How well do you understand the other party?

Preparation is crucial when entering a business negotiation. An important part of your negotiation preparation is research, including finding out all you can about the party or parties who will be across the table from you.

Background and general information

How much do you know about the company that you will be dealing with? Find out what you can about their market share and penetration, years in business, stock pricing, corporate structure, corporate leadership, etc.

Personal preferences

Do you know what the other party’s negotiating team likes or dislikes? This is harder, but if you don’t want to offend, you may want to learn more about what the other party’s preferences. You can talk to others who have negotiated with this particular team before and ask for advice.


Do you understand the other party’s culture? If you are conducting business with parties from other cultures/countries, it is especially important to understand cultural norms. For instance, if you are doing business in China, relationships are important and aggressiveness is frowned on. CPO Agenda provides various tips for doing business in China. Specifically for negotiations,  CPO Agenda advises:

For Chinese businesspeople, the primary aim is “concessions”. You must be willing to show compromise and ensure their negotiators feel they have gained major concessions….

Above all, be patient and never show anger or frustration. Practise your best ‘poker face’ before negotiations. Once they see you are uncomfortable they will exploit the weakness. And decisions will take a long time.

If you are interested in reading how cultural norms affect diplomatic and political negotiations, read this article in the Hudson Institute blog regarding negotiations in the Middle East. Among various insights is this:

“Our adversaries — Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah — see “negotiations” and our desire for dialogue as opportunities to “best others, to demonstrate power,” and to make certain that we know who is in control. Under such circumstances, goodwill and confidence-building measures by the West are interpreted as a lack of strength or resolve.

What do you want to know about the other party before you negotiate?

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