Tag Archives: negotiation advice

Don’t Be Afraid To Kick A Colleague When Negotiating

In a major negotiation, procurement needs to deal not only with the supplier representative on the other side of the table, but with the internal stakeholder sitting next to you. If that person deviates from the script – as they so often do – then don’t be afraid to kick them in the shins. It’s your job!  

Procurious was invited to attend a Negotiation Roundtable organised by CABL (Conti Advanced Business Learning) and facilitated by its Founder, Giuseppe Conti.

Conti introduced the subject by pointing out that in many negotiations, it isn’t enough to negotiate with the suppliers. Usually, there’s a minefield of internal negotiation to get through first.

Don’t enter the maze without a map

Håkan Rubin refers to his company (IKEA) as a “matrix organisation”, and therefore sees stakeholder mapping and management as crucial before any sourcing activity. In his role as Supply Chain Operations Leader (Group Sustainability Innovations), Rubin says that identifying who the key players are internally isn’t always that obvious. “We try to get everyone on board, to make sure that resources are available and that everyone feels they are involved.”

Paul André, Emerging Products & Commercial Supply Director at JTI, built upon Rubin’s point: “I find that even though you’ve carried out your stakeholder mapping and have a joint meeting with key people involved, a lot of discussion happens outside of that meeting. What happens between the meetings is often more important, where people agree on things in one-to-one discussions.”

Overcoming resistance

Kemira’s Senior VP of Global Sourcing, Thierry Blomet, examined some of the typical resistance that procurement faces from internal stakeholders. “They have restrictive time constraints, heavy specifications, and often want to select suppliers based on past history and how comfortable they are with using them. It’s often challenging for procurement to convince stakeholders that there’s a better option against so much resistance, especially in a conservative industry not willing to take on the adventure of new technology or new suppliers.”

Xinjian Carlier (Strategic Sourcing Commodity Manager -Honeywell) shared an example of how she overcame resistance to a request for extra resources to deal with a major issue with significant financial impacts. “The reaction was ‘we don’t have time – I can’t give you the resource.’ I explained that the reason I came to them was that the company including both procurement and engineering would suffer an impact of hundreds of million in sales. Basically, I converted the issue into facts and put both of us in the same boat. This helped the senior leader in engineering understand, and reprioritise his resources.”

Resolving conflicting objectives

Laurence Pérot, Head of Global Supply Chain & Procurement at Logitech, comments that particularly in larger organisations, it’s procurement’s responsibility (and challenge) to juggle differing objectives and agendas from varied teams. “When you’re dealing with different functions, it sometimes isn’t clear what the company actually wants out of the negotiation. It means we [procurement] are unsure what we’re going to ask for. I had an experience where we had to make the decision on our own about the objectives on behalf of the rest of the community, because we couldn’t get alignment between the functions.”

Procter and Gamble’s Global Capability Purchasing Leader, Tamara Taubert, adds that procurement owns the discipline to be able to turn around complex, multiparty negotiation effectively. “To do that, our stakeholders need to get educated on what a negotiation is, the do’s and don’ts, and their role in the negotiation itself. The procurement representative might be the only person sitting at the table across from the supplier, but there are others involved in the negotiation, whether they like it or not. Procurement can lead by connecting all parties together and help them come to a value agreement.”

Staying in control

Blomet has found that engineers are generally happy to be guided by procurement as they’re often less experienced in negotiations and sourcing events. But when senior business stakeholders step in, it’s often more challenging for procurement to keep control of the process. “Business stakeholders are more likely to say that they know how the negotiation should be handled. Procurement may be tempted to back off at this point, but my advice is don’t back off. It’s even more important to help set the scene, do the roleplay, and keep them under control both during the preparation phase and during the meeting itself. And yes, this means it might be necessary to kick someone under the table if they deviate from the script.”

Alessandra Silvano, Global Category Director Capex and MRO at Carlsberg Group, says this has happened to her. “I had to ask someone who was not keeping to the script to leave the room. This person was becoming emotional and I could see we would be left in a bad position. I called a time-out, we took a break, left the room, and the supplier stayed behind. Eventually, we went back into the meeting and said we’d like to continue in a smaller group – leaving out the person who was not playing according to the script.”

