The Key To A Successful Negotiation Is Collaboration

Collaboration is how you get on track to reach an agreement
Collaboration is how you get on track to reach an agreement
Image Credit: Enric Teller

As negotiators, our goal during a negotiation is to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with the other side. This, of course, brings up the question: what exactly is a mutually beneficial agreement? If you ask around, some negotiation experts believe that a mutually beneficial agreement is one in which each side grabs as much as it can from a finite pot of resources and calls it a day. Ouch. A much better approach is to combine competitive value-claiming with collaborative value creation. The reason that you want to do this is not because it’s the “nice” thing to do, but because it’s been proven to be the best path to a truly mutually beneficial agreement. Now, just exactly how can we go about doing this?

Make Sure That You Share Information

I can speak for myself when I say that negotiators often fear they will give away too much if they express their true preferences on various issues. However, expressing preferences isn’t exactly the same as giving away your bottom line. Telling the other side that “our last supplier hurt us with poor service, so that issue is critical to us,” sets the stage. You might follow this up with “What are some of your key concerns?”

Always Ask Questions

How we choose to view negotiations can go a long way in either helping or hurting our ability to reach a deal with the other side. What you don’t want to do is to make the common mistake of viewing negotiation as primarily an exercise in trying to persuade the other party to do what you want them to do. If you go in with that mindset, you will be so focused on your talking points that you won’t listen closely enough to what the other side has to say. Alternatively, listening actively and asking lots of questions will help you collect the information you need to develop a mutually beneficial agreement.

Take The Time To Make Multiple Equivalent Simultaneous Offers (MESO)

As negotiators, we like to think about things one at a time. This shows when it comes time for us to make an offer to the other side. We often make an offer and then sit back to see if they will accept it. This, it turns out, is a big mistake. If the offer is rejected, we’ll learn very little new information that will help us to move forward. A much better approach is to craft three offers that are different across issues but equally appealing to you. The other side may reject all three of the offers but is likely to communicate which one they liked best — and this will put you back on a track toward a mutually beneficial agreement.

What All Of This Means For You

The goal of any principled negotiation is to be able to reach an agreement with the other side by the time that the negotiation draws to a close. The trick to making this happen is finding ways to collaborate with the other side. Our goal has to be to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with the other side. The challenge that we face is finding out how to go about doing that.

In order to make this happen, we need to start by being willing to share information with the other side. In order to find out what they are looking for from the negotiation, we need to take the time to ask them questions. All too often it can be easy for the other side to reject the offers that we’ve made to them. In order to get around this, we need to get used to making multiple simultaneous offers in order to find out what they are really looking for.

The better that we can get at finding ways to create mutually beneficial agreements the more likely we will be to reach a deal with them. Once we’ve been able to collaborate with the other side, then we can finally find a way to reach a shared understanding and that’s how deals that both sides can live with are born.

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

Question For You: How can we share information with the other side without sharing too much?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As negotiators, what we tend to focus on with all of our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, of course, is the negotiations at hand. It turns out that this is just a little bit sad. The reason is because we’re going to all of the work trying to craft an agreement that both sides can live with and we’re not taking the time to focus on what really matters. What we need to be thinking about is just exactly how we are going to go about putting the agreement that we’ve created into action. How can we make sure that our agreement is going to turn out to be a success?