Negotiators need to be careful when they discover information by chance

Negotiators need to be careful when they discover information by chance
Image Credit: Nathan Rupert

I think that we can all agree that what it takes to succeed in a negotiation is for you to have the information that you need. Now, it this was a perfect world, you’d have access to even more information – the secret stuff. You know what I’m talking about, the other side’s strategy planning documents, lists of what their restrictions are, information on what their bosses want them to get out of this negotiation, etc. Under normal circumstances we’ll never see these documents. However, sometimes…

Good Luck Doesn’t Generally Happen

Information is the critical fuel that powers any negotiation. As a negotiator, you have an obligation to gather as much information as possibleprior to a negotiation starting as you possibly can. There are a number of different ways to collect this information. The most common ways include talking with people who have negotiated with the other side in the past and taking a look at the other side’s press releases. Using information sources like these can provide a fairly well-rounded view of the other side of the table.

However, as negotiators we need to realize that we are not going to be able to get everything that we need. As we enter into the negotiation we need to be aware that no matter how much research we have been able to do, we will not be able to get all of the answers that we’d like to have. What this means for us is that we realize that our collection of information does not stop before the negotiations start, rather is is only starting.

In order to try to collect the information that we are missing when a negotiation starts we need to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to start to ask the other side questions. If it is at all possible out goal has to be to ask the other side what are called “open ended questions”. These are the types of questions that the other side will not be able to answer with a simple “yes” or “no”. Instead, they are going to have to go into some detail in order to create a response. This kind of detail may provide you with the information that you are going to need in order to get the answers to your outstanding questions.

How To Pass On Information Without Passing It On

This all leads up to a tricky tactic that is used all too often in negotiations. The challenge that the other side has is that they have information that they would like you to get. There can be many different reasons why they’d like you to get this information. One of the most common reasons is because the information is either wrong or incorrect. If they can get you to accept this information as being valid, then they will have gained negotiating power over you.

In order to get you to accept the information that they want to pass on you without looking like they gave it to you, they may arrange for you to just “find” it. There are a number of different ways to make this happen. The most common is to place a piece of paper with the “secret” information on it in a public place such as on their desk or on a pile of their negotiating materials. Then they create a reason for them to leave the room. It is only natural that while they are gone, you will look around in your environment. You will discover this paper and even if you have to read it upside down you’ll recognize the value of its information. Mission accomplished by the other side!

What we need to realize as negotiators is that in real life rarely do we ever get this lucky. What this means for you is that if you find yourself in a situation where all of a sudden there is some information that you normally would not have access to that has just fallen into your lap, you need to be careful. Yes, it could be legit; however, you could also be getting set up.

If something like this happens to you, you’ll need to do two things. The first this is what you would do anyway. You need to collect all of the information that you have been provided with. Make sure that you don’t end up with partial information. Your next step is the critical one, Now you have to find a 3rd party that can verify some or all of the information that you have been provided with. You need someone else to let you know that what you have learned is legit or otherwise you won’t be able to use it.

What All Of This Means For You

Negotiating could be considered to be the art of using information. Before we enter into a principled negotiation we need to take the time to collect as much information as we possibly can. That’s when things can get interesting.

The other side of the table may want to pass information on to us that they don’t want us to realize that they are providing to us. There can be many different reasons for them doing this, but passing on incorrect information is the most common one. When we come across information that we should not have, we need to treat it with care. We have to find a 3rd party that will be able to confirm some or all of what we have learned. If we can get this kind of confirmation then we can use the information that we now have, otherwise we’ll have to leave it alone.

The information that we have when we are negotiating drives our decision making process. What this means is that if we happen to stumble across some privileged information, then we need to treat it with care. Double check it to make sure that you’re dealing with legit information and don’t allow it to take your negotiating power away.

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

Question For You: Do you think that there is any way that you can get the other side of the table to confirm any of the special information that you have discovered?

