SummaryPart 2 of provides additional advice on how to develop a successful negotiation strategy and create a better proposal while negotiating a solid business agreement.
by Steven Roberts
This is a continuation from Pre-Negotiation Strategy Check List Part 1. These are the remainder of factors that corporate negotiators need to take into account preparing their negotiating strategy.
9. Your Place or Mine?
In much the same way as sports teams enjoy a ‘home advantage‘, negotiators playing away from home need to adjust their game plan and corporate negotiation strategies. There are 3 possibilities to consider when deciding where the talks will occur. We can either hold the talks in their offices, our offices, or at a neutral domain. We might choose the latter so no one has the psychological and resource advantage, of holding the negotiations on their premises. Sometimes, deciding upon where the negotiations take place, can open up a whole new can of worms, especially in the case of international disputes for example.
10. Will we be under the Public Microscope?
Negotiations are often private affairs with little fanfare, until an agreement is signed. There are also agreements that are advertised afterwards, to maximise the mutual benefit both sides obtain. On other occasions, negotiations may be held in strict secrecy.
Then, there are the highly publicised occasions when the press becomes actively involved. It could be that one of the negotiating parties uses the powers of the press, to lever an advantage to sway and manipulate the outcome. We need only scan the daily newspapers, to understand the importance of how public involvement, can influence and add intense pressure to some negotiations. The press can be utilised as a public forum to embarrass our opponents into action, or to deflect their corporate strategy. Press releases and information leaked to the press are often to use as an effective strategy in the negotiation process.
11. Will We Need a Third Party?
Third parties have many different functions and roles to play in developing a corporate negotiation strategy. They may act as agents, intermediaries, translators, consultants, or other specialists who have an expertise, that one or both parties require. There are occasions when a neutral third party will act as a facilitator or chairperson, to manage the negotiations such as in multi-party negotiations, inter organisational negotiations, or even international negotiations.
Then, there are the other occasions when we hit a roadblock, or impasse in our negotiation. During these times we may use a neutral third party to act as a mediator or an arbitrator, to either facilitate an agreement or to impose an agreement, such as in a labour dispute for example.
12. Who is Going to Blink First?
There are situations when we have to decide how a proposal or offer is to be presented, or in deciding who is going to go first. Will we make an informal proposal before we start the negotiations, or wait until we meet face to face? Will we be prepared to make an offer after listening to their proposal, or do we need more information? Will we respond right away, or refer the matter to our constituencies? Will it be to our advantage to be first in making an offer or proposal, to set an anchor around which the talks revolve? Or will it be better to hold our cards tight to our chest and let the other side go first? Of course, this will all relate to the issues, positions, goals and objectives that will determine our approach. These are very serious questions that we need to intelligently address, before we begin our talks.
13. Who Are the Decision Makers?
Before we enter into the negotiations, we must establish who is going to make the decisions. What is our authority and who do we report to in our organisation? Similarly, what are the authority levels of our counterparts? Finally, can we make an agreement in principle, or an unofficial agreement that will likely stand the test of scrutiny?
14. How Far Will We Push It?
Negotiations can be a one shot occurrence where one party comes right out and says ‘This is a one time offer – take it or leave it.’ There are some instances where haggling is not considered acceptable, and will not be tolerated by the other party. Other situations will drag out into the equivalent of a marathon ping-pong match, as each party bounces offers and counter-offers back and forth. We need to know who we are dealing with, before we get too cute and find ourselves cut out of the opportunity altogether. It also depends on the offer and proposal, in relation to the circumstances such as time considerations, need, and many other factors.
15. Are We Strong or Weak?
Negotiation skills aside, two or more parties who are about to engage in a negotiation seldom operate from an equal power base. If one party has something that we desperately need, for our company’s survival and we have no alternatives, then we may find ourselves negotiating at a disadvantage – no matter how how dominant our market position. This all relates to our BATNA and how we stack up against our potential counterpart. Size is not necessarily relevant, as we’ve all heard the old biblical account of ‘David versus Goliath‘, and how that conflict turned out.
Weakness can be countered by strengthening our BATNA, or even by finding allies to support our position and add to our strength. We should consider seeking routes to diminish the power base of our counterparty where possible, before and during our negotiations.
Corporate negotiation strategies need to be developed by considering a whole host of factors, that might have a powerful impact on our success. It is also wise to remember that our strategy has to be flexible and will need to be adjusted as the game plays itself out. We cannot know everything before we go into our first meeting, so we need to prepare to adjust our strategy and tactics, as the situations warps and changes shape. Flexibility is vital, but good preparation is essential.
Matthew Bradshaw, CPSM, CPSD, C.P.M. is the Director of Programs for ISM-Houston, Inc.