“The Pepsi & Pie deal”


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So, this happened …

It was a dark and stormy night.

(Unfortunately, many nights in London were like this, so I thought nothing of it as I arrived at the lecture hall, shook off my umbrella, put it amongst dozens of other soaking umbrellas, then went in to attend a talk about negotiation.)

My interest in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming – effectively a collection of techniques to hack the mind) began while I was living in London. I had started self-studying the subject after watching Derren Brown on TV, a performer who did a ‘new’ type of “magic of the mind” (called mentalism).

Part of my learning was through attending a series of almost-free fortnightly talks, given by visiting NLP experts (and related fields) who had come to London to teach a paid course. The organisers of this Tuesday evening series would approach such overseas experts and arrange for them to give a free lecture to the group, a few days before the main event.

For us, we got access to world-class experts without committing to a full course. For the visiting experts, they had the opportunity to give a teaser to a group of interested people, some of whom would then sign up for the course. We were all winners.

On this particular night, the lecturer began by asking the audience to raise their hands if they negotiate on a daily basis. About half the people did so. My own career had progressed from ‘technical’ onto B2B sales, where I was selling capital-motivated deals to provide my clients with hundreds of millions of Pounds of capital – so I raised my hand too.

To our shock, the lecturer shouted “No!” to the whole room. We all sat up to see what the problem was.

“Only half of you negotiate daily? Nonsense! You all negotiate. Every single day. And the sooner you realize this, the better your life will be. When your alarm goes off in the morning, you negotiate with it when deciding whether to press snooze. You negotiate with yourself in deciding whether you have time to throw back a coffee, or have to rush out now so you’re not late for work. You negotiate with you boss to take leave, to get a promotion, to get a pay increase. You negotiate with your clients. You negotiate with your partner as to whether you’re eating Italian or Chinese tonight, and you negotiate whether you’ll be having sex after dinner – even if that’s an easy negotiation. And you negotiate with the TV about what time you’re going to bed.”

He remained silent for a minute to let that sink in. And having set the scene so powerfully, he then began his formal talk, proceeding to teach a few techniques to improve our negotiation skills.

To be honest, I don’t remember specifically the techniques he taught that night, but I will never forget his main message: “You all negotiate. Every single day.” That was a powerful realization.

After the event, I walked through the rain to nearby Paddington Station, to take a London Underground train home. While making my way down the maze of tunnels to the platform, I passed a 7-eleven that was located inside the station. Remembering that I hadn’t eaten yet and it was already quite late, I decided to buy a quick chicken pie and Pepsi. (Don’t judge me.) The cash register flashed that the total was £2.20, and I reached into my wallet. All I had was a £2 coin and a £20 note.

You all negotiate. Every single day.  His words echoed through my head.

So I held out the £2 coin in my left hand, the £20 note in my right, and I said to the man behind the counter, “You can simply take this £2 coin and make it easy for yourself and forget the 20 pence. Or you can take the £20 note, but then you have to give me all that change. What a pain.” I then pushed the £2 coin towards him and asked, “What would be easiest?”

He paused while his brain locked onto this deep dilemma. Then he shrugged and took the £2 coin. I grabbed my Pepsi and pie and left.

I was thrilled. This tiny win felt huge.

The lecturer was right, we really are negotiating all the time. I had just saved 20 pence, but it felt like a million Pounds.

Simple Definition

The Pepsi & Pie deal: People often just accept what is offered, without realizing that they have the power to negotiate the terms of what they accept. This #hashtag-story reminds us that we live in a negotiable world, and not only can we do better, but we should. 

Summarizing what it means

We negotiate with our alarm clock, with Netflix, and with our Facebook feed. We negotiate with our partners, friends, family, and colleagues. And yes, we negotiate with our clients.

Sometimes we win those negotiations, sometimes we lose. But the worst situation is when we don’t even realize that we could be negotiating. We just accept things as they are presented to us, and so we lose before we’ve even begun.

It doesn’t matter whether we believe we can’t have things our way (“learned helplessness”), or whether we think we shouldn’t want things our way (see #[Luxury Bridges]), or indeed that we don’t deserve to have things our way. The unfortunate thing is it’s so common for us to simply not push for what we want out of life.

If all you get out of this chapter is that you start a habit of flagging the moments when there could be a negotiation taking place – even if you don’t actually negotiate it – then your life will have improved.

When the alarm goes off and you’re automatically reaching for the snooze button, label that as a “Pepsi & Pie” moment. When your partner messages to say that you’re eating Italian tonight, label that as a “Pepsi & Pie” moment. When the bus stops and you’re trying to decide if it’s too full for you to get in, label that as a “Pepsi & Pie” moment. And when your prospect says that they don’t need what you’re selling, remind yourself that it is a “Pepsi & Pie” moment too.

