you want. If your company is small that may well give you a special advantage: perhaps you fill a void in the market or being nimble gives you the ability to be more flexible and act faster. You may have all kinds of options and be able to make quick decisions that a big, lumbering giant can’t. So, never under-estimate yourself.
4. Go for broke
You need to be something of a risk-taker. Success is not going to drop into your lap out of a clear, blue sky. When you’re negotiating don’t get into the mindset of trying to cut your losses or settle for breaking even. This mindset exposes weakness and will inevitably be the shackle that restrains you from achieving your goals and rising to genuine greatness.
As Harvey says, “That’s the difference between you and me, you wanna lose small, I wanna win big.”
5. Don’t back down
Winners don’t retreat. They keep fighting. They never give up until their journey is complete. They may sometimes find themselves with their backs against the wall and still negotiate to their advantage. As Harvey puts it, “What are your choices when someone puts a gun to your head? You take the gun, or you pull out a bigger one. Or, you call their bluff. Or, you do any one of 146 other things.”
Successful entrepreneurs often win a seemingly no-win situation by rewriting the rules. They push boundaries. They refuse to be restricted. They come up with a new victorious strategy. They are fearless. While others wait for a window of opportunity to open for them, winners are breaking the windows and creating the opportunities.
The Harvey Specter character, on his way to winning, says lots of great things. One of his other great lines that resonates with me personally is this: “I don’t get lucky, I make my own luck.”
You make your own luck by having a purpose in life, by believing that you are destined to achieve great things, and by forging ahead in spite of adversity. Follow your moral compass. Do good things. Help others. Make a difference in the world. Have faith. Create your own masterpiece. And win.