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Negotiating 101: From Planning Your Strategy to Finding a Common Ground, an Essential Guide to the Art of Negotiating (Adams 101)

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A quick-and-easy guide to core business and career concepts—no MBA required!

The ability to negotiate a deal. Confidence to oversee staff. Complete, accurate monitoring of expenses.

In today’s business world, these are must-have skills. But all too often, comprehensive business books turn the important details of best practices into tedious reading that would put even a CEO to sleep.

From hiring and firing to strategizing and calculating revenues, Negotiating 101 is an easy-to-understand roadmap of today’s complex business world, packed with hundreds of entertaining tidbits and concepts that can’t be found anywhere else. So whether you’re a new business owner, a middle manager, or an entry-level employee, this 101 series has the answers you need to conduct business in a smarter way.

Year:
2017
Publisher:
Adams Media
Language:
english
Pages:
256
ISBN 10:
1507202709
ISBN 13:
9781507202708
Series:
Adams 101
File:
EPUB, 1.65 MB
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سال:
2017
زبان:
english
فائل:
EPUB, 30.60 MB
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Sander (Granite Bay, California) is an author, researcher, and consultant in the fields of personal finance, business leadership, innovation management, and location reference. He has written forty-eight books, including the annual 100 Best Stocks to Buy series, What Would Steve Jobs Do?, All about Low Volatility Investing, Value Investing for Dummies, The 25 Habits of Highly Successful Investors, 101 Things Everyone Should Know about Economics, and Cities Ranked & Rated. He is also the author of numerous articles and columns on investment strategies. He has an MBA from Indiana University and has completed Certified Financial Planner (CFP) education and examination requirements.

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Authors.SimonandSchuster.com/Peter-Sander



SOLVING UNEQUAL BARGAINING PROBLEMS

Dealing with One-Sided Deals



If the negotiation has been smooth up to this point, the terms and concessions should be fairly easy to document and to spin up into a deal. If there’s time, and if good notes have been taken as you go, the negotiating team “scribe” can document all elements of the deal on the spot, draw up the final agreement, and get the necessary approvals or signatures, real or virtual, on the spot.

Formulating the agreement can be formal, or it can be a matter of taking notes and distributing them to the parties later for final review and ratification. Sometimes it helps to give the deal some time to sit and gel in everyone’s mind before finalizing it—perhaps in a subsequent meeting or conference. If you feel the deal is a bit biased in your favor, you may want to avoid this “cooling off” period and proceed with the final deal immediately.

If the deal negotiated so far stops short of win-win, there may be more work to do. It’s usually okay to come out a little ahead, but when the deal seems too one-sided, problems will creep in, ranging from immediate (dis)approval from superiors, advisors, or legal teams to damaging th; e long-term relationship between you and the counterparty. You can employ various tactics to resolve one-sided deals, and if they can’t be resolved, setting the negotiation aside for now may be the best option.

FIXING THE WIN-LOSE OUTCOME

Win-lose deals come about when strong positional negotiating tactics are used, often marked by emotional ploys, aggressive behaviors, poor preparation, and/or tight deadlines. Win-lose deals happen when counterparties dig in too deeply and fail to work toward the win-win. Such stubbornness and reluctance to “lose” comes about out of shortsightedness and, in many cases, ego. The negotiation has become as much about personal gain as it has about business or objective gain. Goals and objectives on one or both sides won’t be met.

The best way to deal with this situation is to stop. Pause the negotiation and exercise some leadership, reaffirm the win-win goal, and take inventory of what each side has won and lost. Remind everyone at the table that short-term and long-term success is couched in a win-win deal. The size of the wins doesn’t have to be equal, but both sides should achieve something toward their goals.

You might back up to an agreed-upon point in the discussion and start there, moving forward with a more equal division of concessions. In a particularly difficult negotiation, time permitting, you might stop for the day and give each side some time to revisualize the deal that would work best for all.

DEADLOCK: WHEN NOBODY WINS

A deadlock occurs when negotiations come to an impasse. Both parties have dug in on a point and/or have used up all their concessions. Progress seems out of reach; no matter how many reviews or revisits of the issues, favorable resolutions are nowhere in sight. At the moment, both parties lose because neither accomplished their goals. Furthermore, the emotional response to such a stalemate can be anger and blame, and potentially a communication collapse. Both parties withdraw from the discussion and perhaps, wanting to save face and not budge, they refuse to go back and break off the talks. Result: a lose-lose scenario.

Deadlock often occurs because the best possible solution hasn’t yet been discovered. If one or both counterparties seem inflexible, something important may be missing from the discussion, something that could resolve the conflict. There may be an 800-pound-gorilla issue in the room that nobody has brought up—for instance, background financial problems in a business negotiation or emotional problems when negotiating with your teenager. Or the problem may be a smaller tactical issue like delivery time or gas money that hasn’t been discussed but would surely grease the wheels toward getting to where you’d both like to go.

As in most productive communication, it pays to be sensitive, positive, and to ask questions and listen in a positive way. Again, you or another member of either of the negotiating teams should step back, take inventory of the current deal, and progress toward that deal: where you are and how you got there. By reviewing the steps, you might discover where it went awry, and where one or both teams might be able to interject something. That something might be a bit of information, a new concession, or an idea. Regardless, the objective is to find a way to once again move things forward.

A break will help you gather and collect your thoughts before you do this. Another tactic is to bring someone into the review who hasn’t witnessed or been active in the negotiation so far. That individual may be able to spot potential resolution points and suggest ways to move forward. Someone at the table who hasn’t been too active in the negotiation thus far can also serve this purpose.

It never hurts to review the objectives of the negotiation. Sometimes it’s better to focus on what you have accomplished than what you haven’t. Such a review gets the positive energy back into the room and helps both parties realize they can agree on something.

Be the One, Not the Ten



I call it the “one in ten” syndrome, and it happens a lot in business. For every one individual moving things forward with positive energy, there are nine other people questioning tactics, finding faults and errors, even nitpicking the PowerPoint presentation. It’s a truth in human nature and especially of bureaucracies that it’s easier to find fault with someone else’s work than to do constructive work of our own.

It happens all the time in negotiations. Everyone in the room becomes a critic and pipes in with what’s wrong with a particular element of a deal. In their mind, they’re participating, contributing, and showing everyone how smart they are. In reality, they’re just bringing negative energy to the table.

Negative energy will almost always slow or derail any business meeting, including a negotiation. When team members get fixated on finding fault, it becomes a vicious cycle; everyone starts doing it. It is very difficult to move forward. As a leader, or a leading team member, try to redirect this energy toward the positive. When someone chimes in with a negative or a “fault,” give them the floor and ask them to come up with a solution that would make that element not faulty; a solution that would breathe life into the deal.

Focus on the positive and nitpick the nitpickers, and you’ll return the negotiation to a “fast, friendly, and effective” format.



KNOWING WHEN TO OPT OUT

Sometimes, no matter how much time you’ve invested into making a deal work, you reach a point where it feels like it’s time to walk away. The reasons might be readily apparent—you’re not satisfied with the final offer, you have new information, you’re uncomfortable with the other party and their tactics, one (or more) alternative deals seem better, or you want to research a better alternative.

The reasons could be more subtle, psychological, or intuitive. For example, if your counterparty has been difficult to work with or untrustworthy from the beginning, you’ll wonder about dealing with this person or organization through the life of the contract; his behavior may not improve. You may also not want to negotiate with him again.

Opting out can be as much a matter of instinct as it is of facts or concrete evidence. When it feels like the counterparty is being especially difficult or is not seeking the win-win, withdrawing from the negotiation not only saves time, stress, and sometimes money, but it also sends a message: You’re too far apart, factually or emotionally, to continue. Most likely, if there is a win-win somewhere in sight, the counterparty will come back to the table. If the counterparty doesn’t come back, you may assume that it wouldn’t have worked anyway. It’s time to move forward to negotiate with someone else.

There’s No “I” in “TEAM”



The opt-out decision is usually instinctive; however, if you’re negotiating as part of a team, make the decision as a team. If you are acting out of emotion, other team members can set you straight or even help find a solution. Don’t opt out before other alternatives are exhausted.





NEGOTIATION AND THE FAST TRACK IN BUSINESS

Speed Now More Than Ever



Negotiation is all around us—no matter who you are in the business world—and as noted above, it doesn’t stop when you come home from work. Although the primary focus of this book is to help you become a more effective business negotiator, it is always worth keeping in mind that negotiations happen all the time outside of work, and that the same skills and strategies apply.

Negotiation is a basic part of life; this is the reality of today’s fast-paced world. Although some might think that the negotiation involved with a project takes away time from managing it, in fact negotiating is part of managing the project. For most projects tackled in today’s commercial world, negotiation is an increasingly vital part of the process. Why? Let’s look into it.

THE NEED FOR SPEED

All this negotiating has to be done faster than ever before. These days, business, technology, and products all move at a blinding speed. So does your competition, and if you don’t keep up with them, you’ll be left behind. In the case of the video production company I discussed earlier, you’ll get a very narrow window of time to negotiate the deal and a limited time to put the production together. You can’t spend all your time negotiating. You must get the negotiations done quickly so that you can move on to producing the new product. Your client has tight deadlines to meet, after all. If negotiations bog down, your clients will begin to look elsewhere and your competition will “get the worm” first!

For this reason most negotiations must occur very quickly—quicker than ever before. Often they are tucked into odd moments of the day as executives and employees tap relentlessly on their smartphones. These days, there is often no time to hold face-to-face meetings with the players involved. Some part, if not all, of the negotiations will probably be done by email, phone, instant messaging (IM), or even text.

