It’s Power That Drives A Negotiation

A negotiation is all about how much power you have
A negotiation is all about how much power you have
Image Credit: Kevin Doncaster

When I’m working with negotiators who are just starting out, I’m often asked the question “how can I win a negotiation?” Outside of the obvious issue with “winning” a negotiation, the question is actually a fairly good question. What my students are really asking me is what they can do in order to make sure that when they walk away from the negotiating table, they feel that they’ve been able to reach a good deal with the other side. I turns out that this all comes down to how much power we have.

What Is Power?

So here’s the weird thing about power in a negotiation. It’s something that we all want. No matter how much of it we have, we always want to have more of it. If the other side has used negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to get power, then we’d like to get our hand on their power. All of this talk about power would leave you with the belief that power is something real, something that you can touch and that you can pile up on the table in front of you. However, that’s not the case. For you see, power is really a funny thing – it’s only what you think that it is.

You might tend to start to think that since you can’t see or touch it, power in a negotiation is not real. That would be a mistake. Power in a negotiation is very real. Power in a negotiation is a source of a great deal of strength during a negotiation. However, what you need to understand in order to make use of power is that it really only exists in our minds. What this means is that negotiating power is going to be as strong or as weak as we think that it is.

Since power is what we believe it is, what we see during a negotiation is very important. Seeing is truly believing. If during a negotiation we are able to see sources of power (time, customer problems, product features, etc.) and if we can believe that they are sources of power for us, then they will be. The flip side of this is also true. If we don’t see our sources of power, then they won’t be sources of power for us.

How Can We Gain Power During A Negotiation?

During a negotiation, what can we do to boost our negotiating power? The first thing that we can do is spend more time thinking about the other side of the table. We can spend less time thinking about our own problems and the pressures that we are facing. A much better thing to be thinking about is the problems and pressure that we believe the other side of the table must be facing.

When we know that we have negotiating power, we behave differently. We take time and we are more patient with the other side. During the negotiations, we make sure to take more time to get what we want. Our goal is to find ways to turn time to our advantage. Take the time to ask more questions. When the other side responds, take the time to really listen to what they are trying to tell you. During the negotiation you are going to want to spend your time talking about just about everything except for one thing – price.

Every negotiation is a collection of conversations between both sides. No matter how formal or idle these conversations are, the other side will gradually reveal information to you that you did not know before the negotiations began. This information will provide you with facts and clues that will both increase your power and help you to limit the other side’s power. We need to view a negotiation as being a process of discovery. During this discovery we are going to discover our sources of power and that’s
how we are going to be able to get the deal that we want.

What All Of This Means For You

If your goal during a principled negotiation is to be able to walk away from the table feeling good about how your spent your time and with a deal that you can live with, then you are going to have to take some time and understand how power works in a negotiation. At the end of a day, every negotiation is all about power. Who has it, who doesn’t and how you can get more of it.

The funny thing about power is that we all want more of it. In fact, we want the other side of the table to have less of it also. However, power is not something that you can either see or touch. Instead, power is simply something that lives inside of our heads. We need to be careful during a negotiation and make sure that we can see where our sources of power are coming from. We can boost our power during a negotiation by spending time thinking about the challenges faced by the other side. We need to take our time and ask a lot of questions. We need to listen to what the other side says very carefully because they will reveal clues that will boost our power while limiting theirs.

The goal that we have for any negotiation that we engage in is to attempt to get a deal that both sides can live with. In order to make that happen, we are going to have to be aware that there is a great deal of power in play during the negotiation and we’re going to have to know where it’s coming from. Once we’ve determined this, we can boost our power and have a better chance of getting the deal that we want!

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

Question For You: If you find yourself in a negotiation with very little power, what steps can you take to boost your power?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

One of the biggest challenges that we all face when we are negotiating is not the negotiation styles or negotiating techniques that will be used, but rather the simple fact that the people that we are negotiating with have other options. If they don’t like what we have to offer to them, then they can go and do business with our competition. Knowing this puts pressure on us. We do things like lower our price, etc. because we fear that our competition can offer our customer a better deal than we can. However, is this really the case?

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