Business Negotiation November 28, 2013

Maintaining the Initiative-Take the High Ground

The best way to maintain the initiative in negotiation is to take the high ground. It is easier to control the flow of the bargaining process if your position is supported by credible facts and logic. While facts and logic will not help in every case, in most situations they allow you to present your position in the best possible light-and add to your confidence in doing so.

What constitutes the “high ground”? High ground is the supporting backup brought to the bargaining table. Supporting concepts or documents serve as a guide to discussing each issue, to strengthening one’s arguments and to persuading the other party. Five types of backup are most effective in reaching high ground. Each of these high ground support areas are designed to give credibility and legitimacy to assertions or to demands and offers. The more guiding support you bring to the table, the more likely the outcome will favor your viewpoint. Today we will discuss the first of these: Guiding Principles.

Guiding principles serve to focus the discussions on the merits of an issue rather than the details. For example, if our position is that 10 percent is a fair profit for the seller, it would be wise to open the negotiation by having both parties agree on the guiding principle that the seller is entitled to a fair profit. This should not be too difficult.

Once agreement is reached by buyer and seller on the “fair profit principle,” the matter to be negotiated next is whether 10 percent, 25 percent or 5 percent is a fair profit and why. Your next task is to find guiding principles that support your strategic objectives. Examples of some principles that can be used to guide negotiation are fair profit, the right to stay in business, the right not to lose money, the right to a fair warranty, the right to get paid in a timely fashion, the right to a usable product or service, the right to a safe product., a fair wage, the right to protection from inflation, protection from changes in currency values, the right to change how we do business if circumstances change radically, the right to equal treatment and the right to conduct our affairs without undue interference.

Negotiation from guiding principles allows the bargaining to proceed on the high ground rather than getting mixed down in details. Agreement on details is made easier when an agreement in principle has been achieved. When talks on details break down later, the opposing negotiators can maintain momentum by returning to the principles previously agreed to.

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