The goal of every negotiation is to get what you need or want as quickly as possible so that you and your organization can move forward without delays. However, even at this accelerated pace, you must beware of harmful concessions or oversights—or of missing the boat completely. The price of being slow is high; the price of negotiating poorly can be even higher.

The tactics you employ come from an assortment of traditional negotiating techniques, all sped up to accomplish what ideally is a win-win. But even when the negotiation has been concluded and the terms agreed upon, you’re not done. Even when running in fast mode, it’s important to come away with what you want, while also preserving a long-term relationship with the other party. Why? Because your hope is that you’ll be working with these same people in the future.

Why So Fast Today?



There can be no doubt that in today’s world, the speed of business has increased. This isn’t just a result of texting, IM, or other communications media.

The changes in the speed of business are a reflection of structural changes in the nature of business and commerce itself. Whereas twenty or thirty years ago it might have taken a long time—several years, possibly—for a product to go from prototype to market, companies today bring products to market far more quickly. Business must respond to a rapidly changing customer base, one that’s plugged into the Internet and gets its information at the speed of light. The computer and connectivity technology developed in the late twentieth century has come home to roost, and propels a never-ending wave of innovation and new information.

This creates a snowball effect. Fast requires fast, and pretty soon, everybody is trying to eke out the slightest competitive advantage before the competition gets there. “Publish or perish” is a long-standing epigram in the academic world, and it applies to commercial industry as well. Companies must produce competitive products more swiftly. To maintain their place in the industry, they must go faster, and to go faster, they must negotiate faster. It happens everywhere.

So what does that mean for you as a businessperson? You must go faster, too. You must negotiate faster; and you must get it done in a fast, friendly, and effective manner.

If you don’t negotiate “fast, friendly, and effective,” it only slows down your business later on down the road.





CASE STUDY

When You’ve Fallen Into a Negotiating Pit



As president, CEO, and CVO of Filmographic Productions, you have been toiling away at the negotiating table for two hours. You’ve been showing your best video shorts, explaining your best production packages, and considering (but haven’t yet offered) a few concessions, such as expedited production and turnaround at a reduced price.

Your clients, Dewey and Cheatum, both glaze over. You don’t think you’re connecting. In fact, the Dewey executives seem even a bit annoyed; they have work to do and they seem to want to get back to it.

What do you do? Have you inadvertently walked into a negotiating pitfall? It’s time to take inventory.

Have you failed to see the win-win? Are you still on a win-win path? Have you thought through what will make them feel like a winner? You’ve come this far, and so far you’ve only presented your available schedule and price for filming their next commercial. Have you offered anything to make the deal more compelling and attractive to them? A price concession? An expedited timetable for production and delivery? Think about it. They didn’t show up to the negotiation just to get your latest price quote.

Have you forgotten that Dewey and Cheatum are people, too? Are you taking too much of their time? Are you showing examples of real interest and relevance to them? Are you hogging the floor or doing something else to control the negotiation or to otherwise trigger an emotional response? Do the individuals at the table have personal agendas or issues that distract or detract from the negotiation? What is their dynamic, anyway? Do they seem to be on the same page about what they want? Maybe you can help them get there.

THE IMPORTANCE OF STRESS

Is stress overly influencing the proceedings? Are you comfortable? Do they seem comfortable? Are you doing or saying anything to make them feel uncomfortable? Stop for a second to take inventory. Take a break if you need to, and ask them casually how business has been lately, how their last commercial worked out, how things are in their home life. Look for stress factors and try to soothe them.

Have you mishandled concessions anywhere along the way? Perhaps, as mentioned, you haven’t made any yet; you’ve waited too long. Perhaps concessions you think you have made, like offering to meet on their premises, are irrelevant or even burdensome to them. Again, stop and take inventory. Have you tried to close the deal too soon, without giving the counterparty enough time on the floor?

Have you spent too much time discussing minutiae they consider unimportant or a waste of time? Again, remember that you are dealing with real people with real jobs and real time constraints. Make sure not to waste anyone’s time in a negotiation, particularly with minutiae or by hogging the floor. Let them speak.

Remember that breaks can be used not just to rest and get coffee, but also to take inventory and to talk informally with your counterparties. If you feel antagonism or friction from one individual, try to talk with that individual. Find out if the irritant is related to process or product—that is, are they uncomfortable with the negotiation process and how it is unfolding, or are they uncomfortable with what you have to offer and the cost? A little informal research can yield some key insights, as well as soothe the nerves of both this individual and yourself. If you identify the pitfall properly and redirect the negotiation to address it, the response will feel positive when the negotiation reconvenes.

Outside of the necessary “bio break,” there can be no better way to use breaks in a negotiation. Avoid pitfalls where you can, and fix them quickly and positively when they happen.



SOME FURTHER PITFALLS

Blowing the Close, Taking Wrong Risks, Loss of Focus



Because it involves creating and recording the final deal, blunders you make during the closing stage can be more costly than others already discussed. At closing, your negotiations are finalized; once the deal is done, there’s no looking back. Here are some tips to consider to avoid these mistakes.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO BRING UP GREY AREAS OR MISTAKES

When re-examining the details of the negotiation, you might come across a miscalculation you made, an inaccuracy in your presentation, or an error in one of your concessions. You may even discover a concession that you didn’t mean to make. When there’s an error, bring it up immediately, even if it’s embarrassing. The longer you wait, the more it becomes permanent. Worse, it may seem like you planted the error as part of a ploy.

Beyond having the courage to point out your own mistakes, have the courage to stand up to the other party’s last-minute tactics. If the counterparty asks for an extra concession here and there, don’t give in just to be the good guy and help close the deal faster. You may not be liked so much at this stage, but don’t be afraid to say no.

Take Your Time

Making decisions because you feel pressured is one of the worst mistakes you can make, particularly during the closing. Take the time you need to finalize the agreements made—you’ll be more confident about your decisions later. Some counterparties will try to pressure you deliberately, to get you to stop looking for concessions and make the deal. Bought a car lately?

While this slower pace may annoy your counterparty, don’t be coerced into finalizing anything you’re not ready for. Additionally, realize that most deadlines can be negotiated. Even if the extension is just for a few hours, use the extra time efficiently.

TAKING THE WRONG RISKS

The use of any negotiation strategy or tactic, whether used during the body of the negotiation or at closing, carries certain risks, and naturally, it’s important to determine whether those risks are worth taking. Balance the risk, or the downside, of any negotiating point or concession, or even the time taken to pursue it, with the reward of that point or concession.

Many negotiators forget this and drive too hard on minutiae with little reward, or they do not drive hard enough on points that could prove very significant to the final outcome. If something’s not worth haggling about, don’t haggle about it! You’ll waste time, credibility, and energy that can be used for more important and rewarding items.

A good rule of thumb for risk that works well, especially for investors, is this: Invest only what you can afford to lose. That model expands well beyond investing—any tactic or concession or offer should be measured against what you can afford to lose or give up in the negotiation. Keep in mind that what you lose can be short or long term, so don’t forget about long-term consequences such as the opportunity to negotiate again.

Keep in mind that one of the biggest risks you can take is not preparing for the negotiation in the first place. Not only will a lack of preparation bog down the proceedings, you expose yourself to a multitude of unfavorable outcomes. Don’t risk shortcutting this important step.

Don’t Avoid Negotiating



Yes, negotiating can be stressful. But that doesn’t suggest at all that you should avoid the negotiation. Sure, it would be nice to simply assume a deal or a key part of a deal and walk away. No risk, right? Not right.

You know what happens. When you assume a deal (or a point within a deal) is set, but neither you nor the counterparty have confirmed it, it usually goes wrong pretty quickly. Better to talk it out, even with a quick text, email, or phone call. Negotiations are part of an ongoing relationship (usually). Don’t be an avoider. Avoidance behavior leads to mistakes short term and hurts the relationship long term.

Remember: while not negotiating seems to avoid risk, it actually creates it!



KEEP YOUR OBJECTIVES IN FOCUS

This mistake sails pretty close to the first pitfall, forgetting about the win-win. However, the mistake of losing focus is a little more general, covering goals and objectives subordinate to the overall win-win goal.

Losing focus on goals and objectives is a common—and dangerous—pitfall. You get so caught up in the moment or with the minutiae or personal dynamics of the situation that the original objectives fade into the background. The danger, of course, is that you don’t accomplish what you set out to accomplish in the first place, or worse, you give away the store.

You really can’t go wrong if you always keep a clear view of your main goals. If you and your team (and the other team) hew close to the original set of goals and objectives, then emotions like anger, anxiety, or the feeling of being overwhelmed won’t distract you or throw the negotiation off track. Hopefully, you wrote down your objectives somewhere so you can keep track of them.



WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE THE UNDERDOG

How to Acquire Leverage



Aside from the specific tactics described in the previous sections, it is helpful to carry some more general strategies and tactics in your negotiator’s toolkit for dealing with situations when the balance of power is decidedly not in your favor.

Negotiating power is dependent on a number of components, all of which work together to create the leverage you can use during the negotiation. Ideally both sides have more or less equal bargaining power. That said, it’s common to perceive that one side has more of it than the other. Both sides typically have strengths and weaknesses that can be used to their advantage to create win-win solutions that work across the table. In the real world, however, for a variety of reasons you might find yourself in a position of unequal power or leverage.

Suppose the other party has a prestigious reputation, is a long-acknowledged expert on the topic, has superior negotiating skills, and has a stellar team backing him up. You have none of these advantages, making you the underdog in the negotiations. You can still do well, but you’ll need to prepare more. Here are some tactics to deal with being an underdog:

• Recognize the situation. Don’t be intimidated by those credentials—they don’t ultimately affect the win-win.

