Negotiating Tips, Negotiation Strategies, Planning for Negotiations July 25, 2008

Negotiating During Economic Turbulence

During times of economic turbulence (LIKE NOW!) most negotiations get tougher. Don't reduce your bargaining power by making mistakes. Now is not the time! Here are eight common negotiating missteps people make. Despite their good intentions "not to do that again," mistakes like these happen over and over. Don't fall into these negotiating traps!

  1. Do not underestimate your negotiating power. Most people tend to have more power than they think. Make a systematic analysis of your power -- understand your strengths. Your negotiating power rests on a foundation of more than just competition or financial matters. Your commitment, knowledge, risk taking, hard work, and your negotiating skill are also real sources of power. Don't assume the other party knows your weaknesses. On the contrary, assume they do not, and test that assumption. You probably have more power than you think.
  2. Don't be intimidated by status. We all become so accustomed to showing deference to titles and positions that we carry these attitudes into the negotiation. Remember that some experts are superficial; some people with PHD's quite learning years ago; some people in authority are incompetent; a specialist may be excellent in their field but without skill in other areas; learned people, despite high positions of power and authority, sometimes lack the courage to pursue their convictions, or sometimes don't even have a strong conviction on the issue being negotiated.
  3. Remember not to be intimidated by statistics, precedents, principles or regulations. This is 2008 and economic times have changed. Some of today's decisions are being made on the basis of premises or principles long dead or irrelevant. Be skeptical. Many premises or principles may not apply today -- or do not apply for your specific situation. When necessary, challenge them!
  4. Do not forget that the other party is negotiating with you because they believe there is something they can gain by being there. You may discover that this negotiation, no matter how small, is part of a larger framework in the other party's objectives. This fact alone may provide you greater negotiating power that is apparent from the situation. Be positive in your approach. Assume the other party wants an agreement as much as you do. If it appears they do not -- find out why.
  5. Don't focus on your own problems or your possible losses if a deadlock occurs. In all likelihood, there are consequences for the other party as severe as your own. Concentrate on their problems and issues. These will reveal opportunities for possible ways to agree.
  6. Most negotiations require some concession making. Don't set your initial demands too close to your final objective. There is sufficient evidence to conclude that it pays to start high. Don't be shy about asking for everything you might want and more. Many times your demands are too modest, or too easy to achieve. The other party may not know what they want, or may have a set of values quite different from your own. Remember never to give a concession without obtaining on in return. Don't give concessions away free -- or at least without a thought provoking discussion with the other party about what they are getting. A concession granted too easily does not contribute to the other party's satisfaction as much as one that they struggle to obtain.
  7. It is a mistake to assume you know what the other party wants. It is far more prudent to assume you do not know, and then proceed to discover the realities of the situation by patient testing and discussion. If you proceed to negotiate a deal on the basis of your own untested estimates, you are making a serious mistake.
  8. Never accept the first offer (even if you like it). Many people do. There are two good reasons not to: First, the other party is probably willing to make some concessions. Second, if you do accept the first offer, there is a distinct chance the other party will feel that their offer was foolish and they should have asked for more. Immediately their satisfaction with the agreement will be reduced, and they may find ways to spoil the agreement later. In either case, the negotiator who takes the first offer too fast makes a mistake.

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