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 we are negotiating with someone, there has to be a basic level of trust between both sides. If we can’t believe what they commit to, then we can’t commit to doing a deal with them. Likewise, they have to be able to believe that after all of the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques are done, we’ll follow through when we make a commitment to them. Where things start to get a little bit cloudy is when it comes down to specific things like price. Just exactly what is the price of what is being negotiated – both today and tomorrow?

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All too often a seller will run into a buyer who likes to ask “what if”

All too often a seller will run into a buyer who likes to ask “what if”
Image Credit:
Hugo Cardoso

The goal of any negotiation is to always be using our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to keep things moving forward. We want to eventually be able to reach a deal with the other side. The only way that we’re ever going to be able to get there is if we can make progress on the various issues that have to be resolved. However, sometimes things can grind to a halt. One way that this can happen is if the other side starts to ask us “what if”. When this occurs, we need to be ready to deal with it.

The Power Of “What If”

The issue of dealing with a what if question generally comes up when we have something that we’d like to sell to the other side of the table. We show up, we present them with a price, and then we sit back and hope that they accept it. However, this is generally when they whip out their what if questions and start to throw them at us.

The way that this generally works is that the person who is doing the buying will ask you how much it will cost if they decide to buy a certain quantity of your product or service. Once you’ve answered this question, they’ll then increase the amount that they are interested in buying and they will then ask you how much that would cost. They may repeat this process several times.

What the buyer is trying to do is to get more information about your organization. They’d like to know about your costs, your prices, and, of course, your profits. The buyer’s goal is to strengthen their position within the negotiation. Note that once the buyer learns the lowest price that they can get from you (generally for the largest order), then that becomes the price that they start their negotiation from.

How To Deal With “What If”

When we find ourselves in the position of being the seller who has encountered a buyer who starts to ask us a lot of what if questions, we need to be aware of what is going on. As a seller, we need to make sure that we remember the importance of time. This means that we need to take our time before responding when we are asked what if questions. The good news is that sometimes this line of questioning can lead to us getting a larger order than we were expecting.

The most important thing that we need to realize about dealing with what if questions, is that we need to slow things down. You don’t want to answer quickly because if you do you know exactly what is going to happen – you are going to get hit with even more what if questions. You can slow things down by telling the other side that you have to get back to them with the answer. Perhaps you have to consult with other people at your firm.

What you are going to want to be doing at the same time is probing the other side. You want to find out what the other side’s real needs are. How much of your product do they really intend to order? This will all take time. Also note that the answers to your questions may not come directly from the other side, but instead come from other people in their organization. This could all work out in your favor and you may be able to convince the other side to place a larger order than they were originally planning on.

What All Of This Means For You

As negotiators we like it when a principled negotiation that we are involved in moves along quickly. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes the other side of the table can slow things down by starting to ask us a lot of what if questions. What they are trying to do is to get information out of us about our product or service. What should we do then?

The other side will ask us a series of what if questions. Each question will deal with the hypothetical situation where they would be placing a larger and larger order for products. What they are really trying to do is to understand what our pricing system is. We need to be careful when this starts to happen. We need to slow things down. This is a good opportunity for us to start to ask questions about how much they really need and what they are going to do with it. This can all end up in the other side placing a larger order than they were planning on.

We should never look at a series of what if questions as being a bad thing. The fact that the other side is going to the effort of asking them means that they are interested in doing a deal with us. Make sure that you take you time in answering these questions and use this as a chance to find out more about the other side. These questions just might lead you to the best deal ever!

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

Question For You: How long do you think that you should allow the other side to keep asking you what if questions?

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

I think that we can all agree that what it takes to succeed in a negotiation is for you to have the information that you need. Now, it this was a perfect world, you’d have access to even more information – the secret stuff. You know what I’m talking about, the other side’s strategy planning documents, lists of what their restrictions are, information on what their bosses want them to get out of this negotiation, etc. Under normal circumstances we’ll never see these documents. However, sometimes…

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