What’s The Best Way To Start A Negotiation?

by drjim on January 20, 2017

How you start a negotiation often determines how it will end

How you start a negotiation often determines how it will end
Image Credit:

Negotiating is a tough job. Trying to determine how to start your next negotiation can be an even tougher job. There seems to be no limit to the number of different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that we can use to start a negotiation. We can storm into the negotiating room, throw our things down on the table, and then demand of the other side “what’s your best price?” There are countless variations on this theme. However, if we want to walk away with the best deal for us, what’s the best way to start things off?

The Right Way To Start A Negotiation

In the quest to find out the right way to start a negotiation, many of the negotiators who have come before us have tested lots and lots of different approaches. What they discovered is that many of them did not work – the way that the negotiation was started did not result in providing them with the deal that they wanted to get. Over time they made a discovery. The technique that seemed to work the best was for a negotiator to start out with commonality.

The goal when you are starting a negotiation is to build bridges to the other side of the table. You are going to have to start things off by talking about mundane things like the weather, sports, or perhaps things that you saw on the news this morning. The goal here is to get the other side of the table talking with you and to establish that both of you are human.

If the other side adopts the tactic of telling you “let’s get to the chase” or “what’s your bottom line price”, then you are going to have to put them off. You don’t want to jump into the negotiation talking about these difficult items right off the bat. Instead, you want to tell them that you’ll get to that, but first, while things are getting set up, tell me about how your last negotiation turned out. Get the small talk going in order to build bridges.

How To Conduct A Negotiation After You’ve Started It

All too often when I am working with negotiators who are just starting out, they’ll tell me that they want to get to the key issue as soon as possible so that they can determine where other side stands. I have to tell them to back off. When negotiating, you’ll want to start out with congruence. What you want to do is to identify the things that you have in common with the other side.

As the negotiation starts you are going to want to be respectful of the other side. You’ll want to be taking notes, use active listening to show that you care about what they are saying and show empathy for the other side. If the other side brings up a complaint, do not be quick to provide them with an answer. Instead, repeat their complaint back to them to show them that you’ve heard what they said. Then ask another question to dive into their issue and find out what is really bothering them.

In order for you next negotiation to have a successful outcome, you are going to want to make sure that you start out by discussing the issue that is bound to generate the least amount of issues. As you solve more and more of these types of issues, the other side will become more invested in the negotiations. If the other side says “no” to an issue, then just move on and you can come back to it later on. You’ll want to save your most contentious issues until the end of the negotiations. This is when the other side will already be heavily invested in getting a deal and they’ll be more motivated to deal with you on the big topics.

What All Of This Means For You

The goal of any principled negotiation that we enter into is to be able to walk away with a deal that we can live with. In order to get there, the big question that we need to deal with is just exactly how should we go about starting off our negotiation?

It turns out that a great deal of experimentation has been done in this area. The end result of all of this investigation has been the discovery that starting out a negotiation with commonality yields the best results. Using small talk to build bridges allows things to get off to a good start. Once started, you need to pay attention to what the other side is saying. You’ll want to start out with the issues that both sides can agree on and then move on to the trickier issues.

How we start a negotiation can have a direct impact on how the negotiation ends up. Starting a negotiation using commonality to build bridges to the other side is the key to getting things started correctly. Use this technique the next time you start a negotiation and discover just how powerful it is.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: If the other side starts a negotiation by making demands, how can you use commonality to change things?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Negotiator Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Negotiator Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When a negotiation starts, we often listen to what the other side is telling us using all of their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques and we believe that we know what they want. However, in a lot of cases we are wrong. What’s going on here? It’s actually pretty simple – the other side may not know what they want! What’s a negotiator to do in a situation like this?

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The Art Of Making “How” Concessions

by drjim on January 13, 2017

Giving concessions creates a need in the person that you give them to

Giving concessions creates a need in the person that you give them to
Image Credit: Victor Bezrukov

In some negotiating circles, the word “concession” is a dirty word. It means to give in to the other side, to agree to do something that they want you to do. Those negotiators who believe in using their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to achieve “winner takes all” don’t like this concept because they believe that it shows weakness on their part. Those of us who are a bit smarter realize that making concessions is what helps a negotiation move along and the secret to negotiating success is knowing when and how to make good concessions.

It’s All About Where You Are

Instead of talking about this issue of making concessions in general, how about if we instead pick a specific example and see if we can take a look at how you can make concessions work for you? In every negotiation there is one big question that has to be resolved before any negotiation can get started: just exactly where are we going to meet to negotiate?

There are, of course, three possible answers to this question: your place, their place, or some neutral 3rd party location. What’s interesting is that many negotiators always want the negotiations to occur at their location. However, what they don’t realize is that there are disadvantages to this: you lose the excuse of limited authority if your entire management organization is in the same building.

More often than not, the other side of the table will have a preference where they’d like to conduct the negotiations. Let us assume that you really don’t care that much where the negotiating takes place. In this situation, when they make a proposal for where the negotiations will take place, instead of telling them “ok”, you need to ask for some time to consider it. The next time that you talk, complain about the effort, the travel, the timing, and anything else that you can think of. Eventually, agree to the location that they’ve picked. You’ve just made a concession.

Resolving An Impasse

Because of the nature of negotiations, we often seem to reach a point where both sides of the table are unable to make any further progress in the discussions. The end result of this situation is that the negotiations break down and everyone walks away from the table. If you’re not careful, your negotiations could be over at this point in time.

However, a clever negotiator realizes that things are not done yet. In this case you need to ignore all of the negotiating experts who will tell you that if you contact the other side after this happens, you are showing weakness. Silly phrases like “The one who speaks first loses” have been created which really don’t have a lot of merit. Instead, you should reach out to the other side.

What you are going to want to tell them is that you feel at least a partial responsibility for the negotiations breaking down. You’ll want to make an offer to return to the negotiating table. When both sides return to the table, you’ll want to lay a new offer in front of them. This should be a new version of the last offer that they rejected. You only have to make minor changes to it. Change some wording and make the proposal look different from the last one. The other side will quickly realize what they are looking at; however, you’ll get credit for swallowing your pride and coming back to the table. They will understand that you’ve made a concession to them.

What All Of This Means For You

So why should you make all of these concessions to the other side? Simple, when you make a concession to them they will then find themselves in debt to you. This is a great position for you to be in. What it means will be that they will be looking for ways to pay you back. With a little luck this will lead to them making concessions on issues that you really care about.

During a principled negotiation, simple things like where the negotiations will be held need to be worked out. If you don’t have a strong opinion on where a negotiation should be held and the other side does, this opens the door to you making a concession and getting them to make one in return. The same can be said if the negotiations grind to a halt. If you make the first gesture to return to the table, the other side will find themselves owing you.

Concessions are how negotiations work. A smart negotiator needs to know what concessions he or she can make and the best way to get the most for what you give up. Take the time to plan the concessions that you’ll be willing to use in your next negotiation and you’ll be pleased with the outcome.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that concessions should be a back-and-forth thing?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Negotiator Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Negotiator Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Negotiating is a tough job. Trying to determine how to start your next negotiation can be an even tougher job. There seems to be no limit to the number of different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that we can use to start a negotiation. We can storm into the negotiating room, throw our things down on the table, and then demand of the other side “what’s your best price?” There are countless variations on this theme. However, if we want to walk away with the best deal for us, what’s the best way to start things off?

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