In Part 1, you read about how good negotiators avoid traps and pitfalls in negotiations. One of the reasons they can, is that they follow a robust process - they understand the underlying structure of negotiations and plan accordingly. Those who succumb to making things up as they go along are commonly described as off piste for skiers and off the reservation for everyone else. Master negotiators always maintain personal and process discipline. They do not fall victim to the following...
Too Much Talking, Not Enough Listening
Negotiators are often so focussed on what they have to deliver in terms of information that they dominate the discussion. They feel they have to persuade the other to agree with their solution to the conflict. They need to outline their credentials and abilities. They have forgotten that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
Not Checking Assumptions
In preparation, assumptions are made about the other party. Assumptions about their issues, priorities, preferences and inhibitions. These assumptions must be checked when the two parties come face to face. Failure to do so is arrogant; effectively you are saying I don’t need to understand your problem - I know I have a solution.
Master negotiators never become emotionally committed to a strategy or solution. They know that emotions cloud judgements and while they negotiate with great enthusiasm, they are also realistic. They know that sometimes the best deal is not making a deal at all.
Not Making Proposals
In almost every situation, you should make the first proposal. Your proposal needs to be based on your preparation, but must be informed and if necessary, altered in light of the new information that emerges during the negotiation. Your proposal will not only set the agenda for the subsequent discussions, but will have the important effect of anchoring the negotiation around your numbers.
Much of the popular literature in negotiating focusses on getting a better deal. They use examples from real estate and acquiring cars or boats. These are one-off transactions where there is no investment in building an enduring relationship. In a commercial environment, it is long term relationships that prevail. Every negotiation will have an impact on the strength of that relationship. Competitive behaviours such as unrealistic proposals, making demands, using sarcasm and being dismissive of others’ concerns will damage the relationship. Treating the other party with respect costs nothing, but will yield many benefits in negotiations.
Not Learning from Mistakes
It is important to debrief our negotiations and learn from that analysis. Too often unskilled negotiators take personal credit for successes and blame failures on bad luck or any convenient scapegoat. Master negotiators learn important lessons from failed negotiators and don’t repeat those mistakes.
Rushing the Agree Step
The celebration following agreement and a handshake often occurs before the detail is agreed. Be painstaking in documenting the who, how, when and how much. Many disputes arise when parties who thought they had agreed have failed to completely understand their obligations and commitments. This truly a case of the devil being in the detail.
So, master negotiators follow a simple robust process underpinned by mutual gain principles. The words of Peters and Waterman from In Search of Excellence first published in 1982 still resonate... master negotiators “stick to the knitting”.
If you would like further advice on how to build up a robust repertoire of refined negotiation skills check out our flagship Advancing Negotiation Skills program here!