Negotiation

by Bob MacKenzie

Common questions

  1. When should I (not) negotiate?
  2. What types of negotiations are there?
  3. How do I negotiate?
  4. What is my negotiation goal?
  5. What is successful negotiation?
  6. What negotiation tactics should I use?
  7. What should I do if things go wrong?
  8. When should I stop negotiating?
  9. How can I improve my negotiation skills?

 

1. When should I (not) negotiate?

Before entering in negotiations, you need to ask why you are doing so, and whether there might be a better alternative. A useful starting point for this is to determine your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement).

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2. What types of negotiations are there?

Negotiations can be relatively simple (often ending in a win-lose outcome) or very complex, depending upon three factors:

  • The number of people involved
  • The number and type of issues at stake
  • The circumstances or context within which the negotiation is taking place.

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3. How do I negotiate?

As a manager, at various times you’ll find yourself performing one or more of ten common negotiating roles:

  • sole
  • lead negotiator
  • joint negotiator
  • advocate
  • observer
  • recorder
  • technical advisor
  • go-between
  • critical friend/mentor/coach
  • mediator/facilitator.

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4. What is my negotiation goal?

You should always aim for a skilful win-win outcome wherever possible. We cannot stress this point too often. It’s worth noting the gaming and military terms and metaphors that are so often used in negotiations. Examples include those referring to games, such as playing cards or chess (playing one’s hand, for example, or stalemate), or to fighting battles (opponents, conflict, strategy, tactics, winning and losing). These terms are beguiling, but they can be misleading, as they can lure us into adopting an adversarial approach, seducing us away from seeking a win-win, mutually-beneficial outcome wherever possible.

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5. What is successful negotiation?

You’ll know that you’ve achieved a successful negotiation when

  • You’ve identified the minimum outcomes that the other party or parties are prepared to accept (their bottom line)
  • You’ve adjusted your initial demands accordingly
  • You’ve obtained all your own desired outcomes or an acceptable level of them (your bottom line), while ensuring that the other parties remain committed to the negotiating relationship.

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6. What negotiation tactics should I use?

There are various tactical issues that arise from seeking a win-win outcome. These include deciding whether to put your cards on the table and determining your BATNA. It is also wise to establish ground rules, especially for ventilating feelings and requesting time out.

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7. What should I do if things go wrong?

Even if you set out to achieve a win-win outcome, things can go wrong in negotiations, so it helps to anticipate the most common sorts of problem you might encounter, and have some provisional ideas to hand about how you might address them should they arise. The steps that you take to deal with these problems are grounded in your negotiation style and strategy, and are often best anticipated in the negotiation and review of your ground rules. This, for example, is where a ground rule concerning time out can prove invaluable. Sometimes, the presence of a designated observer or facilitator is extremely helpful.

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8. When should I stop negotiating?

Obviously, you cease to negotiate once you’ve achieved your desired outcome. However, even if you decide to close the negotiations without an agreement (a win-win or no deal outcome), it’s generally worth

  1. Declaring an impasse
  2. Emphasising the positive aspects of the experience
  3. Holding open the possibility of future talks.

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9. How can I improve my negotiation skills?

To improve your negotiation skills, you should observe the ten commandments of negotiation and undertake further reading, training or experience, as outlined in Want to know more?.

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