• Figure out where you can acquire leverage. Bring in experts of your own, take a careful inventory of your capabilities and find a unique value proposition different from the competition. Look at all aspects of what you’re trying to deliver or do for your counterparty—price, quality, service, protection, brand, sustainability, ease of doing business—and determine your strengths especially compared to the competition.

• Research what you don’t know. If lack of knowledge about the issues makes you the underdog, take it upon yourself to bridge the gap. Do some quick research. Hit the Internet. Tap your social and professional network. Learn what you can as quickly as you can; become an “instant expert.”

• Be confident. Walk into the negotiation as if you couldn’t possibly fail. Don’t cave—no matter how strong or unpleasant your counterparty might turn out to be. Standing firm shifts the balance of power right off the bat. It may take a little acting, but projecting confidence will help you both in the near term and in the long run.

IF YOU’RE NOT READY

Simply put, if you’re not ready to negotiate, don’t. Maybe you need more time to prepare, or maybe you need more information from the other party; whatever the reason, do what you can to avoid putting yourself in a position you’ll regret later. Let your counterparty know as soon as possible that you’re not ready; see if you can agree on another date. Offer an alternative and be as precise as possible so the counterparty doesn’t get the impression you’re procrastinating.

If you need additional information from the other party, ask them to provide it. Explain how these details will help you resolve the conflict that’s holding back your prep.

If the situation is difficult, remember the win-win paradigm—you want to win, and the other party deserves to win, too. Remind your counterparty of this philosophy. You should give—and ask for—enough time to prepare to come to the table with a reasonable and equal chance to win. If he can’t live up to this principle, then he may not be fit to do business with in the long term anyway.



BEING PREPARED FOR TAKE ONE

A Filmographic Productions Case Study



You’re the president, CEO, and CVO (Chief Video Officer) of Filmographic Productions, a small firm (really, just you most of the time) engaged in commercial video production mainly in your local market. You have some helpers and associates you contract with on an as-needed basis, and your brother-in-law, a stay-at-home dad, helps you from time to time with administrative work to arrange for actors and venues and to edit videos. You have a range of other suppliers and services, including a talent agency and a helicopter service at your disposal for aerial photos, among others.

You are trying to secure a deal with a big client: Dewey and Cheatum Associates, a local financial services firm. They would like you to produce short commercials and videos for their website extolling the virtues of their services. You want to get a juicy regular gig shooting new commercials every month. If you get an “exclusive” for this job, it would mean an extra $15,000 to $20,000 in monthly revenues, which would go a long way toward making your year.

But you must negotiate successfully.

So, as we’ve learned in this chapter, that means among other things you must:

1. Set good goals.

2. Know and understand your client.

3. Evaluate alternatives and concessions so as to secure at least part of the business for yourself with terms sufficient to sustain your business.

4. Be prepared for the day of the negotiation.

Following is a brief summary of the thought process you might go through. If you were doing this for real, these might be more completely thought out and documented, something you might do yourself or with a partner or sounding board over a nice dinner or refreshments.

GOAL SETTING

Main goal: Get all the business; become Dewey’s exclusive video producer for your local market.

Secondary goals: Get a substantial portion of the business, say, the monthly commercials only. Build a relationship so they will call you to produce one-time or ad hoc, irregular pieces of business You also want them to come to you with new ideas for producing video shorts for their business.

Stretch goal: Get their business in other cities and markets. Beyond that, you might hope they recommend your services to their customers and clients when it makes sense.

PLANNING CONCESSIONS AND ALTERNATIVES

Videographers have myriads of negotiation concessions at their disposal. They can offer free samples, they can give rights to the videos or not, they can arrange for a full service, including venue selection and actor training—or not. Production and delivery time is another important factor. A best alternative, or BATNA, might be to use their personnel in videos in their banks instead of hiring professional actors. It could mean non-high-definition video. It could even mean partnering with a firm they’re already using, if that firm brings special abilities to the table you don’t have and vice versa. Think big here—you need to be ready to put together a package deal.

As the chief negotiator (as well as chief of everything else), you need to know how much time, effort, and cost is involved in each alternative on your list. Do the research beforehand. Prepare a list of options and know what each one costs, and be ready to respond immediately when you get a question or hear a competitive offer from the Dewey negotiator. It helps to have such a menu of services right on your laptop or some other device. It also helps—and this can be done online—to be able to review some samples of services delivered to other clients. “For ABC and Associates, I did X, Y, and Z for $abcd . . .” Fast, friendly, and effective negotiating means having all of these figures at your fingertips.

KNOW YOUR CLIENT

Research your client from top to bottom—corporate structure, previous advertising and website efforts, and individuals involved (through Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sources). Observe their commercials and videos on their website for your city and other cities they might do business in; get an idea of what they like. Ask questions to learn more about the structure of their organization. How are decisions made? Do the local managers decide on photo services, or is there a corporate marketing team that makes the call? Once you get the job, who would work with you? You’ll have a different relationship if you’re working with someone in graphic arts versus a marketing department, or with an operations manager or advertising director or webmaster. Learn all that you can about their internal rules for the purchase of marketing services.

PREPARE FOR THE MEETING

Know the venue. Will you have Internet access during the negotiation, so that you can retrieve and show video image samples or previous video service prices? Will you be able to effectively show your samples? Will there be a projector that you can hook into your laptop? Can you check to make sure the laptop-projector connection works correctly before the negotiation?

These questions and conceptual frameworks are designed only to get you started. As you might imagine, the “prepare” stage can go quite deep, and it may require a lot of time. But remember—a prepared negotiator has a huge advantage over an unprepared negotiator.

With the right preparation, there will be many “takes” to this story.



PREPARING THE GROUND

Getting Ready for the Game



I’ve described negotiation as a game. There are rules, but beyond the rules are strategies and tactics to achieve your goals and do something important. Like any game, winning is the ultimate goal; that’s why you enter the negotiation in the first place. But unlike most games, we like to see the counterparty win too—a win-win. That’s not the primary goal of a negotiation, but it’s an important strategy. Letting the counterparty win too is a strategy that helps us get what we want, and it’s a strategy that helps everyone get through the negotiation more quickly.

But win-win isn’t the only strategy, and it doesn’t begin to cover the topic of tactics. As the saying goes, the “devil is in the details.” You must not only know your stuff but, like a good game-player, you must also be able to envision your moves—sometimes several moves in advance—to keep the game going your way. Like any game, it works best to have an all-inclusive understanding of the game so that you can be aware of what’s going on and gain and preserve your advantage.

This in turn requires preparation. It’s not just about the rules of the game per se. It’s about developing a thorough understanding of the question at hand, the topic of the negotiation. It’s about knowing the facts, understanding the nuanced “gray areas” and unknowns around the facts, understanding your team, understanding your counterparty, and even being familiar with the very “ground” or venue in which the negotiation will occur. Any shortfall in preparation in any of these areas can create awkwardness—which in turn may create weaknesses your opponent can exploit.

KNOW YOURSELF AND YOUR GOALS

Before doing any research into the facts, figures, and dynamics of a negotiation, it’s important to visualize what you want out of the negotiation. If you’re negotiating for a bridge construction contract, you may have a dollar figure in mind, with associated construction times, crew deployments, and other details to go with it. If you’re negotiating with your fifteen-year-old about cleaning up his own dishes, you want to achieve that outcome, but you want to do it in a positive, nurturing way—no hard feelings. Sizing up these “musts” and “wants” all works toward setting goals, which in turn becomes a framework for the negotiation.

Start with the End in Mind

The essence is “seeing” the outcome. Try to imagine what a finished deal will look like, then work backward through the negotiation process, the back and forth, the give and take, all the way to the facts and information you’ll bring into the negotiation. Of course, you can’t visualize everything, but the vision will help you organize your thoughts and be better prepared to cover the gaps—the unknowns—when they come into view.

Organizing your thoughts around a vision of the negotiation will give both your research and your day-of-show performance some direction and purpose. It provides focus. It’s always better to start with something rather than nothing, and the more you have in hand through preparation, the easier the task, the smoother the process, and the more likely you’ll achieve the outcome you want—the end goal you visualized in the first place.

In contrast, if you walk into a negotiation unprepared, unsure, and undecided on what you hope to achieve, the counterparty—especially if a seasoned negotiator—will seize upon this opportunity to dominate the negotiation and make it all about her needs. Additionally, because you’re unsure about the facts or the final outcome you want, you’ll be unarmed in the face of the many concessions likely to be demanded of you.

Visualizing the Outcome

To help determine the “end in mind” you want, you might start setting goals and strategies by asking yourself the following questions:

• What do I hope to achieve in the negotiation?

• What is my main goal? The best outcome?

• What are my secondary goals?

• What are my “musts” and “wants”?

• What can prevent me from being successful?

• What are the likely specific stumbling blocks?

• How can I overcome these stumbling blocks?

• What preparatory steps can I take to make the negotiation quick and successful?

Obviously these questions are at a very general level and can be modified according to the specifics of the negotiation. But they’re a good place to start.

Even the simplest of negotiations, like that with your adolescent son over doing his dishes, merit this treatment in part. Think it through. What are your goals and desired outcomes? What will get in the way of a successful negotiation? What are the likely stumbling blocks? Even for such a five-minute (or less!) negotiation, this thought process can help a lot.

About Setting Goals—Keep It Real



Set realistic goals. If a goal is too far out of reach, you’ll feel as if you failed if you don’t accomplish it, when in reality the goal just wasn’t attainable. A goal too far out of reach prevents the win-win. Why? Because your opponent can’t come up with anything good enough for your side without compromising his own position. It’s also important to be as specific as possible with your goals so that you can track progress toward achieving them.





THE THREE MAIN PARTS OF A CONTRACT

Offer, Consideration, Acceptance



At its roots, a contract has three major and clearly identifiable parts: the offer, the consideration, and the acceptance.