It’s time to learn how to get more of what you want.

You can negotiate to create a better life, and you should negotiate for more than you’re being offered. There is so much more within your control than you realize.

Discussing what it means

So, what’s a negotiation?

Let’s just quickly get something out the way – I use the word “negotiation” in a general sense. I don’t only mean situations with business people, sitting across the table from each other, each with a lawyer in the room, trying to get optimal terms on some deal.

A negotiation is any time where you are facing a person (each of whom wants something different), or a situation (where you get to decide how you respond to that moment).

So for the rest of this chapter, free your mind

You lose when you don’t even know there’s a negotiation

If you don’t realize there is a negotiation at play, if you don’t try to get things your way, then you’ve already lost. Pity.

As ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

If you were sufficiently programmed at school to just do what you’re told and not push back, then when your potential new boss makes you a salary offer, you will of course just accept it. It might not even enter your mind that it’s reasonable that you should push back to get more, and it might be an even more alien thought that you might actually get what you ask for.

Additionally, it’s possible that people will respect you more when you stand up for yourself, and in future they might cater to your needs more when you’ve shown you’re less compliant. See #[Aren’t you glad I negotiated your non-negotiable?] for a more detailed discussion.

You lose when you negotiate instinctively, without conscious effort

You might find yourself instinctively pushing back in a situation, without consciously being aware that you are negotiating. This might be better than not knowing and not doing, but not much better.

If your push-back is based on instinct, can you be sure that what you’re pushing back for is even what you want, or enough of what you want? And how much ground will you gain if your effort is half-hearted and weak? Will your instinctive push yield anything if you get resistance to that push?

Your instinctive push stands little chance against someone who is intentionally trying to get what they want from you.

Learned helplessness is a downward spiral

If you’re not fully aware that there is a negotiation happening, and you’re not in control of your efforts to get what you want, then we saw above that your chances of getting what you want are dramatically reduced.

This is not because you don’t deserve to have more. It’s not because you aren’t capable of getting more. Instead it’s because you’re not fully present – neither in awareness nor effort.

And so you end up not getting what you want, more often than should be the case.

What so many people then carry away is the general (perhaps sub-conscious) feeling that “I tried but I lost. I am terrible at this. I can never get what I want.” With enough of these fake losses (fake, because you weren’t even making a solid effort) you really start to believe that life is about not getting what you want.

This is not true, of course. You can get more of what you want.

You need to know what you want. You need to know you’re negotiating. You need to try. And you can get better at the actual negotiation itself.

“The Pepsi & Pie deal” is all about reminding ourselves that we live in a negotiable world.

Learned control is an upward spiral

So how can you create the life that you want (as opposed to accepting the life that you’re being given)?

  • I’m not talking about trying to control everything, that’s not possible.
  • I’m not suggesting you negotiate everything, that’s just annoying.
  • And I’m not implying success in life is about always taking and never giving, because that’s blatantly untrue.

But when you realize that so much more in your life actually is negotiable, when you take the time to clarify what you want, and you make the effort to get what you want, then somehow you start to bend life to your will.

To bastardize a famous saying: “They say that I’m lucky. But the amazing thing is that the more I practice, the luckier I get.”

Multi-dimensional negotiations

I just want to be clear that not all negotiations are single-dimension win-lose situations. (Unfortunately, to many people, this is our default perspective.)

  • If haggling the price of a haircut were win-lose only, then it’s purely a matter that for every dollar you save on your haircut, they lose a dollar for their work.

But negotiations actually have more ‘dimensions’ than you might appreciate!

  • Staying with our haircut example, if their agreeing to a cheaper haircut means you will sit and get one (whereas if they don’t reduce the price then you walk) then it’s clearly not a single-dimension win-lose negotiation which is just trading dollars. You get a discount, and they get actual work (otherwise they’d just be sitting there, without any customers).

And as you would know from #[My Neanderthal is better], people see different values out of the same thing. So the more dimensions that exist, the more trade-offs are possible.

To demonstrate this, let’s consider a job application.

  • The starting point might be a salary of X, with n days of leave, beginning in 3 months time. But if you’re saving for a down payment to buy a property, you might be glad to reduce your holiday allowance in order to get a higher salary (and if they’re a busy company, they might gladly make this offer). Additionally, since they are so busy, they might appreciate having you start in 1 month instead of 3 months, and might be happy to offer an even higher salary to incentivize you to start earlier.

What this means is that win-win outcomes are possible with multi-dimensional negotiations.

By not negotiating, you are actually producing a worse outcome for everyone!

If you don’t negotiate, then you get a lower salary and they have to wait longer. You both lose. If you do negotiate, then you get a better deal because your salary ends up higher, and they get a better deal because they get you to join sooner (with fewer days off, which suits them). That’s truly win-win.