Francesco Lucchetta, Director of Strategic Supply at Pentair, noted that although emotion can cause people to leave the script, it’s part of the negotiator’s toolset. “There’s a difference between playing with emotions and keeping negotiations under control. In a supplier negotiation, you’re the customer, so you can be much more emotional than they are. In an internal negotiation, you’re more likely to change a stakeholder’s mind by pointing out the emotional/risk side of the issue, rather than presenting facts around savings.”

Interested in attending a CABL Negotiation workshop? Visit http://www.cabl.ch/ to find out more. The founder, Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience with leading multinationals and over 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

9 Tips For Negotiating A Pay Increase

The end of the financial year is approaching, which means many companies are preparing for performance reviews. Is this a good time to ask for a pay rise? 

If you’ve been thinking about asking management for a pay rise, you’re probably not alone. The end of the financial year provides the ideal forum to talk about your achievements and can also be an opportune time to raise the issue of a pay rise. However, your performance is only one of the considerations influencing a pay rise. The economy, your employer’s financial performance and what your department has contributed to the organisation’s bottom line will also all play a part in the decision-making.

According to a survey by Salary.com, more companies are planning for larger salary budgets in 2017 than smaller ones. In fact, more than twice as many survey respondents on average are planning to offer larger increases in 2017 than 2016. So you could be in with a shot.

However, bringing up the topic isn’t something most people are comfortable with. To help you prepare, consider these things.

  1. Verbalise your worth

Some people assume their manager is already aware of their achievements, so they shouldn’t really need to ask for a pay rise. But this isn’t necessarily the case.

Your boss will be looking to award a pay increase to staff who can demonstrate that they have gone above and beyond. So, in your meeting, give clear examples to demonstrate how you’ve delivered beyond what is expected of you. Structure this just like a CV and focus on actual outputs and achievements, rather than general statements about how hard you work.

This could include times when you’ve taken initiative or financially or tangibly contributed to the business. Be sure to also give details about any additional tasks or responsibilities you’ve taken on. Having a written pitch supporting your assertion for a pay rise could also help the negotiation.

  1. Demonstrate your value

Take the time to research what similar roles to yours pay in other companies, which can help you set realistic expectations of yourself and your employer. Take some time to look through online jobs platforms, the newspaper and perhaps even recruitment companies in your field might have some related pay information they could share.

Generally, if you’re asking for a higher salary, you’re not in a position of power. In face-to-face negotiations, research finds that the more powerful person will usually win out. So, if you’re negotiating with your boss, you might like to at least start the negotiations over email or phone before sitting down and discussing it together. 

  1. Don’t give an ultimatum

You might have kicked some goals for your company and feel confident about your place in the food chain, but giving them an ultimatum might get you want in the short term, but it could also damage your relationship or career in the long term. A good negotiation tool can be to find out your replacement cost to the company, particularly if you’re working on projects with tangible deliverables, and mention this during the meeting.

  1. Watch your body language

Pay attention to what your body language says during the meeting. Stay relaxed, speak slowly and have open body language during the meeting (no crossed arms). Avoid getting defensive and be confident and convincing by coming to the meeting prepared.

  1. Be a learner

Demonstrating your ability to learn will demonstrate dedication. Whether you attend courses to improve your skills a few times a year or develop a lifelong habit of daily learning or micro-learning (such as reading about a new topic related to your job description on the commute to work or in your lunch break), this is something that management will look upon favourably.

  1. Don’t name your price

Don’t be the first person to say how much you’re expecting in a pay rise. For all you know, your boss could be thinking of a figure far higher than you’re predicting, so let them speak first. If your efforts to ask them to name a number isn’t working, give a narrow range that you’d be happy with. 

  1. Be realistic about timeframes

Don’t raise the possibility of a pay rise and expect it to be introduced the following week. While your company should have money in the budget to financially reward key staff, it’s rare that a pay rise will be approved and implemented immediately.

  1. Make sure you listen

Choosing the right phrases and making sure you say enough but not too much is paramount. Making sure you’re not suggesting that you’re underpaid and that there’s no aggression in your meeting is vital. Once you’ve presented your thoughts, make sure you let your manager respond, and listen with an open mind. If your manager decides not to increase your salary, ask for feedback and for ways you can improve your performance over the next year. 