The offer is straightforward: “We at Company A will produce and deliver 1,000 widgets per month for the next six months.” The consideration is the payment: “Company B will pay $25 per widget, with a discount of 1 percent if paid within thirty days.” The acceptance is the signed return of that agreement with any other agreed-to terms that come in along the way.

Discussions Outside the Negotiation



Discussions outside the negotiation can affect the deal, too. Don’t forget to jot down notes after each phone call, email, and other communication. Also mark the date and time the contact took place so any changes that were discussed are on record. Make sure to amend the agreement notes with the results of these discussions to get them into the record.

As we’ll see shortly, verbal (and “e”) contracts are usually considered binding.

Of course, the offer and consideration can come in many forms—but a contract without a clear offer, clear consideration, or a clear acceptance isn’t a contract. Period.



DRAFTING AGREEMENTS AND CONTRACTS

As the negotiation winds down, the next decision is who will draft the agreement. Then you need to decide who will take responsibility for finalizing the contract. Make sure everyone agrees on who leads these tasks.

Why Volunteer to Write the Agreement?



In his book, The Negotiation Toolkit: How to Get Exactly What You Want in Any Business or Personal Situation, Roger J. Volkema suggests that offering to write up the agreement benefits you in two ways. First, it relieves the other party of the task and can be viewed as gracious and generous. Second—and more important—writing the agreement gives you some control over what it says and how it says it.



The first step in drafting an agreement is to summarize the notes, be it a single set of notes taken by a single scribe or negotiation leader or a composite of several sets of notes. If the notes aren’t sufficient, you may have to go back to revisit certain negotiation points; take the time to do so. Otherwise you risk having crucial details left out, muddled, misconstrued, or denied. Notes should include, or reference, the specific terms and benefits for both you and the counterparty, including deliverables, consideration, and timing, including:

• All terms and details of the agreement

• Conditions on which those terms are based

• Referenced material, such as price lists, warranty information, or insurance policies

• Important deadlines—both yours and the counterparty’s

• Costs, prices, percentages, and other terms and conditions

• Remedies for nonperformance or altered performance

• Terms for terminating and/or renegotiating the contract

Get a Third Party? A Lawyer?



It often helps to call in a third party to write the contract—a business colleague, a contract specialist, or even a lawyer for a complex deal. The third party is impartial and can focus on the details of the deal. It is a best practice to have that person there through the negotiations to take their own notes and get a flavor for the deal.

Whether or not a lawyer writes the contract, a brief review from a lawyer is usually a good idea. The fees are probably minor and the expertise can be invaluable. Lawyers can spot mistakes, omissions, and uncertainties and can make the language more watertight where needed.

These tips, of course, don’t apply to all situations. Use your own judgment and get agreement from the rest of your team and your counterparty as to whom to bring into an agreement.



ARE VERBAL CONTRACTS ENFORCEABLE?

It’s a critical question in today’s rapid business context. Many contracts can come about from a simple phone call or golf course conversation. State laws vary, but the baseline answer is “yes,” verbal contracts are enforceable in most states. If there is an offer, consideration, and acceptance, the contract is generally enforceable, with certain exceptions such as real estate contracts.

Naturally, it helps to document the terms of the deal after the verbal agreement; otherwise enforcement can be difficult. If you do a lot of agreements on the fly, it’s worth consulting an attorney to see whether your deals are in fact contracts. It’s important to realize that a commitment you make by phone, text, or some other means also may be enforceable, even if you don’t intend it to be.

GETTING THE DETAILS RIGHT

The agreement and ensuing contract should spell out all details of agreed-to actions and compensation, terms for termination or change, and in some cases, consequences for breach or violation of terms.

Contingencies

In addition, you should understand what happens if something unexpected occurs. If there’s a fire and the production facility is damaged before the job is done, how will you proceed? Will the contract become null and void?

Consideration

Consideration is a fancy term for tangible compensation or promises. As a standard principle of contract law, a contract is only legal and valid if something of value is exchanged for something else of value and both parties agree on all the terms. Even further, some states require that consideration must be in writing in order for the contract to be considered legally binding.

Consideration includes any form of compensation—usually cash but it can be other tangible items. As a general principle, you must do something for the other party to be able to require the other party to do something for you or else it isn’t really a contract.

What Does “Failure of Consideration” Mean?



Failure of consideration signifies the contract is breached; you or the other party didn’t hold up your part of the bargain. For example, if you don’t deliver a required deposit payment, the contract technically becomes null and void, and the person who has been wronged can withhold making good on her considerations and/or take legal action against the other party (you).



Contract Review

When the time comes to finalize the contract, careful review is important. It is a good idea to have an impartial colleague and/or attorney go over it for details, commitments, remedies, and possible omissions. If something needs to be changed, have both parties initial all changes and sign every page.

Review and rework the contract as many times as you need to until you’re completely satisfied. However, don’t overwork it—you don’t want to renegotiate anything unless absolutely necessary.

When the final contract has been drawn up and all amendments have been settled, there should be one final meeting with you, the counterparty, and anyone else involved in drafting the final contract.



THE UNSPOKEN WORD

Body Language



Often the most important part of a face-to-face or video conversation involves no words at all. While psychologists disagree on the exact percentages and maintain that it depends on the situation, the conventional wisdom—at least in a face-to-face context—is that 55 percent of what is actually communicated comes from body language, 38 percent is from tone of voice, and 7 percent is from what is actually said.

These numbers are a powerful reminder that you should observe and read gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, body posture, and the use of space in assessing what your counterparty is trying to say or even what he is feeling at the moment.

Becoming fluent in body language requires time, effort, practice, and application, but it’s worth the effort. Body language skills will help you uncover hidden agendas, discover a person’s true feelings, gain insight into someone’s character, predict reactions, and become aware of your own nonverbal behavior. Following are some guiding principles of body language and behaviors.

BODY LANGUAGE IS SUBCONSCIOUS BEHAVIOR

Most of the time we don’t know that our bodies are silently and subconsciously communicating with the rest of the world. Body language is instinctive. People don’t consciously move their arms when they speak—it just happens; it’s a neurological response to complex inner feelings. It’s natural for arms to move, feet to tap, and eyes to turn away when engaged in conversation. In fact, it feels very unnatural to carry out these behaviors consciously.

The challenge of reading body language lies in how misleading it can be. Many nonverbal cues can be interpreted in numerous ways. While there are some generalizations, each signal is unique to the person and the context.

It’s useful to observe how body language is used in conjunction with speech. After you gain some experience with this, you’ll realize that nonverbal cues can either emphasize the spoken words or undermine them. For example, if a person says he’s satisfied with your offer but grips his pen and clenches his fist as he says so, you might ask yourself if he’s really unhappy with the offer. To test this assumption, ask a few questions to see if he can open up and tell you how he really feels.

“In Control”—Is It Just an Act?



The ability to control body language is an important part of being an actor. Good actors can suppress natural body language and project an appearance of emotion far different from what they’re really feeling. Negotiators who are also good actors can deploy this skillset to their advantage. You can often determine their acting skills by watching their behaviors away from the negotiation—before, after, on breaks, and so forth. Beware—and be aware.



There are more nonverbal cues than I can list, and there are multiple ways to interpret them. The following table gives a useful sample of some of the more common nonverbal cues:



	Common Nonverbal Cues




	Body Language

	Possible Meaning




	Clenched hands, strong grip on object

	Frustration




	Cocked head

	Interested, attentive




	Covering mouth with hands

	Dishonesty, stretching the truth




	Crossed arms

	Defensive, immovable, opposing




	Crossed legs, ankles

	Competitive, opposing




	Fidgeting

	Apprehensive, unconfident




	Finger tapping or drumming

	Boredom or apprehension




	Frequent nodding

	Eagerness




	Hand-steepling (forming church)

	Confidence




	Hands on cheek, chin, or glasses

	Thinking, examining




	Hands on hips

	Confidence, impatience




	Hands on table or desk

	Poise




	Head in hand

	Disinterested, disrespectful, or disagreeing




	Leaning forward

	Enthusiastic




	Open arms, hands

	Open-minded, approachable




	Rubbing nose, forehead

	Uptight, confrontational




	Side glance

	Suspicion or uncertainty




	Sitting on edge of seat

	Prepared, enthusiastic




	Slouching, leaning back

	Challenging, rejecting




	Throat-clearing

	Nervousness or impatience





These basic cues are visible and fairly universal. Some, like throat-clearing, can be picked up in an “invisible” situation (for example, when the negotiation is taking place over the phone). But keep in mind that not all human beings do everything the same way, and what might tip the hand of one individual may not necessarily reveal the inner feelings of another.

COMPLEX CUES

Not surprisingly, it gets more complex. Many cues, like facial expressions and vocalization, are more subtle or are combinations of other cues, such as the following.

Facial Expressions

Over the centuries we’ve developed a wide range of social behaviors, including the resourcefulness of communicating a message with just a single look. As soon as we meet someone for the first time, we begin sizing him up and immediately search for clues that indicate his character before even entering a conversation. Facial expressions are a big part of this initial assessment.

Facial expressions can quickly and easily summarize a person’s disposition in real time and can be invaluable “reads” throughout the course of a negotiation. Key facial expressions include raised eyebrows (uncertainty, concern), nose scratching (confusion), widening of the eyes (surprise, disbelief, anxiety), and minor eye squinting (contemplative, questioning). You’ve seen them all in professional and personal life. As a negotiator, it pays to stop and think about what they mean, and to learn to recognize them for what they are in your interactions.

Vocalization

Your voice is instrumental in expressing how you feel. Tone, tempo, and cadence can be as important if not more important than word choice in communication. Voice can be used to get your point across, to get someone’s attention, to soothe or calm nerves, or to gain insight into your counterparty’s intentions.

