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How Negotiators Shoot Themselves in the Foot- Part II

February 5, 2011

In the previous post, I identified eight issues that cause negotiators to come away from the table with an outcome that is less than their initial expectation. In this post, we continue this list of reasons why things go wrong:

 9. Working in an unstructured manner without an agenda – This negotiator does not make notes on the flip chart or summaries of what has been agreed upon.  Rather, she leaps back and forth between individual terms and provisions. The negotiation becomes a hodgepodge where no one can see the big picture or look at the consequences of any aspect of the bargain. The opponent becomes unsure of the negotiator’s intentions. To avoid this, the negotiator should prepare an agenda in advance and share it with her counterpart.

 10. Failing to assign roles within your own delegation – This delegation is undisciplined presents an incoherent message due to the absence of a designated leader. They function poorly and reprimand one another in front of the opponent. These delegates will sometimes negotiate within the delegation attempting to take control of decisions where they have some technical knowledge. If roles were assigned to the members a better result could be achieved which advanced the overall interests of the company.

 11. Being afraid to bargain– Delegates who are afraid to bargain are seeking to avoid conflict. For this reason, they are afraid to make an offer or counteroffers, and as a result, the negotiation gets stuck. During the bargaining phase of the negotiation, they express contradictory perceptions of what a reasonable offer should look like. The attitude that bargaining is something nasty must be rethought. The session must be organized in such a way that bargaining can begin early in the process.

 12. Failing to formulate a strategy in advance– These negotiations are unstructured and characterized more by verbal combat than creative problem solving. Instead of approaching an agreement methodically, step-by-step, these negotiators improvise. It is not clear to them when it is time to stop arguing and move on to map out possible solutions. They have not considered the advantages and disadvantages of being the first to make an offer and instead wait for the opponent to take the initiative. They are not sure whether they should make one overall offer which covers all parts of the agreement or whether they should take care of the problems one at a time.

 13. Losing track of the math– No one in the delegation has been assigned to keep track of financial implications of the offers and counteroffers. No one is monitoring how the overall budget will be affected when possible solutions are being bantered back and forth.  These negotiators do not know where they stand in relation to their own pain threshold or their negotiation goal. They enter into an agreement without knowing if they have achieved a good result or whether they have landed outside their budget. If someone has been assigned the responsibility of tracking the math as the bargain is being crafted the parties will be able to understand the impact of the bargain instantly.

 14. Making insultingly low offers– Insultingly low offers are the result of poor analysis of what the opponent thinks a reasonable offer should look like or just plain stinginess. Negotiators who make these offers have overestimated their power position. Their strategy is to start out tough and later back down from the unrealistic offer. Most people who have been presented with an insultingly low offer feel offended and break off further negotiations. Others remain at the table with their guard up. This makes the negotiation go off the rails and the added value is never explored.

 15. Not being a good listener– The concept of listening is far more than passively receiving the opponent’s words. Delegates need to realize that often they do not know the answer and that new information may help them uncover the hidden added value in the transaction. These delegates fail to find new openings and new information that will expose the non-visible added value because they refuse to listen. Insecurity causes these negotiators to stubbornly stick to their original plan no matter what happens at the table. They are afraid of listening because it seems too risky.

For many negotiators who fail, it is a question of learning to think differently when they are preparing and analyzing the negotiation. In order to think differently negotiators should:

  • dare to be active during the negotiations
  • use significantly more energy on mapping the negotiation possibilities
  • bargain instead of arguing
  • improve their communicative competence
  • increase your understanding of negotiation by reading books and attending training
  • develop negotiation skills through the experience of real negotiations

 Inevitably, all negotiators stumble upon roadblocks from time to time. However, having the ability to recognize the behaviors that lead to unsuccessful negotiations will help you make better judgment calls.

 This post is excerpted from Keld Jensen’s upcoming book Power Bargaining: Adding Value to Commercial Negotiations to be published mid 2011.

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