Why Negotiators Need To Negotiate With Everyone Who Is On The Other Side Of The Table

by drjim on November 16, 2012

Negotiators need to realize that there may be more people at the table then there are chairs for…

Negotiators need to realize that there may be more people at the table then there are chairs for…
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Just exactly who are these negotiations being conducted with? If I asked you this question, you’d probably tell me that you are negotiating with the other side of the table. You’d be both right and wrong. The negotiation process is much more complicated and you need to understand why if you are going to reach a deal on what is being negotiated.

Who’s On The Other Side Of The Table?

When you are sitting at the negotiating table and are spending your time staring at the person who is on the other side of the table and trying to see though all of their different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, it can be all too easy to start to view them as being the only person that you are negotiating with. In most cases, the reality is actually quite different.

Yes, the person that you are negotiating with does bring their own set of views, expectations, and needs to the table. However, they are probably also representing many other people in their organization. According to the negotiation definition this means that the person that you are negotiating with may actually have a set of conflicting goals that they are responsible for finding a way to sort through in order to reach a deal with you.

The result of all of these differing opinions can be that the negotiations that you are investing so much time, energy, and effort into just might end up being deadlocked. This is the last thing that you want to have happen, so it’s going to be up to you to take steps to make sure that you prevent yourself from ending up in this situation.

How To Get Support From Everyone On The Other Side

What this means is that on top of all of the other negotiating tasks that you need to be doing, such as preparing, planning your concessions, and balancing power, now you are going to also have to be looking for ways to help the other side find a way to balance the potentially conflicting requirements that they are dealing with.

One way to go about making this happen is to match people on your team with their peers on the other side’s team. This may mean having your financial expert talk with their financial expert, your lawyer talk with their lawyer, etc. If the experts can use their shared vocabulary to reach an agreement on their part of the deal, then you may be closer to striking a deal.

If you are deadlocked, then it may be time to reach out and have more senior members of your firm meet with more senior members of their firm. The goal of such a meeting wouldn’t necessarily be to reach a deal, but rather to reconfirm that a deal is what both sides want and to identify new ways to get there.

If the person sitting across from you at the table is the source of your problems – they just can’t find a way to resolve all of their differing requirements, then perhaps now is the time to go around them. Reach out to their boss and request an opportunity to have a discussion. Yes, this is going to anger the other side of the table, but it will be worth it if you can avoid a deadlock.

What All Of This Means For You

In order to successfully reach a deal with the other side of the table, you are going to have to make sure that you fully understand just exactly who the other side of the table is negotiating for. It may not just be themselves.

You may find yourself in the interesting position that you have to help the other negotiator find a way to meet the needs of all of the different parties that they represent. This is going to be a critical need if you are going to have any hope of finding a way to get them to say “yes” to the deal that you are proposing.

This all may seem like a lot of extra effort to you – can’t you just focus on the deal that you’re trying to put together with the other side? The answer is that, as with so many other things in life, it’s a bit more complicated than it looks. Take the time to help the other side conduct a principled negotiation and find a way to agree to your proposal and you’ll close more deals and you’ll close them quicker.

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

Question For You: At what point in the negotiations do you think that you might have to step in and help the other side meet the needs of their various people that they may be negotiating for?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it: in any negotiation, a deadlock can occur. We’d like to think that we are skillful enough as negotiators that we could prevent it; however, the reality is that any negotiation can grind to a halt. When this happens, maybe it’s time for you to call in the United Nations in order to get things started back up…

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