Vocal tone contains many elements: pitch (high or low frequency), stress (emphasis), and volume (loudness), among others. These elements place greater or lesser importance on certain words being spoken and can easily be missed or misinterpreted. Consider the following example, where the boldface words indicate the emphasis:

• What do you want?

• What do you want?

• What do you want?

• What do you want?

Note how the meaning of each question is changed depending on where the emphasis is. If it’s still unclear, read each one out loud with the appropriate inflection and think about how you would react to each question.

Speak Softly—and Carry a Big Stick



Loud tones can be used to get someone’s attention or to make a point, but they may sound threatening and filled with anger and thus detract from the point. Soft, quiet tones make people feel relaxed and safe, and as a result they’re more likely to listen to the point. Quiet confidence supported by solid facts (“big stick”) rules and invites the win-win. But not too quiet—you might signal weakness and be ignored!



Tempo and Cadence

Tempo refers to how fast you speak (rushing through sentences or talking in a slow and calculated manner). Cadence, on the other hand, refers to the rhythm or style of your voice (dull monotone or exciting variations). If your counterpart is speaking too fast, she may be impatient—or worse, nervous or apprehensive. If her voice drones on without any use of inflection, tone, or pitch, she may not care or may be distracted. But don’t go too far with these assessments. Tempo and cadence may simply be part of a person’s speaking style and may not be indicative of the current situation. Again, an “offline” assessment during breaks or outside the negotiation may reveal the true speaking style.

The Advantages and Dangers of Electronic Negotiating



In today’s connected world, nonverbal communication can still transcend the actual words used, although not as easily. Texts or email messages can have a tone as well—they can be very short and curt and to the point, one word, even; or they can be friendly, glib, and explanatory. Because of the usually minimal effort to produce these messages, especially text, you shouldn’t read too much into terse messages. But still, you can pick up some clues, especially if a person sends friendlier messages at other times or is friendly in person. If in doubt, you can send a friendly message; if the return message is still curt, you might be contending with a detached or annoyed counterparty.

Reading between the lines is something we all do, all the time, no matter the medium.




Chapter 10

Finalizing the Agreement

You’ve worked hard. You’ve found the win-win that gives both parties a sense of success. You’ve outlined the terms of the deal; who does what, where, when, and how. Both parties have agreed to the deal at a high level and at a level of detail sufficient to proceed.

Now what? You need to document the deal. You need to get it in writing, first, so everyone knows the terms and what to do to meet them; and second, so that you have something to refer back to in case anything isn’t clear or gets lost in the fog of time. Just as important for most deals (perhaps excluding deals with your teenage son) is that you document them so as to make them legally binding. Legal documents make sure that expectations are clear and that remedies are available in case certain terms aren’t adhered to.

This is already starting to sound like “legalese” language, and that is, in part, my intent. This chapter is about formalizing your deal into an agreement, and where necessary, a formal, written, and legally binding contract. I can’t include an entire course in business law in a single chapter, nor can I provide you with legal counsel in this book. However, I can give you some basics to be aware of as you proceed and as you seek the advice of specialists in creating and enforcing the deal.



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The Vietnam War formally ended in 1975 after many years of negotiations. The Paris Peace Accords, the treaty that brought the war to a close, won Nobel Peace prizes for Dr. Henry Kissinger, national security advisor to the President of the United States, and Lê Đức Thọ, chief negotiator for Vietnam. Today, the war and its victims are commemorated in many memorials such as the one seen here.

Photo Credits: © Getty Images/Romolo Tavani; CraigRJD




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MISHANDLING CONCESSIONS

Giving Away Too Much or Too Little



Mismanaging concessions can cause you to give away the store if you give too many or give important ones up front. If too stingy with concessions, on the other hand, you may not get the concessions you seek, or may fail in the negotiation altogether. Here, we’ll examine some specific mistakes that may cause your concessions to fall short of your goals.

THE DEAL IS IN THE DETAILS

When you sit down to prepare for the negotiation, you should not only “see” the deal but also “see” some of the details. This means doing some open-ended thinking about possible concessions. Write down the possibilities, large and small, that might be used at various points in the negotiation. Make sure you and your team are clear on which ones are the major pieces and which are the minor pawns in the game.

Evaluate the Competition!



With today’s real-time access to information, it’s easy to find and evaluate possible concessions. You have easy access to your own company’s product offerings, shipping charges, and so forth, but you may be able to find out those of your competitors at the click of a mouse. Preparation includes evaluating the best set of concessions and the up-to-the-minute price, cost, and value of each. Chances are, your competition can arm you with all the information you need.



Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

There’s no need to feel greedy or afraid to ask for something you think the other party views as trivial. You never know what your counterpart will be willing to agree to. If you didn’t ask for minor concessions you could have gotten, you’ll probably regret it later. Aim high. Even if you think you’re aiming too high, your goals might not seem to be as ambitious to your counterparty as they do to you.

GIVING UP TOO MUCH (OR TOO LITTLE)

When it’s your turn to make concessions, one of the most common mistakes is to think that the counterparty values what you’re offering the same way you do. You’ll inevitably under-concede or over-concede. Where you can, try to figure out how the concession fits into their business model. If they operate a “just in time” manufacturing line, you’ll know immediately that in all likelihood expedited shipping is a concession of real value to them.

Again the best path is to prepare before the negotiation, and keep preparing during the negotiation by working to understand their business better during the conversation. You’ll learn what makes them tick and what has the most (and least) value to them. That will help you make the right—and the fairest—offer.

Don’t Forget to Ask for Something in Return

Remember—when making concessions, always ask for something in return. And remember, timing can be everything.

You might think it to be a good gesture to give away something because you figure you can ask for something in return later. Problem is, the later never really happens, or you feel compelled to give away something else when it comes. If you haven’t been keeping track of concessions, you’ll fail to see what you’ve given away and what you’ve received. You may also have to backtrack and re-evaluate the issues under discussion at the time you originally gave up the concession.

Get It in Writing



Always keep track of key points, decisions, and concessions in a negotiation. It will help you track what’s happened, what’s been given and received, and what further actions are necessary. Like a court record, written documentation provides a handy reference for everyone involved, and it makes drawing up an agreement a heck of a lot easier.





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LAST-MINUTE OFFERS AND WITHHOLDING INFORMATION

Two Final Pressure Ploys to Influence an Outcome



As I’ve described, the purpose of pressure tactics is often to throw you off balance so you make mistakes and give away more than you intended. These last two tactics are both designed to do that.

THE LAST-MINUTE OFFERS PLOY

Just about when you’re ready to close your laptop and close the deal, you hear, “Wait! We’ve got another counteroffer for you!” Of course, what is your frame of mind at that point? You’re done—that’s what.

When you’re finished or close to finished with anything—say, that college term paper or final exams—the last thing you want to do is to revisit it all. You’d be willing to give something, anything, not to have to revise that term paper. So what are you likely to do? Concede something, just to keep it done. That, of course, is what your counterparty seeks. Similarly, your landlord might hold off on telling you about a rent increase until the very end of the month because by then, you’re already in the mindset that you’re staying for another month, not to mention that it would be hard to move on such short notice anyway.

Playing Defense

This ploy is hard to defend against, because you don’t know what may be coming at the last minute. If your counterparty has done this before, of course, you can say something about it as you lay out the “ground rules” for this latest negotiation. You can also ask for an extended deadline. This delay gives you time to regroup and get back into the negotiating frame of mind: You want to prevent yourself from acting too hastily in an emotional attempt not to scotch a done deal.

Reaching Quick Settlements



Tight deadlines can lead to quick settlements, and the team with the most effective “quick settlement” approach can come out ahead. Effective quick settlements happen when one or both teams are informed and organized, allowing for fast and effective presentation. Quick settlements can bring relief to both sides when tight deadlines are involved, and are likely to lead to a greater win for the side that leads in making the settlement. But if you’re being subjected to a quick settlement, make sure the balance of power is relatively equal and that you have time to consider and prepare a response.

Particularly in today’s fast-paced negotiating era, the ability to make, and respond to, a quick settlement is an important asset in your negotiation toolkit.



THE WITHHOLDING INFORMATION PLOY

Somewhat similar to the last-minute offer, a counterparty may wait until the deadline is near to disclose additional information, leaving you little time to digest the new details. He wants to see if you’ll give in without fully absorbing the new information completely. “Well now, if you’re interested in some of these widgets in white, I currently have a surplus of that color; I can give them to you for $13,” might be an example of such a ploy if you were about to take the deal at $15. Now you must decide quickly if white is okay . . . including trying to discern if he was really trying to get rid of the white ones all along for some reason.

Playing Defense

The defense is simple: Ask for more time. Keep your balance; judge objectively. In order to restore equilibrium, you may also take some of your concessions off the table or disclose some new information of your own for the counterparty to consider.

Wanting It Now: The Use of Deadlines As a Ploy



Most concessions are made toward the end of a negotiation’s deadline, if there is one. The explanation is simple. The more time the two parties invest in the negotiation process, the less likely they will be to backtrack or pull out. If one party demands new concessions, the counterparty is more likely to give in to bring the negotiations to a successful end. However, sitting tight until the end and deploying deadline tricks such as disclosing new information is a high-risk strategy; you’ll need patience and self-confidence to do it.

Your counterparty is aware of deadline pressures and tricks to exploit them, too. Realize this, and don’t be afraid to manage the deadlines themselves by extending them or tightening them as necessary to keep control of the agenda. Know the deadlines and use them to maintain the balance of power in the negotiation.

When the eleventh hour rolls around, don’t be opposed to extending the negotiation if it means you can work out the best deal with more time. The best win-win may come this way.





