Single vs Team Negotiation: Which Is Better?

by drjim on December 11, 2008

Sometimes It Takes A Team To Complete A Negotiation Successfully

Sometimes It Takes A Team To Complete A Negotiation Successfully

Sorry – that’s a trick question. Most of the time when we talk about negotiating skills, we talk about how you can improve how YOU negotiate. However, in the real world, negotiations are often done by teams of negotiators.

The reasons for this are fairly simple: negotiations more often than not can take a long time and just the physical strain of active negotiating can wear a single person down quickly. Additionally, often special subject matter knowledge is required in order to hammer out specific issues and no one person posses all of that information. It takes a team to negotiate well.

There is, of course, one additional reason for preferring to negotiate using a team instead of a lone individual. During a negotiation so much is happening that a single individual is often hard pressed to stay on top of all of it.

Using a team for your negotiations allows you to use a group of people to capture all that is occuring. You can also use the team to jointly review what has transpired and make better decisions.

There are several reasons for not wanting to use a team as a part of a negotiation process. Here are three of them:

  • Requires Coordination: When you are the sole negotiator, once you know what you want to accomplish and how you are going to make it happen, then you are set. However, if you have a team of negotiators, then you need to make sure that everyone on your team REALLY understands what the goals are. This can be a challenge to do, especially if your goals change during the negotiation.
  • Sharing Information: In order for a team of negotiators to work together successfully, they need to all be aware of the same information. This will require that all information about the negotiation be collected, shared, and reviewed prior to the start of the negotiations. This can be a challenge under the best of circumstances and if the team is geographically distributed then it becomes even more difficult.
  • Showing Disunity: In the end, negotiating is all about power. Having team members become confused or showing disunity will reduce your power and increase the other side’s power.

With all that being said, you would think that nobody would ever use a team to perform a negotiation. However, you would be wrong. There are a number of compelling reasons why teams should be used more often for negotiatons than they currently are:

  • Better Coordination: Using a team allows you to distribute the tasks of negotiating among team members. This means that documents that need to be produced or facts that need to be checked can be done in parallel to the negotiations and this will speed the process up and reduce confusion.
  • More Experts: A single negotiator can only provide his / her expertise to the negotiations. A team can provide a much broader collection of experts and this should help the discussions move much faster.
  • Moral Support: Since a negotiation can continue for a long time, it’s easy to become disheartened if it appears as though an agreement will never be reached. If you are working with a team, it will be must easier to “keep a stiff upper lip” and not give up.
  • Listen Better: One set of ears can only hear so much. In fact, not only can multiple ears simply hear better, but they can also hear things differently which might help the negotiation move along faster.
  • Plan Better: A plan that is created by a single negotiator is as good as that negotiator. A plan that is created by multiple negotiators is often much better because it reflects the different inputs of multiple people.

What has your experience been: do you do better when you negotiate by yourself or when you negotiate as part of a team? When you are on a team, what role do you play? Which type of negotiation more often leads to a successful outcome? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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