  1. Discuss more than just pay 

If you’ve been turned for financial remuneration for your hard work, consider alternatives to an increase, such as asking for more workplace flexibility or additional training. Have this idea ready so that if your initial request is rejected, you can ask for an alternative.

Adapt and Thrive – Success in Cross-Cultural Negotiations

Adapt and survive is often a key strategy in business. It turns out that it’s just as important in cross-cultural negotiations too.

Adapt and Survive

In our previous articles on cross-cultural negotiations, we had heard what our experts had to say about preparing for cross-cultural negotiations, and the importance of building relationships before negotiations even start.

In the final article in this series, we hear from our experts on how to adapt for negotiations, and how best to handle negotiations with people from their own nationalities.

Preparing for a negotiation – Middle Eastern Challenges

More and more companies are heading to the Middle East as part of their primary business and supply strategies.

However, the cultural differences between Europe and, in particular, Saudi Arabia are stark. Getting to grips with these differences is key to creating good business relationships, and having successful negotiations in the region.

The Roundtable were asked for their thoughts on how to prepare for a first cross-cultural negotiation in Saudi Arabia. They shared what information they would aim to collect, and how they would collect it.

One key element mentioned was to understand the hierarchy and power dynamics of the organisation. Thierry Blomet talked about needing to understand how the organisation is mapped out, and how it fits with the various stakeholders in the country. As Saudi Arabia has a very different, rule-driven, culture, it’s important to understand the dynamics of the organisation and the people.

This view was echoed by Jonathan Hatfield, who added that it’s important to have diversity in your own teams, to help prepare for going into different geographies. The more diversity in your team, the better prepared you are for the global market.

The conversation then turned towards how individuals could better adapt to different cultures by being more aware of their own behaviours, and how to change behaviours to be in line with local customs.

The importance of “cultural mirroring” was put forward by Carine Kaldalian, in particular regarding dress code especially when dealing with a country with strong rules like Saudi Arabia.

Giuseppe highlighted the importance of knowing some etiquette elements that may offend the other party, like which hand to use to hand over your passport, and not showing the soles of your feet to others.

Adapt Your Behaviour

In the modern, digital world, collecting information on other cultures is far easier than it was in the past. Ali Atasoy suggested using both two common websites as prime source of information.

First Wikipedia, to understand the country, social conventions, and recent history. Then LinkedIn, to understand the individuals you would be meeting and have some ‘icebreakers’ prepared.

However, once the information has been collected, it needs to be put to good and effective use. The extent to which individuals should adapt their own behaviour was subject to some debate.

Bérénice Bessiere argued that Europeans frequently underestimate the capacity of Asian business people to adapt to European culture. The common thinking is that it’s them who will have to adapt their behaviour.

The importance of avoiding stereotypes was raised again by both Matthias Manegold and Jonathan Hatfield. Both highlighted the potential mistake in thinking that all the people in a single culture will be the same.

The different norms of different generations, and the constant evolution of cultures, mean generalisation should be avoided. However, by being aware of this, adapting behaviour and building up trust, you will create a better relationship, and any hiccups will likely be forgiven.

Negotiating with Nationalities

The final part of the Roundtable discussion focused on the participants’ views on the key advice for negotiating with people from their own countries.

It was a lighthearted way to end the discussion, but the points raised were both interesting, and highly applicable.

  • Turkey (Ali Atasoy)

Be prepared to explain why you have chosen to do business with this supplier. Any uncertainty, or lack of a valid reason, may lead to the supplier being offended by the approach.

  • Switzerland (Stéphane Guelat)

Punctuality is a huge thing, so be on time. Also, negotiations will frequently focus on product, quality, and other factors. Price is unlikely to be a key focus.

  • United Kingdom (Jonathan Hatfield)

Don’t arrive at the negotiations and be very aggressive, because you will lose your audience. Also don’t assume that you will become a business ‘partner’ immediately – this is something that has to be earned.

