It’s The Information That You Collect That Determines The Deal That You’ll Get

The key to a successful negotiation is having the information that you'll need
The key to a successful negotiation is having the information that you’ll need
Image Credit: Shawn Harquail

So what’s the key to conducting a successful negotiation? Is it knowing the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that you are going to need to get what you want? Is it making sure that you have all of the time in the world so that you can wait the other side out? It turns out that the answer to this question is none of these. Instead, the correct answer is something much simpler: you need to have the right information in order to get the deal that you want.

The Power Of Information

Back in the day when I was in school, the one thing that I didn’t like (and I suspect that you’ll join me in feeling this way) was homework. However, now that I’m pretty much all grown up I realize that before starting any negotiation I’ve got some homework to do. There are a set of fundamental questions that I’m going to have to be able to answer before I can have any hope of reaching a deal with the other side of the table. These questions include understanding why the other side is willing to negotiate with me. What are the time constraints that I am operating under as well as them and are there any deadlines that I need to be aware of? Finally, I need to know just exactly who is going to be making the decisions – who is really in charge here?

Not every negotiating session is created the same. It will be the importance that I assign to a given negotiation that will determine how much time I’m going to be willing to spend on doing my homework before the negotiations begin. Because of the nature of negotiating, an important part of this homework is going to be taking the time to understand how the other side will react to conflict. Next, based on previous negotiations that they have participated in, what is the preferred style of negotiating that the other side likes to use? Finally, you need to determine if it is going to be worthwhile to negotiate with the other side. What are the limits of their authority – what can they really agree to?

When I’m dealing with novice negotiators who are just starting out, they often make a beginner’s mistake. They believe that if they can collect as much information on the other side as is humanly possible they will be well positioned to start the negotiation. I need to take the time to point out to them that it’s really not the quantity of information that they can gather, but rather how the information can be used to better understand where the other side is coming from. What you want to understand is what their interests in the negotiation are, if they have any underlying concerns, and any other factors that might possibly affect their decision making process.

What You Actually Need To Know

There is a reason that we gather information about the other side. What we are seeking is relevant information that we can use to discover more options. Ultimately as the negotiations progress, having as many options as we possibly can may turn out to be the key to our ability to reach a deal with the other side. Things that can influence this include understanding the negotiating background and experience of the other side. We also have to know what their options are – do they have any alternatives to making a deal with us? Something that can have a big impact on our ability to reach a deal with the other side is understanding what, if any, incentives they have to reaching a deal with us.

As a part of your information collection, you are going to have to dig into what is really motivating the other side. Your goal here is to make sure that before the negotiations start that you understand what they are hoping to get out of the negotiations. This means that you’ll need to take the time to find out what their underlying interests and concerns are. You’ll only be able to negotiate with them if you can trust them, so you’ll need to determine what their negotiating record is for both honesty and integrity. Finally, you need to find out what their expectations are for the outcome of this negotiation and is it the same as yours?

It turns out that the size of the organization that you’ll be negotiating with can play a role in determining the type and amount of homework that you’ll have to do. If the other side is part of a larger organization, then there will be additional information that you are going to have to collect. This will include understanding who they report to and perhaps taking it even a step further who do they report to? You’ll have to find out if the other side has a budget or quota that could play a role in these negotiations. You’ll also have to make sure that you understand how they are going to be compensated and if the results of this negotiation will play a role in that.

What All Of This Means For You

When we get ready to participate in a negotiation, it turns out that its time for us to go back to school. We’ve got homework to do. In order to be able to walk away from our next negotiation with the deal that we want, we need to make sure that we have the information that we need before the negotiation starts.

Information is power. The amount of time that you are willing to spend doing your homework before a negotiation will determine how much power you have during that negotiation. The reason that you’ll collect the information is because you want to use it to better understand the other side’s interests and concerns. With a little luck, the information that you uncover will allow you to discover more options and provide you with alternatives that can be used to create creative negotiating solutions.

No, nobody really likes to do homework. However, everyone likes to get what they both want and need out of a principled negotiation. What this means is that doing your homework in order to collect the information that you need is what is going to get you the deal that you are seeking. Get busy and get your deal!

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

Question For You: How much time do you think that you should allocated to collecting information on the other side before a negotiation starts?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Not everyone is cut out to become a negotiator. There is a certain set of skills that every negotiator needs to have and not everyone has them. Even those of us who find ourselves doing this type of thing for a living realize that there is a certain set of skills along with knowledge of negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that it takes to become a really good negotiator. We need to understand what these skills are and then we need to take the time to develop them. Just exactly what set of attributes does a good negotiator need to have?