Negotiation isn’t easy. In my view it is often about striking a balance between a ‘science’ and an ‘art’ – the science of keeping focused on the ultimate negotiation agreement (often financial) and the art of working with other people all with different ego states that need to be managed deftly.
When negotiations fail I think it can often be down to five reasons:
- Not enough preparation.
- Not being creative enough.
- Being too focused on ‘winning’.
- Getting bogged down.
- Negotiating solo.
Let’s take a look at all of these in turn.
Not enough preparation can really handicap a negotiation.
In my view 75% of the whole negotiation process, which includes the meeting itself, should be devoted to thorough preparation and planning. This key element involves not just preparing our situation and desired outcome but also that of the other party- their pressures, their concerns, their alternatives, their agenda, their perception of cost and value etc.
Without this level of detailed preparation we are unable to construct a robust negotiation plan. A plan that takes into account the questions we will ask to understand them better, the trades and concessions we will make in order to offer value to them in exchange for receiving something of (at least) similar value in return. Without this we are truly working blind and almost certainly doomed to failure.
The second reason why negotiation fails is linked to the first. A crucial part of our planning is to identify many negotiation ‘packages’ -in other words, linked deals- so that we can remain creative in our negotiation meeting. Negotiation is a fluid thing and the more creative we can be with our packages of concessions and demands, the more we will have at our disposal to use if needed. Not being creative enough at the preparation stage can result in negotiators ‘thinking on their feet’ and making hasty moves which is often costly!
Being too concerned about ‘winning’ can also, ironically, increase our chances of failing. Negotiation isn’t an ego trip about ‘winning’ while the other party ‘loses’, it’s about keeping track of the money and making sure that all our moves are rational and planned rather than irrational and geared to ‘getting one over’ on the other party.
If they are so concerned about ‘winning’ let them! If you keep track of where the money is going you are actually going to be the more successful negotiator.
Another reason why negotiation fails is if it deteriorates into negativity. Getting bogged down in what you can’t do is a real ‘deal killer’. Succesful negotiators always maintain high aspirations and build on what has been agreed rather than what hasn’t been agreed.
They often use phrases such as ‘We are making great progress here and I’m sure we can find ways of mutually agreeing our sticky issues’. They may well use a shared agenda to visually tick off areas that have been agreed and, in doing so, minimising any areas of disagreement. In this way they can often avoid deadlock by building positive momentum towards an agreed negotiated outcome.
As you can probably begin to appreciate there is a lot to consider when attempting to negotiate successfully. That’s why I always advise my clients against working solo, particularly if negotiating with a bigger team on the other side of the table.
Having someone at your side helping out can be a real asset. The proviso here though is that they have a clearly defined role and stick to it! They are not there to get in your way as the negotiator. They might support you by keeping track of the deals being made, or by acting as the person who keeps the climate positive building on areas of agreement or they may simply help by observing the other party and listening intently to how firm or hesitantly they make their proposals. Having another set of eyes and ears solely concentrating on the other party can leave you alone to focus on making firm, value creating proposals and bringing the negotiation to a successful conclusion.
If you feel I can help you and your team negotiate more successfully call me on 01476 516282 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you within 24 hours.
PS: Is your team negotiating money away and missing opportunities to grow your profits? Download your free ‘How Negotiation Ready Is Your Team?’ audit here