The key to a successful negotiation is having the information that you'll need

The key to a successful negotiation is having the information that you’ll need
Image Credit: Shawn Harquail

So what’s the key to conducting a successful negotiation? Is it knowing the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that you are going to need to get what you want? Is it making sure that you have all of the time in the world so that you can wait the other side out? It turns out that the answer to this question is none of these. Instead, the correct answer is something much simpler: you need to have the right information in order to get the deal that you want.

The Power Of Information

Back in the day when I was in school, the one thing that I didn’t like (and I suspect that you’ll join me in feeling this way) was homework. However, now that I’m pretty much all grown up I realize that before starting any negotiation I’ve got some homework to do. There are a set of fundamental questions that I’m going to have to be able to answer before I can have any hope of reaching a deal with the other side of the table. These questions include understanding why the other side is willing to negotiate with me. What are the time constraints that I am operating under as well as them and are there any deadlines that I need to be aware of? Finally, I need to know just exactly who is going to be making the decisions – who is really in charge here?

Not every negotiating session is created the same. It will be the importance that I assign to a given negotiation that will determine how much time I’m going to be willing to spend on doing my homework before the negotiations begin. Because of the nature of negotiating, an important part of this homework is going to be taking the time to understand how the other side will react to conflict. Next, based on previous negotiations that they have participated in, what is the preferred style of negotiating that the other side likes to use? Finally, you need to determine if it is going to be worthwhile to negotiate with the other side. What are the limits of their authority – what can they really agree to?

When I’m dealing with novice negotiators who are just starting out, they often make a beginner’s mistake. They believe that if they can collect as much information on the other side as is humanly possible they will be well positioned to start the negotiation. I need to take the time to point out to them that it’s really not the quantity of information that they can gather, but rather how the information can be used to better understand where the other side is coming from. What you want to understand is what their interests in the negotiation are, if they have any underlying concerns, and any other factors that might possibly affect their decision making process.

What You Actually Need To Know

There is a reason that we gather information about the other side. What we are seeking is relevant information that we can use to discover more options. Ultimately as the negotiations progress, having as many options as we possibly can may turn out to be the key to our ability to reach a deal with the other side. Things that can influence this include understanding the negotiating background and experience of the other side. We also have to know what their options are – do they have any alternatives to making a deal with us? Something that can have a big impact on our ability to reach a deal with the other side is understanding what, if any, incentives they have to reaching a deal with us.

As a part of your information collection, you are going to have to dig into what is really motivating the other side. Your goal here is to make sure that before the negotiations start that you understand what they are hoping to get out of the negotiations. This means that you’ll need to take the time to find out what their underlying interests and concerns are. You’ll only be able to negotiate with them if you can trust them, so you’ll need to determine what their negotiating record is for both honesty and integrity. Finally, you need to find out what their expectations are for the outcome of this negotiation and is it the same as yours?

It turns out that the size of the organization that you’ll be negotiating with can play a role in determining the type and amount of homework that you’ll have to do. If the other side is part of a larger organization, then there will be additional information that you are going to have to collect. This will include understanding who they report to and perhaps taking it even a step further who do they report to? You’ll have to find out if the other side has a budget or quota that could play a role in these negotiations. You’ll also have to make sure that you understand how they are going to be compensated and if the results of this negotiation will play a role in that.

What All Of This Means For You

When we get ready to participate in a negotiation, it turns out that its time for us to go back to school. We’ve got homework to do. In order to be able to walk away from our next negotiation with the deal that we want, we need to make sure that we have the information that we need before the negotiation starts.

Information is power. The amount of time that you are willing to spend doing your homework before a negotiation will determine how much power you have during that negotiation. The reason that you’ll collect the information is because you want to use it to better understand the other side’s interests and concerns. With a little luck, the information that you uncover will allow you to discover more options and provide you with alternatives that can be used to create creative negotiating solutions.

No, nobody really likes to do homework. However, everyone likes to get what they both want and need out of a principled negotiation. What this means is that doing your homework in order to collect the information that you need is what is going to get you the deal that you are seeking. Get busy and get your deal!

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

Question For You: How much time do you think that you should allocated to collecting information on the other side before a negotiation starts?

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

Not everyone is cut out to become a negotiator. There is a certain set of skills that every negotiator needs to have and not everyone has them. Even those of us who find ourselves doing this type of thing for a living realize that there is a certain set of skills along with knowledge of negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that it takes to become a really good negotiator. We need to understand what these skills are and then we need to take the time to develop them. Just exactly what set of attributes does a good negotiator need to have?

