Previously on this blog tips have been presented on how to negotiate closure, how to close a deal in a negotiation, and closing the deal – what is the impact on the next one. Reflecting on these blogs and considering that we can remember three things well, this blog priorities the three best tips to negotiate closure. In the end isn’t that what we want whether it be a sales deal, a business negotiation or an end to a conflict? My experience is, that is what the decision maker wants. In corporate America the VP’s may be only oriented towards their area of influence, but the C-Suite people want closure. That’s what business owners want too. So, what are these three best tips?
- Negotiate the process including benchmarks and deadlines
- Come up for air
- When needed bring in fresh faces
Negotiate the process including benchmarks and deadlines
Many enter into negotiations with somewhat of a plan, an idea of what they want and some idea of where the other party stands. That may work in many cases. For the really hard negotiations planning is key. Run through your basic questions of who, what, when, where, why and how. Then before the negotiation begins negotiate the process with the other party.
Think who you want there and why them. Who needs to be there for the other side? Why? Less is more. You need decision makers there to make a decision. Include those that are able to contribute to the cause. Work with the other party to make sure they do the same. A poison pill can kill the entire process. Don’t bring someone that will kill the process.
What are you negotiating? You may think you are negotiating price for example, However, what about quality, timing, other customer’s perceptions, employee perceptions, other vendors perspectives, the public’s perspective, future contracts, long term implications with others, etc. There are many things to consider. Brainstorm them before proceeding and consider the implications of exactly what you are negotiating.
How important is when to you and to them? What are the implications of deadlines? Do you or they need interim milestones to be completed? Should these be negotiated up front? What if they aren’t met? What are the implications to each party? What about personal events or other constraints to your or their schedule? Give serious considerations as to when you have the negotiations and to interim deadlines or milestones.
Location can matter psychologically and in terms of cost and travel time. Should the negotiation take place at your place, their place, at an attorney’s office, or at a neutral location. Today many negotiations are taking place virtually. This may tie back into the when question too. What are the implications of time zones to the various parties? Keep in mind that the attitude in communication is 8% by the words, 37% by the tone and 55% by the facial and body language. A negotiation by phone versus with a camera can have a significant drawback in terms of the attitude perceived by participants.
Why is this a difficult negotiation? Is it the dollar amount? Is it the particular client? Is it the underlying issues and interests of the parties involved? Stop and step back from the negotiation. Is it about trust and the fact that trust has been lost? Whatever it is, bring up the 600-pound gorilla in the room and address that up front during the planning process and how you will address this in the negotiation.
How will the negotiation proceed? Who goes first? What will be stated to set the tone? Who else will speak? Who will throw out the first anchor by offering an alternative to try and settle the dispute? Do you have your position, your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA), and do you have three computations so that you can present alternatives between your position and BATNA? How about their BATNA? Have you thought about their starting position, their BATNA and what they may propose between their BATNA and their starting position? How will you react?
Now that you have thought about the process, what about ways to break to the tension and possible stale mates?
Come up for air
Make plans so that the right food and drink are provided. Dr. Erika Garms in her book The Brain Friendly Workplace and at her web page offers ideas on what foods and beverages are best for negotiations. Make sure you leave enough time for setting the stage with small talk, time for breaks, and meals. The last link from the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiations points out how truly valuable small talk is to a negotiation.
Leave time to step back. Take a break during the actual negotiation and consider taking a longer several days or weeks break for really complex and intense negotiations. In today’s environment with COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd, and other stressors, don’t under estimate the need to take a break and come up for air.
When needed bring in fresh faces
Sometimes bringing in a fresh face can make all the difference in a tough negotiation. We all look for a food, water, sex and shelter. Bringing in a good-looking person can help. The sex does not matter.
Consider bringing in a neutral third party that both sides respect. An unbiased third party can make all the difference. That person may be able to help each of the parties see things from a more neutral perspective. A fresh look from a fresh face may uncover other underlying interest not previously discussed. In some cases, consider bringing on board a trained and qualified mediator.
The mediator needs to have some expertise relative to the topic of the negotiation. If you need an evaluative mediator consider a retired judge or a jurist that can provide insight of what may happen should the case proceed to court. In the case of a family matter such as a divorce consider a transformative mediator knowledgeable in family matters. A transformative mediator will help the parties potentially transform their relationship in order to resolve the matter. In the case of a negotiation on a particular topic a facilitative mediator can help the parties focus on the specific issue. In any instance, the mediator should have specific training and experience in order to address your needs.
The take away from this commentary is that the three best tips to negotiate closure are;
- Negotiate the process including bench marks and deadlines
- Come up for air
- When needed bring in fresh faces
Consider these before your next tough negotiation.