The drama and theatrics one sees during conflict and confrontations easily leads one to believe that negotiation success lies in persuasiveness, eloquence, and clever maneuvering. What good court room drama would be without these critical factors for entertainment? While these elements may be the enjoyable part for some negotiators, and certainly are the entertaining portions for observers, they are not the keys to negotiation success.
This next quote was so important in “Essentials of Negotiation” by Lewicki, Saunders, Barry, and Minton that the authors italicized it. I point this out because I want you to pay attention to this closely, “The foundation for success in negotiation is not in the game playing or the dramatics. The dominant force for success in negotiation is in the planning that takes place prior to the dialogue.” Yes, the tactics used during negotiations are important, and success is also influenced by how you react to the other side and implement your own negotiation strategy. However, the foundation for success is preparation.
There are many ways one can prepare for negotiation, and no one way will be perfect for everyone. By sharing different strategies, I hope you can absorb what is useful for your negotiation style and decide what planning steps are needed for the negotiations you partake in.
In the “Essentials of Negotiation” the authors set forth ten areas to focus on during effective planning for both distributive and integrative negotiations. I want to briefly share and comment on the ten areas for you to consider:
1. Defining the Issues. Analyze the overall situation and define the issues to be discussed. The more detailed, the better.
2. Assembling the Issues and Defining the Bargaining Mix. Assemble the issues that have been defined into a comprehensive list. The combination of lists from each side of the negotiation determines the bargaining mix. Large bargaining mixes allow for many possible components and arrangements for settlement. However, large bargaining mixes can also lengthen negotiations because of the many possible combinations to consider. Therefore, the issues must be prioritized.
3. Defining Your Interests. After you have defined the issues, you should define the underlying interests and needs. Remember, positions are what a negotiator wants. Interests are why you want them. Asking “why” questions will help define interests.
4. Knowing Your Limits and Alternatives. Limits are the point where you stop the negotiation rather than continue. Settlements beyond this point are not acceptable. You need to know your walkaway point. Alternatives are other deals you could achieve and still meet your needs. The better alternatives you have, the more power you have during negotiations.
5. Setting Targets and Openings. The target point is where you realistically expect to achieve a settlement. You can determine your target by asking what outcome you would be comfortable with, or at what point would you be satisfied. The opening bid or asking price usually represents the best deal you can hope to achieve. One must be cautious in inflating opening bids to the point where they become self-defeating because they are too unrealistic.
6. Assessing My Constituents. When negotiating in a professional context, there are most likely many constituents to the negotiation. Things to consider include the direct actors, the opposite actors, indirect actors, interested observers, and environmental factors.
7. Analyzing the Other Party. Meeting with the other side allows you to learn what issues are important to them. Things to consider include their current resources, interests, and needs. In addition, consider their objectives, alternatives, negotiation style, authority, and likely strategy and tactics.
8. What Strategy Do I want to Pursue? Most likely you are always determining your strategy, and have been all along the planning stages. However, remember not to confuse strategy with tactics. Determine if your engagement strategy will be Competition (Distributive Bargaining), Collaboration (Integrative Negotiation), or Accommodative Negotiation.
9. How Will I Present the Issues to the Other Party? You should present your case clearly and provide ample supporting facts and arguments. You will also want to refute the other party’s arguments with your own counterarguments. There are many ways to do this, and during your preparation you should determine how best to present your issues.
10. What Protocol Needs to Be Followed in This Negotiation? The elements of protocol or process that should be considered include the agenda, the location of the negotiation, the time period of negotiation, other parties who may be involved in the negotiation, what might be done if the negotiation fails, and how will the parties keep track of what is agreed to? In most cases, it is best to discuss the procedural issues before the major substantive issues are raised.
There are many different planning templates. Each emphasizes different elements in different sequences. These ten areas represent what the authors of “Essentials of Negotiation” believe to be the most important steps in the planning process. There is more to each of these areas than I had space to describe in this column. However, if you consider each of these ten areas during your planning, you will be well prepared for the challenges you will face during negotiations.