Once you understand the issue, the other party, and your own BATNA and threshold, you can move into Phase 2 of the negotiating process:
- Phase 1: “Can’t we do better than this? How much better?”
- Phase 2: “We’re supposed to meet with them next week. How should we play it?”
- Phase 3: “Good morning! I’m glad we’re finally talking face to face about this issue.”
Think of Phase 2 as Content: what you will negotiate on and for. You’ll decide these before the negotiation starts.
Think of Phase 3 as Style: the way you behave during the discussion itself. Recognize that although you may plan such tactics, your behavior must adapt to conditions “on the fly.” As the boxer Mike Tyson says, “Everybody has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth!” That’s when you adapt!
Phase 2: Plan the Content of Your Negotiations
1. Do your best to make sure you are negotiating with the Decision-Maker. If not, after you make a compromise deal with the subordinate, you may end up making further concessions to satisfy their boss. Some bosses need to prove their worth by being “tougher” than their subordinate.
2. Design some win/win solutions, considering the interests (not positions) of both sides. Then you can plan to take positions where the compromises lead to these win/win outcomes. For you to win, the other side does not need to lose. The best outcomes satisfy both sides.
3. Plan “off-target” responses to expected proposals. Direct, adversarial responses do not move the process forward. They just force the other side to try harder to justify their position, making progress even more difficult. Instead, your response can suggest a changed basis, such as bundling commitments or orders, or revised timing. You veer away from the position the other party has staked out. You change the terms of the discussion, in search of an area of common interest: win/win.
4. Choose your crucial negotiating points, and be prepared to yield on others. When the other party says “no,” research shows they subconsciously feel an obligation to say “yes” later. This means that yielding on some points can help you win acceptance on other points. See “Defend Your Research,” Harvard Business Review, December 2013.
Phase 3: Style — Tips for Behavior in Discussions
1. Don’t bid against yourself! When you propose a price or position, wait until the other side makes a change or concession before changing your offer. If they say, “That’s too high,” do not come back with a lower price. Instead, explain why that price is reasonable, and suggest a change in their specifications that might open the door to a lower price.
2. Be careful about which side mentions their price first. Some say you should try to make the other side be first to mention a price, because that becomes the basis for negotiation, and it may be more favorable than what you would have offered. Others say you should be the first to state a price, because you want to set the basis for price negotiations! If you want to specify the basis for price discussions, then be the first.
3. Keep the tone light. Not only is it more pleasant, but your good-natured style shows you don’t need this deal, that you have other equally-attractive choices. The result could be a more accommodating person across the table.
4. Paraphrase what you heard them say or saw them feel, and invite correction. This avoids wasting time with misunderstandings, and builds goodwill by being a visibly interested listener.
5. Ask open-ended questions. “Why do you say that” is not open-ended, because it forces the other party to defend a statement or position. This makes it harder for them to back away from that position later. Instead, ask questions like “help me understand something better” or “tell me more about…”
6. Non-verbal cues can be a less adversarial way to get your message across.
- Silence creates discomfort. So the other party will often fill the silence by saying more, revealing more about their interest.
- Delay can make the other party anxious about unknown developments or overtures from your alternative suppliers. Their response is to become more flexible in what they’ll agree to.
- Other signals to make the other party doubt the strength of their position: arriving late, taking phone calls during the meeting, closing a portfolio, not taking notes, stepping out to discuss with colleagues, and any number of others.
This planning and behavior can get you where you want to go: an outcome that satisfies your interest. Your behavior need not be bombastic or cruel. Research enough to know the other party’s interest, develop win/win solutions to satisfy their interest as well as your own, and negotiate off-target by changing the basis of discussion without directly opposing the proposals of the other side.
Tom Gray helps owners save and grow their companies. He is a management consultant focused on small business and telecom, a Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP), a Certified Business Development Advisor, and a Certified SCORE Mentor. He can be reached at 630-512-0406 or email@example.com. See www.tom-gray.com. For Tom’s new book Business Techniques in Troubled Times: A Toolbox for Small Business Success, see http://www.businesstechniquesbook.com/