пятница, 6 апреля 2012 г.

How to control your negotiation play?

Here's English version of Moti Kristal's article, published on Forbes Russia. The original Russian version you can find here.

How many times you faced a gorgeous sales woman smiling at you, trying to ask you to buy one more thing that you don't need? How many times you were sitting, sweating, in a room with no air condition, knowing that you have to make a decision now? How many times you came to the meeting, and you found not only your counterpart, but also three of his "partners", big guys with no smile? If these situations – or similar in nature - happened to you in one of your past negotiations – you should read the following piece. It meant only one thing – you allowed the other side to control the game, and it should not happen again!


Writing about negotiations, and giving negotiation tips, is like trying to teach you riding your bicycle using a powerpoint presentation. It will not work unless you will try it on your own.

When applying my negotiation tips, one should remember that becoming an expert negotiator is a long process of try and error, during which you develop your negotiation style, and learn! The most skilled negotiators are those who learn lessons and change their behavior and tactics based on the situation they are facing, because this is all what negotiations are about: A scene, a play, a game, an episode which has to be well scripted and performed.

Here are the fundamental ground rules for how to control the negotiation scene:


Never stop gathering information: Any army officer knows that you don't go to a war without proper intelligence. The same with negotiations. You should not go to a meeting before you collected the maximum information possible about the other side. Information you are looking for should be general (who is the man, what is his background, who are his friends, and to whom he is connected, and what are his negotiation patterns/reputation), and specific to these negotiations (what are his interests, what he fails to reach an agreement). In a Google era, there is nothing easier to Google the person you are going to meet, or look who are his facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts, or any other relevant social network. A higher level of information gathering is interviewing or talking with people who have negotiated with him before. You should not underestimate how helpful to your negotiations could be a small piece of information about how your counterpart uses ultimatum. In high level negotiations, we might even consider gathering information through business intelligence companies. Remember: the more you know about the other side – the more control you have over the process.

Clear purpose and agenda: Many negotiators don't set a clear agenda for a meeting. "To close the deal" is the most common answer when asking my clients about what they want to achieve in their next meeting. Is like saying I want power, without articulating the specific ways how to gain it. As a skilled negotiator, you have to set a clear goal for each negotiation meeting: build relations, gather information, anchor a price, indicate that you have a better alternative, divide and conquer the other team. These are not tactical moves; these are goals and objectives you plan prior to the meeting. And once you have decided what your goal in this meeting is, you should plan the agenda. The talking points, the process through which you will achieve your planned goal. A successful negotiator plan the meeting in advance: opening statement, possible reactions of the other side (based on the information you have), tactical moves will be used, and the most important: how do you want to conclude the meeting.
Concluding a meeting: One of the most repeated setbacks in negotiations is the different interpretations participants have to the same meeting. You report to your boss one thing, and your counterpart reports to her boss a completely different thing. This is common. It's not because one of you lied. It's because two people will always see and interpret differently the reality. The solution is to conclude every meeting with a written note. 10 minutes before the conclusion of the meeting, and according to your plan, you should take out a piece of paper and say to your colleague: "with your permission, and because I do want to be accurate in remember what we've discussed (or achieved), I would like to take note". And then, without asking the other side to sign – because we are not interested in signing but rather in making progress – just read the meeting summary to the other side. Remember this: the one who writes the draft/summary – is the one who controls the outcome.

Control the setting: "The setting" is the overall description of the negotiation environment. Where are the negotiation held: office, round table, restaurant? Who are the participants: large negotiation teams, one-on-one, with a translator, or a mediated process with a professional facilitator? How long: less than an hour or a 6 hours meeting? As a skilled negotiator you should never ever allow the other side to control the setting. Research shows how important is the setting to the results, and how impact it has on the psychological performance of the negotiators. Your choice of setting is directly linked to the purpose and goals you set: if you want to build close relations with the other side you should schedule a one-on-one meeting in a private place. If you want to show your alternatives, you should make sure you are disturbed by other potential buyers during the meeting, if you want to think creatively you have to make sure you can write on the walls.. (like in SKOLKOVO..!), and if you want to indicate that you don't have time, bring your lawyer with a draft of an agreement.

In conclusion, negotiation is a show which you need to run. Negotiation is a story which you need to write. Negotiations are dynamic in their nature, and very hard to predict but if you are disciplined (..and Russian negotiators are disciplined!) and you (a) gather information before the meeting; (b) know what are your goals in any meeting and (c) choose the right setting and (d) conclude any meeting with a written note – you will gain significant control over the negotiation process which will guarantee you success in what you want to achieve.

In our next column, we will discuss how to deal with tough negotiators!

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