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On negotiation

Yesterday I did a short session on different negotiating styles. As I was conducting my session, I found that there are a plenty challenges many people face when negotiating. They seemed trivial, but they actually aren’t. Don’t forget: if you personally are bogged down by a challenge, you need to find a solution that works for YOU, and that only YOU can apply. So here are some of yesterday’s challenges, and some tips from my side:

When I negotiate with people, I never know where to start”. Negotiating is like telling a story. It’s like reading a chapter of a book, and then picking up that book the next week, and asking yourself “Where was I again? Where did I leave off?” This is the same with a negotiation: tell the people in the room what has happened before, summarize what you discussed or what messages you have exchanged prior to this meeting. It gets everyone on the same page and then you can ask the other in the room if this matches their view. It’s a great part to start from. 

When we are in the same room, the only thing we need to talk about is price. The rest is already done”. This was a great comment in the session, but I challenged it, which turned into an interesting discussion. Because how can you know that the price is the only factor of interest? How do you know that there are no other potential pitfalls for a project you are about to run? And while price might be one of your main concerns, for some of your counterparts, this might be the last thing on their mind. If you only focus on the price, you blindside yourself to all other things that are going on out there. So keep an open mind, and watch closely what is going on. 

How do I know what my counterpart’s negotiation style is going to be before getting into the meeting with them?” Well: you never know for sure. As with every person’s personality: we all are unique individuals and we all respond to stimuli from outside in our own unique ways. However, there are a few clues you can pick up on before going into the meeting. First of all, when you have had prior email communication, you can pick up on people’s style of writing. Do I get short, pointed sentences and hardly or no greetings from this person, it could point to an assertive negotiator. Do I get a lot of extra messages to create a good mood and tone in the email (i.e. “Great meeting you last week”, “Have a great week”, Enjoy the weekend ahead”, “Say hi to the kids” etc.) it might point to an Accommodating negotiation style. Do I get a lot of details in the email and clear objectives or a clear agenda set, this will probably be an Analytical negotiator. In addition, you can also check your network and ask around for the person you are going to meet. They may have some good insights who you will be meeting. All of these points come with a big fat disclaimer though… they are assumptions. I’ve trained sales representatives for years, and what baffled me (even with myself) is how easily they (and I) would act on my assumptions without checking if they actually held true. So: check your assumptions (and then check again… and again) as not to blindside yourself.

When you are about to go into a negotiation with anyone (your potential client, your spouse, your kid) all these things (well, maybe not price) come into play. The negotiation styles I mentioned above come from the book “Never split the difference” by Chris Voss, which is a huge recommended reading from my end! I’m really curious about your own experiences with negotiations and how you handle these, so please leave your ideas and comments below. I’m happy to share more tips to those who leave some comments behind. Happy negotiating!

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