Top Tips for a Successful Negotiation

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Tami Schlossberg is the International Strategic Planner at Saatchi & Saatchi as well as the head of Israel Partnerships for VivaTechnology. Tami recently attended a negotiation workshop with fellow ROI Community members. She summarizes her takeaways here.

Ten ROIers walk into the Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv and are asked to decide amongst themselves which one of seven patients will receive the only heart available for a transplant. So begins our day of immersive negotiation training.

Additional scenarios included dividing an abstract pie between three groups and finally negotiating the best deal possible for purchasing/selling a private jet. Through these exercises, we learned a lot about how to negotiate.

For instance, the negotiation process can be divided into three stages, each containing different elements on which to focus.  

Setting the table is the first stage.

Start the negotiation by assessing and shaping the zone of possible agreement—the space between your minimum for agreeing to a deal and the other party’s minimum. Next, figure out what it would take for you to consider the deal a success, as well as a viable backup plan in case it becomes impossible to reach an agreement. Being prepared before you begin negotiating can be the difference between a successful deal and walking away disappointed.

Managing the process is the second stage.

This involves setting the tone for the meeting, including laying down ground rules, expectations for behavior and the time allotted for negotiations. It is important to think about time before beginning discussion, as debates can drag on without the pressure of a clock.

The way you manage the negotiation from the start makes a large difference in the result. If you notice that someone else has positions similar to your own, establish a coalition to strengthen both of your positions. If you run in to resistance, focus on asking probing questions. Try to understand why the other party wants something, not only what they want. Remember that good listeners make better negotiators, because truly understanding the other side’s position and interests allows you to negotiate more effectively.

Closing the deal is the last stage.

Do not be afraid to commit if you are sure, but avoid deceiving people by acting like you will seal the deal if that is not the case. If you want to explore other options you can always use flex commitments by expressing your satisfaction with the negotiated agreement without finalizing it just yet.  If you are in an advantageous position and the deadline is coming up, use that to your advantage. Alternatively, use a deadline as a crucial bargaining chip if you are not where you wish you were.

While you move through the three stages of negotiations, keep in mind that there are multiple negotiating styles and an awareness of both your own negotiating style and those of others can make you a more effective dealmaker.

One type of negotiator is the “first mover.” They like to jump in and immediately set the stage, giving them an early advantage. Another category is the “fast follower.” This type of negotiator can either strengthen the status quo early on, or quickly challenge it. Finally, the “summarizer” can be a handy ally, possessing the skill to manage the process efficiently. Knowing your own negotiating style will help you figure out which stages of the negotiation you can leverage most effectively.

While a smooth negotiation is always preferable, conflict is sometimes unavoidable. Understanding how you react to conflict can make you a more effective negotiator. There are five ways to react to conflict:

  1. Avoider: tries to avoid conflict and negotiation at all costs. They are often beneficial at initial stages because this type is non-threatening and can gather information from the other party.
  2. Accommodator: does not mind conflict but always makes sure the other party is satisfied with the deal, even at the expense of their own share. Be aware if this is your style; you do not want to harm your party.
  3. Competitor: needs to win at every cost. This is usually positive but can come off as arrogant and threatening. Can also harm long-term relationships.
  4. Collaborator: aims to find a win-win solution with out-of-the-box and creative solutions for all parties.
  5. Compromiser: finds a middle ground, but usually not in a creative way that increases the pie for all.

Understanding the difference between an avoider and accommodator can be the difference between a successful negotiation and a failure. As with handling conflict, all aspects of negotiation require careful thought and nuanced, calculated action.

End note:

For those diving into the art of negotiations, you can learn more about the Harvard method of Principled Negotiation in the book Getting to Yes. You may also find these definitions useful:

  • Reservation Point: Your Minimum for agreeing to a deal
  • Target Point: Your highest aim for a deal
  • ZOPA: Zone of possible agreement: The space between your Reservation Point and the other party’s RP
  • BATNA: Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement (Your option B in case the deal doesn’t happen) – it’s always best to have a strong BATNA to use as leverage and to weaken your opponent’s BATNA if possible. Great Negotiators will always try and influence your BATNA.
  • AL: Ally
  • AD: Adversary
  • RC: Recruitable ( someone you can influence to join your side and support your position)

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