Negotiator ‘Pro’

Negotiator ‘Pro’the preparation before sitting down at the table that counts.

That means the negotiator must take the time to define what he wants and what he is willing to accept and at what point he must walk away. It also means doing enough research to know what the other side wants and how far they are willing to go to get it.

The most important information deals with the other side what drives them, how they measure success and what are their strengths and weaknesses? By that know the kinds of negotiations that one enjoys and is good at and what is going to trip him up and make him anxious.

That also means choosing the right people to do the negotiating in the first place. For example, one off transaction favor competitive types who see the negotiation as a game they must win. If one is naturally more at ease with building consensus and nurturing long term relationships, let someone else take the lead.

The next step is to try and establish some trust. In Northern Ireland an expert tried to set up a process that people felt that they had a chance to make their case. The process set up was fix a system where the negotiating parties had unlimited debate. It sometimes failed as the debate was leading to 15 to 18 hour speeches, but it was important for helping things move forward.

Before one starts haggling, establish what negotiating textbooks lovingly call the ZOPA, or zone of possible agreements. There’s always a large area of overlapping interest. It’s helpful to define that up front so one can refer back to it later, what the petty details threaten to bog one down.

Let us take case of a Star and negotiations with the Star’s agent. The star’s agent presented with along set of demands, ranging from the relevant to the ridiculous to the negotiator ‘N’. The numbers involved were large enough that ‘N’ had to go to his boss who is an excellent negotiator in his own right, for guidance. ‘N’ had carefully thought out a detailed response to each of the many issues, down to the smallest perk. To his surprise his boss didn’t even want to hear most of the counter arguments; instead as ‘N’ went down the list, he kept saying ‘fine’. Rather than engaging in hand to hand combat on every point, he chose to focus on the few that were truly important and contentious.

Finally if one can’t find the ZOPA, have enough discipline to walk away. That advice comes from a guy who has negotiated a few deals and doesn’t like to lose. Sometimes the price just doesn’t make sense to the negotiator or the target company has certain culture that the negotiator feels is not going to fit together. In that case one must got to have the discipline to walk away. Lo and behold, something better would come along in six months or a year which in most cases was a much better deal.