The Worst Person To Negotiate For You Is – You!

You are too powerful – never negotiate for yourself!
You are too powerful – never negotiate for yourself!

Image Credit: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv

One of the most fundamental questions about any negotiation that has to be answered is who should be running the show? If you ask most of us, we’d tell you that it’s the person who is ultimately in charge – the big man (or woman). It turns out that this is the wrong answer. We really don’t want them anywhere near the actual negotiations. The reason why turns out to be pretty initiative once you understand it.

Who Should Be Doing The Negotiating?

If you work for a company and there is a big deal on the table, you would most likely think that the CEO should be involved in the negotiations. I mean after all, no deal is going to get done without his or her approval and it sure seems like thing would move more smoothly if they were there in the middle of the discussions instead of having to be briefed by you. It turns out that this idea is wrong. One of the things that we need to understand is that the top person who will make the final decision about a negotiation is too powerful to be permitted to participate in the negotiations.

Instead, you are going to want to have the negotiations lead by a skilled negotiator who understands the different negotiation styles and, negotiating techniques. They need to be good at what they do, but it’s very important that everyone know that they are not in control. They will not be the person making the final decision. Instead, they’ll negotiate the best deal that they can and then they’ll take it to the powers that be and attempt to get them to approve it. The reason that this separation of power is so very important. When a deal is reached with the other side, you always want to have the option of saying “that deal looks good to me, but I’m going to have to check to see if I can get approval for it.”

This buys you that most precious of all resources: time. If the head person was involved in the negotiations the other side could rightly expect them to be able to make a decision on the spot as to if they would accept the terms of the deal. This would eliminate your ability to give the deal some thought and look for loopholes or gaps that might not be readily apparent in the heat of battle. One key point to keep in mind is that even if you are the “big man”, you can still tell the other side that you need to first talk with someone else (your board, your lawyer, your accountant, etc.) prior to agreeing to the deal. Once again, you will have bought yourself more time to consider your actions.

What Does A Negotiator Need In Order To Be Successful?

So if the person who is doing the negotiations does not have to be the person who is in charge, then what do they need to have? I have had a lot of time to observe really good negotiators in action. There is no one magical characteristic that they all possess. Rather it is a collection of skills that together make them very good negotiators. The list is long, but it includes having patience, being innovative, being dogged, being self-reliant, remaining calm while under fire, and finally having the ability to remain flexible in their approach to the negotiation.

Something that we don’t spend enough time talking about is what is called “leadership by negotiation”. Yes, the deal that is on the table is probably a big deal. However, it turns out that it’s really only a part of what is going on. If the deal is agreed to by both sides of the table, then that is when the real work will start. As the negotiator, you are going to be in a lot of different ways responsible for making sure that the people at your company comply with their part of the deal. You spend a lot of time making the deal happen, it’s going to be up to you to make sure that both sides get out of the deal what they are hoping to.

Success as a negotiator has a lot to do with you and your skill set. However, there is another very important part to being a successful negotiator. This involves making sure that you have an associate or a companion along for the ride with you. If you have a sidekick, then it will allow you to always have a sense of support no matter how the negotiations are going, you’ll have someone who can provide you with feedback based on how they see the other side reacting to your proposals, and all in all will grant you more flexibility in how you conduct your negotiation. Make sure that you bring along a sidekick to your next negotiation.

What All Of This Means For You

It can be all too easy for a negotiator who is planning out their next principled negotiation to think that they can streamline the process if only they could convince the head decision maker to show up and participate in the negotiations. However, it turns out that this would be a big mistake.

The reason that you don’t want to have the big guy (or gal) present during the negotiations is because it could take away your ability to spend time thinking about the deal that has been proposed. If they have to make a snap decision during the meeting, then you may end up regretting that decision. In order to be a successful negotiator you need to prevent this from happening and have the skills that the great negotiators have. You will own the deal once it is agreed to so make sure that you are ready to lead your company in implementing it. You can make your next negotiation go more smoothly if you bring a sidekick along to help carry the load.

It may not be easy to keep your top person out of your next negotiation especially if the stakes are high. However, you need to have a talk with them and convince them that having the gift of time to properly consider the deal that will be offered to them will be a critical part of making the right decision. Get them to sit this one out and you’ll be that much closer to making sure that you get both the right deal and, in the end, the right decision about the deal.

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

Question For You: If your head person insists on participating in the negotiation, what can you do to minimize the damage?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I dream of the day that I get to pick who I have to negotiate with. I know the type of person that I want to spend time with: they are smart, know the topic, and are committed to reaching a deal with me. As of yet I have not reached the stage in life where this is the type of thing that I can control. What this means is that more often than I’d care to admit, I find myself negotiating with someone who is not very nice!