KNOW YOUR ALTERNATIVES

The Importance of BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement)



You’re in the middle of the negotiation about your new room addition. Suddenly things take a turn, and you’re not at all sure this contractor is on the same page as you are. Maybe he doesn’t understand what you are looking for, the price is too high or the completion date is too far out. He seems unprepared. What do you do? How do you move the negotiation forward? What did you, or should you, have prepared in advance of the negotiation to deal with this possibility?

Getting what you want—and getting a negotiation back on track—often requires having alternatives—a Plan B and maybe a Plan C for what you will do if Plan A doesn’t hold water. In this case, Plan B might be a different project design and spec; Plan C might be a different contractor.

Such alternatives, which obviously must be prepared for in advance, do a couple of things: first they set your expectations for what you can get; and second they give you alternative bargaining chips (“Well, you know, Contractor XYZ can do this by June for a thousand dollars less”).

Having one or several alternative courses of action is key to negotiating successfully; indeed it will give you an advantage. You need to know what other counterparties are available to do the same thing, just as you want to know about all the stores that carry that super-high-definition TV you covet. Alternatives provide you with the confidence to reject offers and to walk away from the negotiation if you’re not happy with the way it’s going. Alternatives can give you negotiating power.

For example, imagine that there’s only one car dealership in your town, and you need a car. You’ll be disappointed if your negotiations with the car dealer don’t go at all the way you had hoped. The dealer is well aware that his business is your only option, and thus he holds all the power, taking full advantage of the situation by offering no concessions. Under such circumstances, you’d want to find an alternative car to buy or visit the dealer in the next town—or not buy at all (doing nothing is a good alternative in many negotiations).

ESTABLISHING A PLAN B

Whatever you’re negotiating, you should have at least one Plan B that’s as beneficial as your original plan—else your effort to move the negotiation forward turns into a simple concession and you may not be content with the outcome if Plan A fails. Plan B should be carefully cultivated under the assumption that it’s actually an A Plan. The same amount of research, prodding, and strategizing should occur so that you can spring right back into action if your original plan falls through. The more solid alternatives you have under your belt, the more poise you’ll exhibit in front of the other party.

Using Alternatives to Your Advantage

Unquestionably the other party will bring a set of alternatives to the table. It pays to find out what alternatives the counterparty is considering. Discovering what other options your counterparty has lined up allows you to assess his confidence level and leverage in the negotiation. If he doesn’t have any options, or the ones you perceive he does have are weak, then you have the upper hand. You may have the upper hand to drive for some concessions—but again, remember the importance of a win-win and the long-term relationship if you intend to negotiate with this counterparty again. Remember also that you may have no good alternatives next time around.

KNOW YOUR BATNA

In their renowned book Getting to Yes (1991, revised 2011), Roger Fisher and William Ury suggest going into a negotiation not just with a “bottom line”—the minimum agreement you’re willing to accept—but also with an intermediate level of success in mind. That intermediate level of success becomes the standard by which you measure and compare the ultimate outcome.

Fisher and Ury refer to that intermediate standard as a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, or BATNA. Here’s how it works. As you enter a negotiation, try to visualize the bottom line, as we’ve described it. You’re about to negotiate for a raise, and the minimum you’ll accept is a basic cost of living increase, say, 2 percent. That’s your bottom line.

You’ll most likely settle for that amount if you can’t get anything better. Without a predetermined alternative, or intermediary level of acceptance, what happens? Many negotiators end up settling for this minimum acceptable bottom line because it’s the only thing they know for sure as a set standard as they go through the preparation phase.

Instead, Fisher and Ury’s idea is to set a BATNA—a best alternative—as a guideline as you enter the negotiation. It may be an explicit alternative, like interviewing and receiving an offer for another job before you enter the negotiation. Or it might be an established “not go below” point on the wage scale, often with some other perk or benefit involved (reimbursement for parking, a private office, or some such).

A BATNA is established during the preparation phase. You can establish more than one alternative if you have the time and bandwidth to craft multiple alternatives (one should emerge as “best”). If you have a clearly established BATNA, you’re more likely to settle for it—not the minimum acceptable outcome. You have something better to measure your negotiation against, and in many cases it can become a bargaining chip, as in the case of the alternative job offer.

Fast Prep versus Full Prep



Many times—I’ll speculate—most times, you won’t have the time to do the full preparation that you think the negotiation might require. You won’t have time to research alternatives, compare competitors, learn about your counterparties, etc. And this is true whether it’s a complex negotiation or a discussion with your twelve-year-old daughter over bedtime. You won’t have time to get the whole story.

Here is where the Pareto Principle—the 80–20 rule—enjoys no finer hour. The principle, simply put, is that you invest 20 percent of the prep time to get 80 percent of the story. In the office, you might do a brief price survey, competitive survey, and counterparty assessment. At home, you ask your twelve-year-old daughter a few “why” questions. Go wide—try to get at least some information about every topic and characteristic that might influence the negotiation. Then, if you have the time, circle back and add more competitors, more price points, more service extras, more knowledge about the counterparty. Develop a core presentation, then add to it. Such a well-rounded, iterative, add-as-you-can approach will make you seem more prepared, and you probably will be. As in many things in business and life—work smart, not just hard.





WHEN THEY DON’T WANT TO PLAY

Find the Reason



You want to make a deal to pave your parking lot or fix the roof on your building or procure 5,000 custom integrated circuits to build into your product. You reach out to contact your favorite supplier, but he doesn’t return your phone call right away. You wait a few days. He doesn’t return your phone call at all. You think your need and the business deal is pretty straightforward, and you think you have a pretty good relationship with these suppliers and contractors. So what’s going on?

The first step is to simply find out why. Follow up with a phone call, leave a message if necessary simply asking why they aren’t prepared to negotiate with you. There may be a simple explanation. Maybe the counterparty doesn’t have the time to do the work or even negotiate just yet but would be willing to work with you at a later date.

If the reason why remains elusive, find out the “what” or “how.” What can you put forth in order to make your request to negotiate more attractive? What can you put forth to make the negotiation quicker or easier? Can you throw some other business their way to make it more attractive? Can you be flexible with deadlines or project staging to allow the counterparty to work in other projects? If you can, you’re likely to get a better deal. If you can’t, you may stir up the stinging bees of a positional negotiation—or just as bad, continue to be ignored altogether.

Bottom line: it doesn’t hurt to make or suggest a few concessions right in the beginning. You want to get the counterparty to the table, and you want to get them to the table feeling positive.

SEPARATING THE PEOPLE FROM THE PROBLEM

Suppose you’re just getting started on what might be a tense negotiation with a state regulatory agency on environmental compliance concerning your business. Your dander is up. This isn’t going to be good, you can feel it. And your negotiating partner is already writing off the counterparty as a “bunch of tree-huggers who don’t deserve the time of day.” You’ve met with this team before, and their body language among other things reflected that they may not just feel so good about you guys, either.

Is this negotiation likely to get off on the right foot? Are you going to be able to stick to the facts and issues? Will you be able to stay on task? Are you likely to be successful at hammering out a win-win solution quickly while also building a long-term trusting relationship?

Probably not, unless you can separate the people from the problem and deal with each in its own sphere.

One of the core principles pervasive to the practice of effective negotiation is the idea of separating the people—the personal emotions, perceptions, and biases inherent in a negotiation (because negotiations are done by people!)—from the real issues being discussed.

Here are a few techniques for dealing with the people issues and keeping them from sundering your win-win problem-solving efforts:

1. Put your (negative) perceptions in check. Sure, the environmental agency negotiators don’t “live in the real world” of running a business. But don’t assume that they aren’t aware of what that real world is all about. If your negative perceptions turn out to be right—that they are insensitive about the needs of your business—take a short time-out to give them an objective and factual overview of what you do and how the environmental regulations make that painful.

2. Realize that they probably want the same thing you do. At the end of the day they want a solution too, and they want it quickly. They don’t want to have to put excessive time and energy into the case, and they probably don’t want to deal with your people issues any more than they have to! They would like to walk away with a deal and a relationship.

3. Practice empathy. The counterparty’s negotiators are people too, trying to be successful in achieving their goals without too much pain and suffering. They have families to support and other work to do, just like you do. They have a job to get done. Respect that and help them do it, and they’ll do the same.

4. Take time-outs. When basketball coaches sense things are becoming too emotional and personal, they call a time-out to take players’ minds off the game at hand. You can—and should—do this, too. If you sense tension or interpersonal conflict, don’t let it overheat. Instead, take a break so that everyone can cool off. Better yet, use the break time to discuss some common ground topic like your recent vacations or the new city recreation center. Whatever the topic, the goal is to establish rapport and reinforce the fact that you’re both “human.”

5. Keep communications effective. Listen actively, and talk when it’s your turn. Don’t use harsh or bullying language, and don’t react or respond to theirs. While you might put them on the defensive insofar as your problem is concerned, don’t put them on the defensive personally. Never talk down to anyone, and if they talk down to you, just ignore it.

What it comes down to is this: Always think positive and realize that the proverbial glass is half full when it comes to working with people. When you can do that successfully, you’ll put the personal conflicts aside and free up your team—both teams, really—to deal more effectively with the problem.

Again, Negotiating Is Everywhere



Put simply, everyone negotiates. Parents negotiate with teachers; husbands negotiate with wives; brothers negotiate with sisters; defense attorneys negotiate with prosecuting attorneys; and so forth. Even children exercise a form of negotiating. It’s funny how adults are still playing the game of “I’ll trade you this for that” albeit in a more sophisticated and refined manner.