By now you should be starting to understand that, in our complex multi-dimensional world, it’s less about trying to convince yourself that you should negotiate, and more about having a damn good reason why you shouldn’t negotiate!

Why don’t people push back?

Consider any situation which you know is ultimately negotiable, and therefore you could – if you so choose – push back against what is being offered.

So why don’t you? (This is a serious question, I’m not be rhetorical.)

I don’t know about you specifically, but for others, there are many reasons why they might not even try to get more:

  • Why bother? (learned helplessness)
  • Mental programming about doing what you’re told (see #[Luxury Bridges])
  • Shyness, Insecurity
  • They don’t know what they want (see #[The red-dot on the wall])
  • They decide that a better outcome is not worth it
  • Concluding that they personally are not worth it
  • They might see a negotiation as being impolite or creating conflict (Spoiler: It’s not)
  • They might still be seeing everything as win-lose, and not appreciate that many things can be made to be win-win.

Think about all the times you haven’t negotiated. Also think about all the times when you half-heartedly negotiated but relented as soon as you hit resistance. Now look through the above examples, and try work out … why?

(For another discussion on this topic, read #[Darth Vader’s little Lego head].)

It’s OK not to always be negotiating

A key theme that comes up often in different chapters of the #HashtagYourLife system is that we shouldn’t run on automatic. We should be aware of what’s going on, we should know what we would normally do, we should decide what we want, and we should do our best to get that.

In this chapter, I’ve been reminding you that we are constantly facing negotiable situations, whether we know it or not. At the very least, you should make it a habit to #hashtag those moments as a “Pepsi & Pie deal”.

Once the situation has been flagged as potentially being influenceable by you, then you get to decide what to do next.

For most people, you should be pushing yourself to negotiate more. Do so deliberately.

But … you really don’t have to negotiate all the time.

If you feel compelled to push back at everything, you are as much a victim of running on automatic, as if you do nothing by default. (Not only that, it’s annoying to be with someone who can never accept anything as presented.)

Some good rules to go by include:

  • Be aware
  • Be deliberate
  • Build your skills
  • Find a balance.

Did you even realize that the follow scenarios are negotiable?

Here are examples to remind you what might be up for grabs that you’re missing:

You’re in a restaurant, and they bring you the wrong dish.

  • Some people will automatically accept it (“It’s too late” or “I don’t want to inconvenience them” or “I don’t want them to spit in my food if I ask for another”)
  • Others will automatically and aggressively send it back to the kitchen
  • But you do have options! Start by deliberately choosing what to do: don’t just send it back because it’s your right and your habit
  • You could also ask them to give you a free dessert, for example, if you don’t send it back. And if they refuse that request for a freebie, remember you can still decide whether to keep the meal or send it back – you aren’t obliged to do anything in particular.

Aside: This chapter is not about how to negotiate. That said, I thought it might be useful to give you one example of what you might say in order to win this negotiation, while expressing it as a win-win process. (Note that I’m not sulking because I got the wrong dish, nor am I threatening them.)

  • “Look, you’ve cooked me the wrong meal – it’s not what I asked for. But since you’ve cooked it already, maybe I can help … What if, instead of wasting the food by sending it back to the kitchen, you give us a couple of free desserts. That way you don’t have to cook another complete meal, but I get a little extra for accepting something I didn’t order. Let’s agree to do that, OK?”

You’re buying a Pepsi & Pie in a 7-Eleven.

  • Who would have thought you can get a discount there, a massive 10%?  But I did
  • It’s amazing what you can achieve when you forget that you can’t.

As a passenger, being allowed to make an announcement on a plane:

  • Jia Jiang wrote an excellent book called “Rejection Proof”, about teaching people to be better at asking for things, and not being emotionally destroyed when you’re rejected
  • He documented his experiment to seek out rejection for 100 days in a row (and actually got more yeses than he expected), to make himself “rejection proof”
  • In this video, he asked Southwest Airlines staff if he could make an announcement on the intercom to everyone on the plane, and believe it or not, they let him!

And in the business world, there is a lot of negotiation possible (even when they tell you it’s not negotiable):

  • Your salary, your bonus, your working hours, your benefits – can be negotiable
  • Clients that categorically reject your effort to sell them something, can still end up buying from you.

Sadly in society, women have been massively disempowered, and may (for various reasons) feel disempowered. The #metoo movement has raised the profile of this issue substantially in recent years.

  • Women do not have to accept a sexually-charged workplace
  • Women do not have to tolerate comments about their bodies, their appearance, their private lives, their plans to have a family
  • Women do not have to accept a lower salary because of their gender
  • Women can demand more flexibility around school hours and other family responsibilities
  • Women, during an intimate encounter, can say ‘no’ or ‘stop’ at any time they want. They are allowed to change their minds, they do not have to carry through with anything, they are not obliged to “finish things” regardless of whether the person they are with feels they have been “led on”
  • And this applies to men too, of course
  • No means no.

