It’s Not What You Know…

An old adage, frequently re-shaped in various ways, says, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” In three steps, we’re going to link this to negotiations, to your credibility when negotiating, and to the news.

Step 1: One of K&R’s key negotiation tools is the Leverage Cycle™. This cycle starts with patience and listening, and proceeds through information gathering, the use of that information in context and establishing personal credibility as a required step in negotiations. The downside if you skip these steps is that your client won’t pay any attention to you, and any argument you make as to the value of what you are offering is likely to be discarded.

Often in our sessions, we talk about “loaned credibility”. You know the situation. One person has an established and credible presence with a client, and they bring in an expert. When the expert arrives, the person with the established relationship say, “This is my expert”, and (temporarily) the credibility that the speaker has is conveyed to the expert. Of course, this is a temporary grant – the expert has to deliver credibly once there. But the expert does not have to go through the entire cycle right away. Credibility can be loaned.

Step 2: In one of our sessions, an attendee expanded the discussion in this way, “Credibility can be borrowed.” Here’s the way that happens. Suppose you are meeting with your client, and there is a particularly nasty unresolved issue under discussion. You say you can’t fix it, but the client resists. They say, “I bet you can – you just won’t.”

You have a personal relationship with your company’s CEO, and you bring the CEO to the next client meeting. The CEO says, “Well, Tim is right. We can’t do it.” Assuming that your company’s CEO is a credible person (and if not, time to look for work), you just got a tremendous loan of the CEO’s credibility.

The interpretation our session attendee gave was this, “If you can get the CEO to show up – which proves the CEO finds you credible personally – you improve your own credibility with the client.” You borrow credibility.

Step 3: A recent Times of India news article showed “borrowed credibility” in action. Titled, “Apotheker’s here, Palmisano’s coming”, it starts as follows, “It’s a sign that India’s, and specifically Bangalore’s, weight in the world of IT is still growing rapidly. The CEOs of the world’s two biggest IT companies are visiting the city in the space of one week.”

This is a specific recognition of a transfer of credibility – in this case, from the visitor to the place (or person) visited.

Remember to establish and manage your credibility when you negotiate. Plus, remember that there are three operational methods:
1) Earn it, through practicing the steps in the Leverage Cycle
2) Borrow it
3) Loan it

We can help you improve your negotiation results. Give us a call. (td)

Got a question? Email a K&R negotiator directly at