The Art + Science of Negotiating

Posted by Admin in Sumo Blog

Negotiating is an art and science that can make all the difference between being profitable and having to close your doors for good. So what happens when you are locked in to the most important negotiation of your career, and your numbers could not be further apart? Heidi Roizen found herself in the same cubicle as Steve Jobs trying to negotiate to become the publisher for Jobs’ word processing software, MacAuthor-

“15%? That is ridiculous. I want 50%.”

I was stunned. There was no way I could run my business giving him 50% of my product revenues. I started to defend myself, stammering about the economics of my side of the business. He tore up the contract and handed me the pieces. “Come back at 50%, or don’t come back,” he said.

This is the part where the left side of your brain needs to take over and paint the picture your customer wants. Get creative!

Dan’l Lewin, one of the NeXT co-founders, had a cubicle within earshot of Steve (actually, at that time, every employee was within earshot of Steve.) Dan’l had been working with me in background over the last few weeks and we’d developed a good relationship. If this deal did not get done, it was going to end up being his job to find someone else, so he really wanted me to get the business. Dan’l put his arm around my shoulder, and said one sentence, which I will never forget.

“Make it look like fifty percent,” he said.  

That was all Roizen needed to hear. She then understood that her new task was to find a way to make the contract read 50% of revenues to Steve Jobs’ liking. Packaging costs, employee salaries, handling fees, and all the necessary nickels and dimes to make the contract feasible for her company, and satisfactory for Steve Jobs.

The full article, “What I Learned Negotiating with Steve Jobs” by Heidi Roizen is well worth a read at

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