Succeed By Bringing The Ghost Whisperer To The Negotiation

by drjim on January 1, 2009

Don't Look Now, But You're Negotiating With More People Than You Think You Are

Don't Look Now, But You're Negotiating With More People Than You Think You Are

So there you are, sitting across the the table from the other side starting a negotiation. If only you are able to use your considerable negotiating talents to convince them that what you want is best for them, then you’re sure to get what you want – right? Nope, it turns out that although you might think that it’s just you and the other side talking, it turns out that room is actually crowded with negotiating ghosts that you’re going to have to learn to talk to…

The other side of the table rarely represents just themselves. No matter if you are trying to buy a car from them or sell them a house, you are really talking with someone who is really part of a larger organization. This can be a whole company, a spouse, kids, a banker, etc.

What this means to you as a negotiator is that the other side is going to have to satisfy the demands of their extended team (upper management, sales, the union, the spouse, etc.). They are going to have make sure that everyone on their side has their needs met before they can reach an agreement with you.

Although there can be quite a mix of people whispering into the other side’s ear, there are four common characteristics that all of these impacted parties will share:

  1. Not All Will Agree: This means that there will be conflict among members of the same team. If they can’t agree, then this will impact the other side’s ability to agree to your proposals.
  2. Nobody Is The Same: All of the different individuals that the other side is representing have different needs and different priorities. This may be why the other side seems to be changing their direction so often.
  3. Not All Are Equal: Although there may be multiple parties whispering into the other side’s ear, not all of them have an equal role to play when it comes to making a final decision.
  4. Not All Benefit The Same: Just as all are not equal, so too not all will benefit the same amount from whatever deal you are negotiating.

All of these Ghost Whisperer issues lead you, my dear negotiator, to one simple conclusion: you need to come up with a way to deal with all of these “negotiation ghosts”. Here are four tips for doing so:

  1. You need to find out who is really making the decision on each issue in the negotiation. Keep in mind that it might be a different person for each issue.
  2. Make sure that you get commitments from the people behind the other side when it comes to the value of the thing that you are offering and the validity of your offer.
  3. Have the fundamental realization that the other side will be unable to give you the “yes” that you are looking for until his people allow him to give it. This means that your job is really to help him to get them to give him permission.
  4. Oh yeah, you’ve got the same issues – you are really negotiating on the behalf of many different parties. You need to be a good enough negotiator that you are able to get your people to approve your ability to reach an agreement with the other side.

When you negotiate, whom do you have whispering in your ear? Have you even negotiated with the other side when you didn’t know who they needed to please? How did you handle this? Has a deal ever been agreed to and then nixed because some outside party’s approval was not given? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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