While you may play down these personal-life negotiations, if you’re in any kind of business or professional environment, you probably negotiate a lot. Deals are done, budgets are created, and money is spent or acquired through negotiation. Bridges are built, roads are repaired, high-rises are erected, public transportation is rerouted, and streets are named—and all the while, there’s a group of professionals negotiating the details of these projects by presenting their ideas and strategies to the appropriate approving manager, approval committee, or board of directors. You may be finding yourself vying for a multimillion-dollar deal for your business—or for a $150 admission ticket to a trade show you’d like to attend. Both are negotiations, and both require much of the same set of skills.

In sum, negotiating is about getting what you want. Win-win negotiating is about getting what you want through the recognition of your goals and the goals of a counterparty, and finding a peaceful solution that sends everyone away with maximum satisfaction with minimal time consumed. In today’s rapidly moving world, time is of the essence. Luckily, the real-time information available at our fingertips helps us find that win-win more quickly and precisely than ever before.





PLAYING DUMB

Knowing More Than They Think You Do



You, or your counterparty, may choose to “play dumb”—that is, appear to be less informed or prepared than you are—to appeal to the ego of a counterparty or to find out more information. Instead of risking an uncomfortable confrontation by coming right out with “Why did your production department fail to meet its yearly quota?” you might play dumb instead and ask for this year’s numbers and compare them to last year’s.

You already know the answer, but by playing dumb you made the other party feel less defensive. The counterparty may begin to believe that you don’t know that they missed their quota, and this may give them a false sense of confidence that they know more than you do. They may also be more willing to tell you more about the decline in numbers. Playing dumb is a way to fish for more and to keep your fish biting.

This tactic may allow you to confirm information you already know. You may also know the answer, but playing dumb gives you a chance to assess how forthright your counterparty is; you’ll be able to assess how well their answer matches what you already know.

WHEN YOUR COUNTERPARTY PLAYS DUMB

If you start to sense a lot of “beating around the bush” questions, your counterparty might be playing dumb, waiting for you to make a mistake. If you feel that your counterparty is digging excessively, that his playing dumb is a tactic designed just to trip you up, then you need to end the inquiries. You aren’t on trial. The best approach is to call him out: Ask right away if there’s a deeper issue he would like to talk about, and try to determine where his questions are going. It may simply be that he needs the information and doesn’t have it on hand.

Occasionally you can defuse a playing dumb scenario by using the same tactic yourself. If you sense unnecessary questioning designed to trick you into a mistake or to artificially build your ego, you can do the same thing. Simply ask open-ended questions about something you already know. Doing so can buy you time to figure out your next steps. It often pays to know more about a topic than you lead your counterparty to believe.

From the Playbook of Socrates



The Greek philosopher Socrates taught his students how to logically think about and argue the statements they made. To do so he engaged them in a philosophical debate, ultimately drawing them into a contradiction of their original statement. By actively participating in the debate, the students learned to think for themselves. Eventually they learned to see through the trap of Socrates’s questioning.

When you feel as if the Socratic method is in play—that is, unending leading questions designed to manipulate you into a trap—stop! Redirect every question to a main objective, asking how the question pertains to the goals you are both trying to reach. Explain that you don’t want to waste time on unending trivial inquiries that don’t lead to solutions. Keep your answers short to deflect further questioning.




Chapter 4

Negotiating Styles and Personalities—Yours and Theirs

In Chapter 3 I stressed the idea of broad preparation for any negotiation, covering everything from goals, musts, and wants to the details of the product, price, and competitive landscape, all the way to knowing your counterparty and the negotiating venue. This broad view tells you what to prepare; as you approach the negotiation, you’ll want to dive into the detail of these areas as time and access to information permit.

As you try to “see the outcome,” you should recognize that one of the key variables is the negotiating style of the counterparty—particularly the main spokesperson of the counterparty. The interpersonal dynamic between you and the members of your team—and the leader and the members of the counterparty team—can have a lot to do with the final outcome.

This chapter is about “seeing” the negotiation style you’ll have to deal with (and understanding your own, don’t forget), and then getting a handle on how your styles mesh and how to counteract the differences in style. Put simply, oil and water at the negotiating table will not bring the best win-win agreement.

In this chapter I will examine the ins and outs of seven distinct negotiating styles, give some additional insight into negotiating personalities—the building blocks of negotiating styles—and then finish with a summary of how to deal with difficult styles and personalities.




[image: Images]




President Theodore Roosevelt, a formidable negotiator, offered this advice to those negotiating on behalf of the American government: “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” In other words, Roosevelt advised avoiding bluster but instead exercising power firmly and fairly. Roosevelt received a Nobel Prize for his efforts in mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.

Photo Credits: © GettyImages/mizoula; uschools; John Singer Sargent [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons





CASE STUDY

Does the Competitor Have a Longer Lens?



Despite your offer to do an expedited production for free, Dewey and Cheatum continue to drag their feet; the negotiating session drags on. It seems that every time you try to settle a point, the Dewey executives want to move to something else. Right now they’re focused on your competition.

As the president/CEO/CVO of Filmographic Productions, you’re hearing: “Yes, that’s a nice offer, but your competition CMY Video offers us Services X and Y for $Z less than you do.”

Now, is it for real, or is Dewey using it as a negotiation ploy? You’d jump out of your skin to know.

The first thing to do (that is, if you haven’t prepped yourself with your competition’s offerings already by looking at their sites and in particular talking to some of their clients) is to go online. Ask for a break if necessary. See if CMY even does the kind of work you’re doing. When you’ve done your research, one of your first replies might be, “You know, CMY Video mainly does educational videos. These have a completely different look and production quality. I’m not even sure they’ve ever filmed a TV commercial.”

In this case you’ve defused the ploy by knowing the competition. It’s even better if you know that they haven’t filmed any commercials—the less ambiguity the better.

You might remind Dewey and Cheatum that CMY is a big national chain and that they have to fly a crew out from New York. As such, they would be less flexible; what if it happened to be raining the day they came to film your outdoor commercial? What if they have retakes that can’t be done because of flight scheduling?

Negotiating under high-pressure ploys often means taking what’s thrown at you, and throwing it back with something better, or with something your client never thought of.

All done, of course in a professional and courteous manner.



KNOW YOUR MUSTS AND WANTS

An All-Important Checklist



Almost every negotiation will have a primary goal or goals, and secondary goals. Primary, or main, goals represent the main item(s) you want to accomplish or achieve in the negotiation; secondary goals, which are usually many in number, are just that—important but not as important as the main goal. Often they are attributes of the item being negotiated as the main goal.

Your main goal should be the driving force behind your negotiating position. If you want to buy a car because you need a way to get to work every morning, your main goal is to buy a reliable vehicle. Secondary goals will concern comfort, features, appearance, and price. The means to achieve those goals include the choice of brand, style, model, new versus used, and financing. Within this set of goals you’ll be able to prioritize which is most important, check them against the means and possible stumbling blocks, and use the means and anticipated stumbling blocks to ask for concessions and/or to reprioritize or reshape the goals.

For example, if you prefer a blue car, that becomes a secondary goal. It may be an important one—a “must”—or it may be a “want.” That priority, along with your priority for the other goals, helps you know the value of that goal toward your outcome. If it’s a less important “want” it adds less value to the potential outcome and thus is something to worry less about. You should prepare to give up less-important wants as part of your overall negotiating strategy. If it’s a “must” or a very strong “want,” then you need to prepare for what you might give up for it.

This seems kind of obvious, but I’ve seen negotiators break down completely over something that isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of the negotiation. They wanted a blue car, but was it worth giving up a deal on a fantastic low-mileage cream puff to attain? In the end, no. But with the wrong perspective going in, a negotiation can easily come off the rails or worse, get you a deal you really don’t want.

“See” the Deal Before You Seal the Deal



If you go into the car negotiation dead set on a blue car, you may not be “seeing” how the deal might unfold. If you’re stuck on one outcome, that can put you at a disadvantage. Instead, articulate your musts and wants, but don’t assume anything going into the negotiation.



VISUALIZE THE NEGOTIATION

I’ve touched on this already—the idea of “seeing” the end result of the deal; the idea of starting with the end in mind. Now I extend that into the negotiation itself. Here, you attempt to form a mental picture of what will actually happen during the negotiation.

If you envision how the meeting will unfold, you can better prepare for situations that might arise; and you can be better prepared to respond to them. If you let your imagination run, you can visualize what might happen and how you’ll respond. Sparking the creative side of your brain even before the preparation stage gives you the opportunity to get ready for the unexpected by developing a myriad of protective strategies. For instance, if you visualize that your counterparty might bring experts into the negotiation, you can plan to counter that move.

KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS AND WEAKNESSES

Given half a glass of water on the table, some of us naturally see it as half full, some of us as half empty. Negotiating thrives on confidence—the ability to be positive, steady, strong, and sure about your subject because you’re well prepared—seeing the glass half full. But part of the preparation for the negotiation is also knowing your weak (empty) spots and limitations.

As you visualize the negotiation, you should take inventory on what parts of the deal might be hard for you to deliver on or accept. We’ve all been there, trying to buy airline tickets three days before we want to travel while still trying to get a low fare. That short notice puts us in a weak negotiating position, but it doesn’t mean all is lost; there may be last minute deals available.

Good negotiators are aware of where the weak points are and either try to keep them out of the negotiation altogether or try to downplay their importance. They also look for alternatives: “Sir, I know my shop is backed up with work and I can’t produce those stitched-logo T-shirts by next Monday, but how about Tuesday? Or how about a screen printed version?” The weakness of the supplier, of course, is his inability to deliver in the time frame the counterparty wants; the alternatives that the supplier provides are his attempt to get the deal back on track. Notice that he hasn’t offered a price concession—yet.

