Business Negotiation March 02, 2015

Opening the Talks

Experiments indicate that those who enter negotiations with inadequate or questionable backup in defense of their position raise the aspirations or expectations of the other side.   The same happens when one’s body language or vocal tone reveals lack of confidence in the position taken...

Experiments indicate that those who enter negotiations with inadequate or questionable backup in defense of their position raise the aspirations or expectations of the other side.  The same happens when one’s body language or vocal tone reveals lack of confidence in the position taken.  Your opening offer and its presentation affect the entire negotiation process and the final agreement.  Take the time to bring good support and be ready to present it well.

All negotiation involves risk and a measure of courage.  It takes courage to resist the apprehension that goes with trying to negotiate a difference or disagreement.  It takes courage to be patient and persistent in the face of a strong resistance and a firm “No.”

It certainly takes courage to say “No” and, paradoxically, to say “Yes.”  In the case of a “No,” the bird in hand that has been offered may disappear and not be available later.  In the case of “Yes,” you may later learn that a far better deal would have been possible had you waited only a little more.  In both situations, every organization has “Monday Morning Quarterbacks” ready to challenge whatever you do, be it “Yes” or “No.” Not being at the negotiating table in the heat of discussion gives these Monday Morning Quarterbacks the freedom to second-guess or criticize whatever outcome was achieved.

Four hundred years ago, Sir Francis Bacon said, “All negotiation is to work, to discover and to take risk.”  It still is.

Don’t start with your last and final position.  Leave some reasonable room to negotiate in your opening offer but not so much as to impair your relationship with the other side when challenged.  Cover contingencies and changes that may arise.  Be prepared to defend and explain whatever room you have provided for yourself.  Have credible reason and adequate backup for doing so.

In most commercial buy-sell negotiations both parties open with demands and offers that leave room for further talk and compromise.  They usually allow space to make concessions despite expressing strong professions to the contrary early and throughout the talks.  They leave as much room as they can credibly defend if questioned.  They reveal as little as they must in explaining what they ask for or demand.

Workplace negotiators aware of the importance of relationships find it prudent to proceed differently.  While they also leave room to negotiate they are prepared and willing to reveal their reasons for leaving the bargaining space they do.  Everything they do or say during the exchange process is relationship-based.  Deliberate exaggeration or obfuscation has no place in workplace give and take.

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