You may not know him, but you know his clients, some of the biggest names in baseball: Derek Jeter. Barry Bonds. And most famously, Alex Rodriguez -- Scott Boras is the man behind the $252 million contract Rodriguez signed last spring with the Texas Rangers, making him the highest-paid baseball player in history.
What can a phenomenally successful sports negotiator teach planners about negotiating contracts for meetings? Everything. Here's what baseball's kingmaker told us:
Listen. "Quality negotiators are people who first and foremost are good listeners," notes Boras. "You're there to try to find the right deal -- the fair deal." This means, of course, being prepared to hear things you don't necessarily want to hear: A good negotiator takes the attitude that "information is always positive," he says. "It may not help you achieve the objective you want for your client, but it'll help you understand more about the person you're negotiating with and their needs."
Just the facts. "I'm not a salesman, and I'm not a poker player. I'm a fact negotiator -- I try to draw things through by using information. I don't try to subjectively assess people because I think you can make some big mistakes doing that."
Role play. As practice, Boras holds mock negotiation sessions, in which he takes the opposing side -- pretending to be a team's general manager -- and tries to stump his staff. Next time you're working on a big meeting, have someone pretend to be the hotel's director of sales or general manager and argue against the deals you're trying to arrange.
Do your homework. When negotiating with the Texas Rangers, Boras produced 80 pages of data proving A-Rod "was going to be the best offensive shortstop in history." (If Rodriguez's first-season performance is any indication, Boras was right.) In a business where stats are quoted and challenged and milked, he's got a database going back 125 years that's run by a computer science engineer who used to work for NASA. He's spent eight months -- so far -- on Barry Bonds' proposed contract with the San Francisco Giants. During the 10-day stretch of the winter baseball meetings, he averages just three hours' sleep, "and I'm not even tired!"
Specialize. Boras is what you'd call a "micropro": a master at a narrowly defined niche. Though he's received many offers to go into other areas of negotiating, the former pro baseball player sticks to what he knows: "Baseball is all we do." The lesson for planners? Carve out a niche for yourself -- attrition clauses, or F&B -- and learn everything you can about it. If others on your staff do the same, you've got a team of experts.
His key advice: "Remember the four Ps: preparation, persistence, passion for what you do, and prayer. A lot of prayer."