You can bring the negotiation to you!

  • It’s one thing if your boss mentions that a new position has opened up, and you’re welcome to consider applying for it. You can then negotiate with them around your suitability, your package, the timing, and more
  • But you don’t have to wait for options to be handed to you on a platter, and only then set about actively negotiating for what you want
  • If you are aware of a position being created, you can chase it, without anyone offering it to you. And that is true even if you think you’re not perfect for the role (but you still want it)
  • Or you can decide that the company would benefit by creating a new role, and you can propose that, and identify that you’d be the perfect person to fill it
  • “The Pepsi & Pie deal” tells us that we all negotiate, every single day. And you can be the one to make that negotiation happen, without waiting for someone to bring you to the table.

This chapter will have opened your eyes to options. It’s now time for you to take actions on this basis.

I demand that you take action. And no, that’s not negotiable. 😉

Making it personal

Your Negotiations

I’ve presented a variety of examples in the sections above to remind you how broad the nature of negotiations can be. It will be really valuable for you to try list 3-5 examples of situations in the past which fit into each of the following categories.

Remember, it’s going to be better to write these down – hopefully you’ve already started a #HashtagYourLife journal (paper? password-protected Word doc? private Notion page?), so keep adding to that.

  • Scenarios that probably were negotiable, but you didn’t even consider that the outcome wasn’t already fixed
  • Situations where you kinda negotiated, but you weren’t so sure what outcome you were aiming at, it was more pushing back for the sake of pushing back
  • Stand-offs, where you got what you were fighting for, only to realize later that it’s not what you really wanted
  • Situations where you only made a half-hearted effort to negotiate, and probably could have got a better result
  • Negotiations that you entered knowing what you were facing, where you performed well, and you got the outcome you were aiming for
  • Moments when you negotiated for the sake of negotiating, but it was probably totally unnecessary, and probably pushed you into the zone of being annoying rather than impressive

By the way, as we learned in #[Sexually adventurous: 8/10], people see things differently. For me, “the Pepsi & Pie deal” was a real wake-up call. Others might look at that moment and think it was a silly negotiation which put me in the ‘annoying’ zone. That’s OK, each to their own.

  • Finally, what is your favourite negotiation story that makes you as proud as “the Pepsi & Pie deal” made me?

Style of negotiating

If you think through some of the examples you’ve listed above, what style would you say you used most of the time?

  • You generally didn’t even try
  • You tried, but in a weak and apologetic way
  • You pushed strongly forward until you hit resistance, and then crumpled
  • You were generally pretty good at trading, trying to create a win-win
  • You were over-demanding, and focused on taking as much as possible, without making any concessions
  • You were aggressive, acting as if you have a right to get what you want, perhaps even being a little nasty when you felt you weren’t crushing your opponent.

Where on the above continuum would you like to be? What are you going to do in order to get closer to your goal?

Rejection is OK

I’m not going to call rejection something soft like “learning” or “finding another situation to improve your development”. It is rejection, and that’s OK. You pushed back to get what you want, but you didn’t get it.

It doesn’t make you bad. It doesn’t make them bad either. You can’t get everything you want (and if you are getting everything you want, that you’re clearly not aiming very high.

But fear of rejection is a big problem for people, and it holds them back from negotiation. So I would like to challenge you to do something uncomfortable every day, from now on. Keep a running list on your phone.

If you’re looking for inspiration, you should read “Rejection Proof” that I mentioned earlier.

Start off small, and work your way up, including things like …

  • Ask for a discount on your cappuccino at Starbucks
  • Try get a price reduction for a Pepsi & Pie at 7-eleven
  • Order a pizza in a hamburger joint (or a hamburger in a pizza joint)
  • Go to a book shop, take a book to the cashier, and try get them to let you borrow it for a week; Promise them that you’ll bring it back in perfect condition
  • Next time you go to the cinema, try get them to let you watch it a second time in a row; Tell them there were some things you missed last time and would like to see it again; See how they react.

You might lose every one of the above challenges, and that’s good – this is rejection training, not negotiation training. But it’s good to toughen up a little 🙂

You’re now ready to begin

Go out there and make it happen.

For you, it might not be a Pepsi & Pie, but instead be Beer & Burger, or a Smoothie & Samosa. Just don’t let the important stuff slip away.

YOU negotiate. Every single day.

Related stories

#[Red dot on the wall]

#[Aren’t you glad I negotiated your non-negotiable?]

#[Luxury Bridges]

#[My Neanderthal is better]

#[Sexually adventurous: 8/10]

#[Darth Vader’s little Lego head]

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