Do We Really Need To Negotiate If We’re Going To Be Partners?

by drjim on March 5, 2010

Sure You’re In Love Now, But What About Later On?

Sure You’re In Love Now, But What About Later On?

Welcome To The Age Of Partnering

Remember when every business used to view themselves as an island? This made life pretty simple for anyone doing sales negotiations – it was always us vs. them. Well, it sure looks like someone farther up the corporate ladder has been reading those business self-help books and they’ve decided that there is a better way to go about doing things: partnering.

Why Does Becoming A Partner Make Life So Difficult?

So just what is a partner? In simple terms (and it can get a lot more complicated if you let it), a partner is another company with which your company has decided to form a special, deeper, relationship. For a sales negotiator, this new type of relationship can complicate our lives immensely.

Before partnering came along, you had a great deal more latitude in how you conducted a negotiation: simply put, you really didn’t care that much about the other side of the table – you just wanted the best deal for your company. Partnering changes all of this.

The key here is to view a partnership as a bonding of two companies together (dare I say “marriage”? ) This is much different from a simple long-term partnership where you treat the other firm nicely, but you know that it’s not going to last (perhaps “dating” would be the right word here).

What Role Does Win-Win Negotiating Play In A Partnership?

One of the biggest changes that a partnership brings about in the life of a sales negotiator is the arrival (with a “thud”) of win-win negotiating. Instead of having the latitude to walk away from a deal with a partner, you’re pretty much expected to be able to reach an agreement with them. After all, they are a partner, right?

What this means is that the clever sales negotiator (you) now needs to use win-win negotiating techniques to find more things to negotiate about. The more discussion points that you can put on the table, the better your chances are that you’ll be able to craft a deal with your partner.

One important point that often gets overlooked when sales negotiators start to use win-win techniques with partners is that this does not mean that everything gets shared equally. Instead, what it really means is that everyone walks away feeling satisfied – one side may get 60% and the other may get 40%, but everyone feels as though they got what they needed.

Oh Yeah, That Power Thing

Power is a big part of any negotiation – who has it, how much of it they have, and how you can get more of it. You need to realize that just as in the fact that win-win deals don’t mean that everything is shared, the balance of power will always be unequal.

How much power you have often flows from how much information you have about the other side (your partner), and how much information they have about you. Since it’s a partnership, both of you will know more about each other than most parties involved in a standard negotiation would.

Since you know that you will be negotiating with your partner, as a sales negotiator you have a responsibility to make sure that others in your company don’t end up giving all of your negotiating power away. Sure openness is a good thing, but let’s not take it too far.

What All Of This Means For You

The role of a sales negotiator has become more complicated with the arrival of business partnerships. What use to be a relatively simple process of going into a negotiation with the goal of only improving your company’s position has now been changed.

In order to look out for a partner’s wellness during a negotiation, win-win techniques need to be used. This brings up more complicated issues surrounding what makes a deal fair for both parties and just how to make sure that you retain your negotiating power.

Business partnering is not going away. Sales negotiators need to accept this fact and adjust how we go about negotiating with this new type of opponent / adversary / other side of the table. If we can find ways to create deals that fully benefit both sides of the table both today and tomorrow, then we will have come to terms with the brave new world of partnerships.

Question for you: Do you think that negotiating with a bsiness partner is easier or harder than any other type of sales negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So there you are, all ready to start another sales negotiation. Hold on a minute, are you really ready? Maybe you’ve overlooked the most important point of all – setting your target for the negotiation.

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