What Does The Other Side Want In A Negotiation?

In every negotiation, the other side has something that they want to get
In every negotiation, the other side has something that they want to get
Image Credit:
Matus Laslofi

When we think about getting ready for our next negotiation, what do we really spend our time thinking about? We probably review all of the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that we plan on using and that we expect the other side to try to use against us. Hopefully we’ll also spend some time taking a close look at the issues that will be discussed so that we can go in fully understanding what will be negotiated. However, perhaps there is one area that we are overlooking. Do we spend enough time thinking about what the other side wants to get out of this negotiation?

Getting To Know The Other Side

During a negotiation, you need to take the time to realize that the other side is trying to achieve more things that just striking a deal with you. Along with that deal, they may have a number of other goals that they are interested in achieving. What makes this just a bit tougher for you is that they may not be fully aware of the things that they are trying to achieve!

As an example of this, we’re going to assume that you are fairly knowledgeable about your side of this negotiation. Your knowledge can take on many different forms: you may know more about some product or service than anyone else does, you may know what problems other customers were having and how what is being negotiated was used to solve those problems, etc. The other side realizes that you have this knowledge and they want to get it. This can be a hidden goal during a negotiation.

We need to be aware of the scope of the deal that we are working on with the other side. Is this just another of the 100’s of deals that they’ll put together this week, month, or year? Or is this a “bet the company” type of deal that could make or break them. The larger the deal is, the more difficult it is going to be for the other side to make a decision. This is where you come in. As a part of the negotiation, you need to find ways to help the other side make the difficult decision that they are wrestling with.

Understanding What The Other Side Really Wants

One of the things that it can be all too easy to overlook is the fact that we are asking the other side to take a risk in agreeing to a deal with us. If we don’t come through on what we have promised to do, then their career may be on the line. That’s why they need assurances from us that if things start to go badly, we’ll be there to help them out. It really does not matter if these promises are worked into the agreement or if we just tell them that we’ll help them out, they need to hear it from us one way or the other.

When the other side agrees to do a deal with you, they are walking away from the other firms that they could have possibly done business with. This is a big deal. The one thing that they don’t want to have happen is to be left with a feeling of being “boxed in”. They don’t want to you to raise prices or change parts of the deal after the paperwork has been signed.

The other side has things to say. They have viewpoints that they want to share with you. They have a reason that they have made the proposals that they have made. In short, they want you to listen to what they have to say. Somewhat surprisingly this can be difficult for us to do because there is so much that we want to tell the other side that we often don’t take the time to listen to them. What we need to do is to slow down. We need to pay attention to what they are saying and then take the time to understand why they are saying it. Doing this will win the other side over.

What All Of This Means For You

When we get ready to negotiate, we are often excited to get started. We think about all of the negotiating tools that we’ll be using as we prepare. However, there’s a good chance that we may be skipping one important step: taking the time to understand what the other side wants to get out of this negotiation.

The other side has come to this principled negotiation with a set of goals that they want to achieve. These goals may not be stated and the other side may not even be fully aware of what they are. One of these goals may be to have you share with them information that you have about products, markets, and other customers. We need to be aware of the scope of the deal that we’re working on. The other side may be nervous to move forward because the deal could have a big impact on their company. Entering into a deal with us involves risk for the other side. We need to find ways to mitigate this risk for them. We need to understand that by selecting to do a deal with us, the other side is walking away from other parties. This means that they don’t want to end up feeling “boxed in”. The other side has a lot of opinions and reasons for doing what they are doing. They want us to listen to what they are saying and understand them.

As negotiators who want to be able to reach a deal with the other side of the table, we need to always take the time to understand what the other side wants. We may have to work at it a bit to get them to fully understand what they need to get out of this negotiation. However, if we take the time and truly work with them, then we’ll have a much better chance of reaching a deal that we can both live with.

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

Question For You: If the other side wants information from us, do you think that we should give it to them before or after they sign the deal?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So here’s an interesting question for you: what is the goal of your next negotiation. Yes, yes, I know that you want to walk away from the table with a good deal (and so does the other side), but is that really your goal for the negotiations? Do you think that it would be possible to walk away from the table with a good deal and still be unhappy (hint: yes, it is possible). Given that this can happen, what should our goal be?