Negotiation involves various attempts to reach agreement between different parties. If you make a proposal and the other party says yes, your negotiation is effectively concluded. But as all of us know, this is rarely the case in our business or personal lives. So, we should examine some of the skills and techniques that are required to get to “yes.” Let’s admit that it is most exacerbating when we have done everything we could, but are still unable to reach an agreement.
Negotiation or “haggling” is a necessary skill set for your professional and personal life. I am sure that you have heard the expression, “You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate.” The art and science of negotiation is an established discipline, but let’s examine five (5) considerations.
Here is my list:
- Time – Negotiations often drag on and on until the “eleventh” hour, when suddenly everyone seems to have developed a desire to make a deal. This lends some credibility to the maxim that, “negotiations expand to fill the time available.” We have also heard the expression that many lawsuits are settled “on the courthouse steps.” In my role as an HR Director, I have reached a number of agreements with labor unions at the “eleventh hour.”So, the lesson here is to understand that time and timing are relevant factors in any negotiation. This is a strategy that can be used by both sides. However, if possible, the parties should agree on a deadline, preferably early in the negotiations.
- Nibbling – There are many gambits or tricks that are commonly used in negotiations. These “nibbles” usually come at the end of a negotiation after the major agreement has been reached. For example, you have made an offer on a new car and the salesperson has to get it approved by the manager. This is always bad news for the buyer because the manager always wants a higher price but is willing to “throw in” free oil changes for one year. Be ready for this by preparing a list of your own nibbles, such as: deluxe floor mats, free oil changes for 3 or more years, free undercoating, free gas, a free brake job after 30,000 miles, upgraded wheels, etc. Finally, never make any unreciprocated concessions.
- Get it in writing – Most professionally negotiated agreements require a written contract. Some everyday examples include: office leases, vehicle leases, software development agreements, copier service and maintenance, document destruction, gardening and landscaping, health and welfare agreements, etc. Often, these agreements are negotiated by senior leadership with the assistance of the legal department or outside counsel. On the other hand, many agreements among colleagues are reached in the corridors on a verbal basis. Watch out for some of these. Without offending your colleagues, it is fair to follow-up with a note or email that states the understanding that you have reached and a confirmation request to confirm that understanding.
- Obstacles – In major negotiations, progress can be made on many issues, but there are always one or two that “gum up the works.” Often, the problem is that one side does not trust the other to make a last, best and final offer. This may be the time to employ an unbiased third-party for help. This could be a mediator. The negotiators can then disclose their respective bottom lines privately to the neutral party, who will help them agree to some parameters, in which an agreement is possible. In major negotiations, it is not uncommon to bring in a different negotiating team.
- Pride – Everyone wants to emerge from a negotiation as a winner, and not merely “saving face.” The phrase “win-win” has now become a “buzzword.” Large scale negotiations are brutal and egos and feelings are likely to get bruised. But, at the end each side wants to be able to tell their constituents that they negotiated hard and obtained the best possible agreement for them. So, after ratification of almost every negotiation, there may be some “stage management.” One party may need to tell their constituents that they got the other party to “accept our proposal,” rather than, “here’s what we finally accepted.”
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