Limitations—How Far You Will or Won’t Go

Just like at an auction, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotional frenzy of a negotiation and agree to something you wouldn’t have without the pressures of the moment. It’s human nature, and we’ve all experienced it. You may have gone into a negotiation prepared to spend no more than $10,000 for a car, but come away spending $10,500 because you found one with exactly what you wanted and couldn’t pass it up. If you have the extra $500, no big deal. But it might also break your budget, causing no amount of embarrassment, not to mention concessions on your side, when you are forced to backtrack.

The right approach is to set limitations—minimums, maximums—before you enter the negotiation. Some of those, like goals, are “must” or absolute limitations; some are goals but are not absolute. “I cannot spend over $10,000” is an absolute; whereas “I really don’t want a white or silver car” suggests you’ll take one if the deal is right.

Limitations set in advance can help prevent the counterparty from discovering your weaknesses. If you know that stitched-logo T-shirts cannot be produced in less than three days, and you are prepared to communicate that during the negotiation, then the counterparty may never find out that the real reason you can’t deliver in one day per their request is that your shop is backed up with orders.

Set limitations before you go in—and make sure everyone on your team knows and understands them.

Don’t Reveal Weaknesses!



Don’t let the other party know what your limitations are—at least not right away. Making your counterparty privy to this information up front might make you seem confrontational and uncompromising. If you absolutely, positively won’t spend more than $10,000 on that car, you might not want to disclose that right off, for you might miss out on a really great $10,200 car or another concession the salesperson might make. However, if the counterparty is coming dangerously close to your limits, feel free to say that you don’t plan to compromise or go any further on those particular issues.






[image: Images]


The United Nations offers one forum in which many international negotiations take place. The UN often acts as a mediator in disputes between countries, ranging from trade and commerce to conflicts about borders.





CREATING LASTING RELATIONSHIPS

Playing for the Long Term



Although many negotiations will seem to be short-term one-offs, you never know what business opportunity might come up next. You may even have to renegotiate parts of a deal if something changes along the way. As a consequence, even if it doesn’t seem like creating a lasting relationship is relevant, it still pays to do so. You never know whether you’ll work with the same counterparties again; furthermore, your reputation can spread like wildfire—if you’re a jerk during this negotiation because you’re sure you’ll never see these folks again, that reputation can easily spread to someone you will see again. It’s a small world, and news travels fast.

That being the case, it’s always a good idea to treat a negotiating or business relationship, even one generated in a simple phone call or email dialogue, as if it’s a long-term relationship. You just never know.

REACHING A COMFORT ZONE

Once you’ve been working with someone for a while, you reach a point at which you both feel comfortable enough to make suggestions without worrying about how the other will react to them. You’ve reached a comfort zone; trust has taken over, and the negotiation can proceed on its own objective merits without the natural skepticism between new or untested participants.

This is important, for it allows you to say what really needs to be said without fear of something being taken personally and damaging the relationship or the negotiation. Every step of every negotiation, in fact, is really just another event in a long-term relationship. As such, the parties understand and trust each other, and no single conflict or difference or misspoken word can destroy it.

It Doesn’t Hurt to Stay in Touch



Once the negotiation is complete, do you simply walk away and wait for the next contract or deal renewal? You shouldn’t.

In the interest of the long-term relationship, you should touch base occasionally to make sure everything is proceeding with your deal as it should. Make contact often enough to ensure expected performance and to enhance goodwill, but not so often as to be annoying. Good big-ticket retail salespeople have figured this out. A phone call, email, or text every few months or so can do a lot to preserve and build the relationship—and to make things easier the next time around.



SHARPENING YOUR NEGOTIATING “SAW”

Every negotiation is a learning experience. You should always come out of a negotiation feeling as if you’ve gained a little more: more effective techniques; strategies and tactics; and a stronger reputation and relationship with your counterparties, and, for that matter, the rest of your team and management chain. You learn how to present your side, resolve conflicts, and to put together working documents and contracts from your negotiations. Practice makes perfect, and the only way to become a “perfect” negotiator is to, well, negotiate.

After a while you’ll clearly recognize what worked and what didn’t work in any given negotiation. It isn’t a bad idea to list what did and didn’t work in each negotiation, and perhaps note the three best and three worst things you did or didn’t do. Keep track of these summaries in a safe place where you can review them from time to time. If you see the same three worst items over and over, you know the areas where you have work to do.

You Might Think It Was a Mistake. They Didn’t.



Public speakers know that while they may beat themselves up for something they forgot to say, the audience doesn’t know what they didn’t say. If you forget to bring up a point in a negotiation, but it doesn’t materially affect the outcome, nobody else will ever know. If it did affect the outcome, well, lesson learned; perhaps you could have been better prepared or organized for the day of the show.

Look at yourself for what others saw. And remember, it’s about results, not your performance per se.



You might consider using a grading system to measure your success. Don’t beat yourself up over what you could’ve and should’ve done, but do critique your performance fairly and objectively. How well did you prepare? How effective was your style? How quickly were you able to adapt to changes? Would you consider your relationship with the counterparty a good one?

Don’t be too harsh on yourself. You want to learn from it, not punish yourself. Recognize that no matter how badly you felt you did, there most likely were some good things you did as well. We naturally tend to dwell on the negative, and we tend to become defensive in an effort to protect who we are and what we do from criticism. For each negotiation, take inventory; separate the good from the bad. Celebrate the good and learn from the bad. The glass half empty is also half full.

THE “A” LIST

Perhaps it is obvious by now, but every negotiation you’ll be engaged in involves roughly the same set of key skills and steps. You can set up a simple grading chart covering just a handful of items. What follows is an example of a short chart you might use to grade or score your performance in a negotiation:

• You “saw” the negotiation: its preparation, start, middle, and finish.

• You prepared the right—and right amount of—information, including product attributes, competitive environment, etc.

• You “knew” the counterparty and what she or he was looking for.

• You got the deal done.

• You achieved your objectives and goals.

• You came up with a win-win.

• You have a good idea of what went right and what went wrong.

• You learned from your mistakes.

• You advanced the relationship with these negotiators.

• You advanced your personal and professional reputation.

You won’t get straight A’s the first time around; nobody does. But over time your grades will inevitably improve.

ENJOYING THE RIDE

You’ll be surprised at how much enjoyment you derive from a negotiation well done. Not only do you get the opportunity to achieve goals and do something important, you get to work with (and learn from) some talented and skilled people. Together, you and your counterparty will embark on a journey of discovery and creativity in finding a win-win solution and developing an effective plan around it. You’ve enhanced your reputation and a relationship; and the bonds you formed will help lead to agreements and further the possibility of future commitments.

And you’ve inevitably learned from the experience.



KNOW YOUR COUNTERPARTY

Who They Are, What They Need, How They Operate



Experienced public speakers will emphatically tell you one of the most important elements of the preparation process is knowing and understanding the audience.

Why? It’s simple. If you know the audience, you can know better what they are looking for, what they need from your pitch, and what questions they’re likely to ask. If you’re giving a talk on educational opportunities to a group of environmentalists, don’t you think they’re going to want to know more about the environmental courses you plan to offer? Of course they will.

Your counterparty, like you, will enter the negotiation with his own list of goals, musts, and wants. If you know him, you’ll be better prepared to address those musts and wants. There should be fewer—maybe no—surprises.

I can’t sufficiently underscore enough the importance of knowing your counterparty before you get started.

KNOWING THEM PROFESSIONALLY AND PERSONALLY

There are two dimensions (usually) to knowing a counterparty. First, you should try to know them as an organization—what is their business, what do they offer, what are their strengths and weaknesses, what makes them successful, or not. Second, you should get to know the people within the counterparty—who are they, what role do they serve in their organization, what sort of negotiating style do they use.

Researching the Organization

You can do research on the organization in many ways:

• Online research. A quick tour through the organization’s website will give you a good idea of their products and how they position them—price, quality, service—and how they do business with their customers.

• Talk to customers. If you have the same customers, or you have “peer” customers in your own business, don’t hesitate to ask them for more info and the “scoop.” If you run a corner deli and are negotiating with a food-service supplier, ask another restaurant-operating peer for his impressions about that supplier.

• Walk in the door—figuratively or literally. Prior to the negotiation, pay a visit in person to get a feel for how the counterparty operates. If you’re negotiating for a paving project, drop in on one of the others they have in progress. See how they work, what they do. If someone’s available, ask questions.

These methods may give you tangible negotiating points or simply give you a better feel for who (as an organization) you’re negotiating with.

Researching the People

Your underlying negotiating strategy should be cut to fit the strategy and style of your negotiating opponent. If you’ve seen your counterparty before as an individual, study her playing style, and learn as much as possible about why she’s investing her time in the negotiation. By reviewing the other party’s training, accomplishments, education, and work history, for example, you can better predict her actions and be more prepared to address them.

Try to get the specifics of what the other party’s goals are early on—so you can weigh your leverage against hers and adjust your game plan if you need to. You can use the first few minutes of the meeting to discuss some of the objectives you share and those that you do not.

Learn as much as you can about the other party’s background. What is this person’s title? Role in the organization? Experience? What kinds of deals does she negotiate? What is her negotiating style?

In today’s split-second information age, it’s possible to find out more about people more quickly than ever before. Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, plus the varied ways to network on your own, give you access to information on your counterparty. You can learn a lot about the character of an individual and an organization just by looking around on the web and by tapping into the network.

Always Keep Tabs on the Competition



It almost goes without saying in today’s business world—and especially today’s negotiating world—that knowing what the competition does and is up to is a vital part of preparation for any negotiation. Simply put—what does the competition do? What concessions do they make and where do they hold firm?

In today’s information age, it is possible to research negotiating points and concessions very quickly and easily online. But you might also want to deploy a little “shoe leather”—get out and research in person. If you run a restaurant, have a meal a