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Negotiating Is All About Satisfaction

by drjim on March 17, 2017

When negotiating, there is no guarantee of satisfaction

When negotiating, there is no guarantee of satisfaction
Image Credit: StephenMitchell

So just exactly what is the goal of your next negotiation going to be? Sure, after all of the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques are over and done with you’d like to be able to walk away from the bargaining table with the deal that you are looking for, but what is it going to take in order to make that happen? In order for any negotiation to be considered a success, it turns out that the other side is going to have to be satisfied with the results of the negotiation. Now just exactly how are you going to make sure that this happens?

It’s All About Satisfaction

Just what it takes to have both sides walk away from a negotiation feeling good about what just happened is something that has been extensively studied. The results of all of these studies has shown that the satisfaction (or for that matter the dissatisfaction) that we get out of a negotiation can be directly related to what our expectations were going into the negotiations. It turns out that this is a critical factor in making a negotiation be successful.

What this means for you as a negotiator is that you need to take the time to make sure that you fully understand the other side’s expectations when they come into a negotiation. If they have, in your opinion, unrealistic expectations for what they can get out of the negotiations you need to be aware of this. If the negotiations start out with the other side having unrealistic expectations then what’s going to happen during the negotiations is that the gap between what they want and what they are actually going to get is going to get bigger and bigger. Ultimately this can lead to deadlock and that means that you’ve wasted your time in getting to this point.

So how do we deal with the situation where the other side has the wrong expectations for the negotiation that we are preparing to have with them? What we need to do is to correct their mistaken assumptions as quickly as possible. There are a number of different ways to go about doing this. You want to provide them with information that explains what the real situation is. You can choose to do this either directly or indirectly through a 3ed party. You need to get their mind set prepared to have a useful negotiation with you.

The Tactic Of Lowballing

Try as you might, there is always the possibility that the other side is going to show up for your next negotiation with an inflated notion about what they are going to get out of this negotiation. What are you going to do in this situation? The first thing that you need to do is to realize that they have an incorrect set of expectations. The next thing that you are probably going to be tempted to do is to provide them with a lowball offer in order to try to fix this problem.

So what will happen when you make a lowball offer to the other side? The first thing will be that the other side will experience a sense of shock – this is not what they were expecting. They may get up and leave. However, they may also decide that they don’t have a lot of other offers and since they have already come to the table with you they should continue. Making a lowball offer can help to reset the other side’s expectations. However, it may also end up tarnishing your reputation with them. You’ll need to make sure that you provide the other side with facts that back up why you are making the lowball offer.

We all need to be aware that there is another side to lowballing just in case it gets used against us. This is the situation where we arrive at a negotiation with expectations of paying one price only to discover that the other side is willing to offer us that price only if we make other purchases also. When we sit down and run the numbers, we’ll often discover that the total purchase price turns out to be greater than the normal price for what we were planning on negotiating for. This is an underhanded use of lowballing and we need to aware of it and not get fooled by it.

What All Of This Means For You

If you are going to take the time to participate in a principled negotiation then you want it to provide you with the results that you are looking for. It turns out that the other side has the exact same desires. In order to make sure that both parties walk away from the table feeling good about what has been accomplished, you need to make sure that they feel satisfied.

Your goal is to provide everyone with a sense of satisfaction. A big part of being able to make this happen is to make sure that the other side shows up with a reasonable set of expectations. If they don’t have reasonable assumptions, it’s your responsibility to clearly communicate to them what they can expect from the negotiations. If they show up to negotiate with unreasonable expectations then one thing that you can do is make a lowball offer to them in order to level set their expectations. This may surprise them, but they’ll stay in the negotiations if they think that they can reach a deal with you.

Satisfaction is a goal in any negotiation. How to make it happen is a difficult and customizable thing. We need to take the time to understand what the other sides expectations coming into our next negotiation are. By doing this we can make sure that they line up with what our expectations are and when we do this, we can ensure that both sides have the chance to leave the negotiations feeling satisfied.

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

Question For You: During a negotiation, what is the best way to measure the current level of satisfaction that the other side is feeling?

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

So what’s the key to conducting a successful negotiation? Is it knowing the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that you are going to need to get what you want? Is it making sure that you have all of the time in the world so that you can wait the other side out? It turns out that the answer to this question is none of these. Instead, the correct answer is something much simpler: you need to have the right information in order to get the deal that you want.

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A Checklist For Making Concessions In A Negotiation

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The Role That Time Plays In A Negotiation

February 17, 2017

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Success In Negotiating Has To Do With Your State Of Mind

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How To Get The Other Side To Say “Yes” During A Negotiation

February 3, 2017

If only we had the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to put words in the mouth of the other side of the table during a negotiation! We can’t actually do this, so we spend a great deal of time looking for clever ways to get them to say the things that we want them to […]

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In A Negotiation You Always Have To Be Looking For The Icebergs

January 27, 2017

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 […]

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What’s The Best Way To Start A Negotiation?

January 20, 2017

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 […]

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