Negotiation is dynamic. In the 1980s the most common comparison to negotiation was going into battle. It was “them or us”. You needed to come out the victor above all else. As popular as this was in business during the 80s, a “them or us” approach negatively shapes the way all parties feel, communicate and engage with each other. It only takes one person to be seen as being out for themselves to completely destroy the outcomes and, in many cases, the relationship in a negotiation.
The prominent 90s and early 00s negotiation style was collaborative negotiation. We like to think of negotiations as win-win, where both parties walk away with the belief that they have gotten a great deal. Hopefully the end is mutually agreed with no one feeling negotiator’s remorse.
Today negotiation has evolved again. This time with a greater understanding of the science behind decision making and the changes in buyer personas. Negotiation today is not about strength but rather psychology.
I’ve read close to 20 books on negotiation with five of my favourites being
· Getting More
· Getting to Yes
· Everyday Negotiation
· Never Split the Difference
All are fantastic books to get a grounded perspective on how negotiation and persuasive communication work together.
Despite the enormity of information out there a number of professionals both client and supplier side leave negotiations not being totally satisfied with their negotiation outcomes.
Why is this?
Research has shown despite the knowledge we now can obtain about the people we negotiate with, we’ve still not fully developed what is arguably the single biggest contributor to any successful negotiation…
Seeing the perspective of the other person.
Yep that’s it. It sounds simple but there is a lot to the process of really doing this well. You can have BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement), prepare your tradeables, bring the right people to the negotiation and have the right people in the room. But if you don’t have a clear perspective of the other person you will lose the ability to understand their decision making process. You will miss the opportunity to see what the best WIN would actually look like. I learn't that the hard way early in my career :(
First a surprising case study!
Columbia Business School conducted research lead by Adam Grazinsky on what helps people close a deal. They got together 154 undergraduates and placed them into three groups to negotiate the fictional sale of a gas station with participating business professionals.
· Group one were told just to negotiate the sale (the control group)
· Group two were told to consider how the other party was feeling (the empathy group)
· Group three were told to consider how the other party was thinking (the perspective group)
The control group came to a deal 39% of the time, the empathy group came to a deal 54% of the time and the perspective group came to a deal 76% of the time. A difference by more the 20%. That’s huge.
What does this tell us? You should empathize with others and have a clear view of what you want to get from the negotiation. Both are still important to engaging with those you are communicating with.
Getting into the perspective and mind of the other person will transform your results.
Here are five critical perspectives you to need to have when negotiating in any situation
Why do they want to make this deal?
Sounds obvious, but it isn’t. Sometimes the reasons a customer wants to make a deal is not always what you’d expect? Think through the conversations you’ve had. Why are they speaking now? What are they running towards or from? The quality of the questions you ask (before you get to the negotiation) matter most. Recently I asked this,
“I really want to make sure we eliminate any misunderstandings in what’s most important to your company before working together. Could you please share with me what the most important reasons are for you and your team in making an agreement now?”
Ask a similar question. Then listen. You’ll be surprised what they share.
How does the person(s) you’re negotiating with benefit from the success of this negotiation?
If they’re round the table with you (and not someone else) it’s for a reason. Perhaps they’ll be the core owners of the project, product or service you’ll deliver and getting the best possible result means they’ll be regarded highly by their boss.
How do you uncover this? Pay attention to the positives they mention in looking towards the solution. Ask, “what would success in the negotiation look like for you?” or “who else would benefit from our agreement today that we may need to be aware of?”
This allows you to see perspectives from two places, theirs and their colleagues, who might be influential to them.
What is the risk to them in the negotiation?
Manage their reputation throughout the process. One of the biggest unseen saboteurs to productive negotiation is the threat to status and reputation. Make the negotiation incremental and upfront. Ensure your customer of your intent and approach to communicating.
Mention you realise no negotiation is made in a bubble but includes many perspectives, challenges and conversations. Find a way to honour that before understanding their goals and presenting yours.
What is their experience of negotiating with others like me/us?
We often miss that we all carry our experiences, positive and negative, into the relationships we have. That only amplifies in negotiations, where the experience can sometimes feel confrontational when we disagree.
“He who learns to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.” - Unknown
Ask questions such as “what was your worst experience of negotiating with a potential partner or current supplier?” or “what were your most positive experiences?”
Understanding this will help set the tone for what you want for them. You can create an environment for honesty and challenge to happen.
What is the one outcome they want most from this negotiation?
Amongst everything what is the one thing they want most above all you’re discussing? We can miss this because we become tied to the ten things we want covered before understanding what’s most important to our clients.
Ask “what is the one most important outcome you want from our conversation today?”
Then listen. This particular question enables you to come back to the one thing most important to your customer if the conversation goes off track.
Once you answer all five questions you’ll have a richer view of the core perspectives that might dominate the behaviour and response to your negotiation. You can then better align your message, reduce risk, raise trust and increase your ability to influence and find the best mutual outcome for you and your customers.
You’ll notice each principle begins with you first: asking questions and listening a whole lot. This is for a reason. If you’ve prepared well you will get a clearer picture of what your customer wants.
Discussions and negotiations aren’t about war or winning the conversation. It’s about finding a way to get results that meet the goals of everyone. Importantly, it’s also about understanding them better through listening. And that’s what builds relationships that last.
Get in touch @ www.jermaineedwards.com/get-in-touch/