  • Lebanon (Carine Kaldalian)

If they have the upper hand, expect the other party to be late. It’s all part of the power play in the negotiations. Expect to be invited to dinner, even before a tough negotiation. The social side of business is very important in Lebanon.

Also, expect some heavy bargaining, as Lebanese are natural born traders.

  • Germany (Matthias Manegold)

Be on time, be credible, and be trusted by the other party. You need to demonstrate that you are interested in the other party’s well-being and outcomes, not just your own.

Small talk is unlikely. Germans will only ask “how are you?” if they are interested. It’s not a throw-away line, like in the UK or the USA. You must walk the talk – doing what you say you will is very important.

  • China (Xin-jian Carlier Fu)

A smile doesn’t necessarily mean that they agree with you, they might just not want to let you down. Don’t make assumptions about the deal or how the other party is feeling about it.

Also, don’t over talk. Know that the other party is listening, but maybe are just looking for the right way to respond.

Beach vs. Coconut

The final comment fell to our facilitator Giuseppe, who showcased the difference between the peach culture and coconut culture. A beach culture, often associated with Americans, is easy to get into, but difficult to in-depth, while a coconut culture, often associated with Germans, is hard to get into, but once you are in it is worth the effort!

And with that, the Roundtable was complete. It provided a fascinating insight into cross-cultural negotiations, cultural diversity, and how procurement professionals can best prepare themselves for cross-cultural interactions.

If you want to find out more, you can get in touch with Procurious, or with Giuseppe Conti at Conti Advanced Business Learning.

This roundtable was organised by Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a Swiss training company that specialises in Negotiation & Influencing training. Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience and 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

Beyond Stereotypes – Building Cross-Cultural Relationships

Don’t assume everyone in the same culture has the same norms. Getting beyond cultural stereotypes, and seeing the individual, is key to good cross-cultural negotiation preparation.

Stereotypes

In our previous article, we kicked off our recap of, and insight into, the intricacies of cross-cultural negotiations.

In the second part of the series, our negotiation experts discuss cultural dimensions literature, the importance of moving beyond stereotypes, and why time should always be on your mind.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

The participants were asked to reflect on the landmark research on cross-cultural negotiations of Geert Hofstede. Hofstede identified six key cultural dimensions, which would vary from culture to culture, that all need to be considered as part of negotiation preparation.

These are:

  • Individualist vs. collectivistic
  • Power distance (i.e. egalitarian or hierarchical)
  • Masculinity or femininity (focus on task vs. relationship)
  • Uncertainty avoidance (related to taking risk)
  • Long term vs short term orientation
  • Indulgence vs. severity (the attitude toward enjoying life and having fun).

Each culture will approach these dimensions differently, taking a spot on a sliding scale between the two extremes. Knowing where cultures sit can be a huge assistance when going into cross-cultural negotiations.

Understanding Cultural Differences

Three of the Roundtable participants discussed their experiences in negotiations when taking these dimensions into consideration. Bérénice Bessiere, Director, Procurement and Travel Division at World Intellectual Property Organization, discussed the different approaches to gender between European and Chinese companies.

Bérénice visited China to lead a negotiation. Although she was the senior buyer, she was assumed to be junior to her younger, male colleague. During the trip, it became clear that the supplier treated its female employees in a way that wouldn’t be acceptable in Europe.

The supplier didn’t win the business in the end (although for reasons other than this). Bérénice admitted she had wondered how the relationship would have worked if they had.

Another example was offered by Xin-jian Carlier Fu, Strategic Sourcing Commodity Manager at Honeywell. She highlighted the cultural differences between Chinese and Americans in business negotiations.

While many Chinese organisations operated with a very traditional, reserved culture, the Americans projected a very over-confident, talkative image in negotiations. Such was the difference to how business was conducted in China that it actually worked as a negative in negotiations between the two groups.

Finally, Carina Kaldalian, External Supply Governance Specialist at Merck, shared her experience based on her own cultural differences. In her home country of Lebanon, being an hour late to a social event is entirely acceptable.

So when Carina arrived for her first social meeting in Switzerland 10 minutes late, she thought she was doing ok. However, it was seen as unacceptable by the people she was meeting with.

This helped her make changes to her own behaviour, while giving her a better understanding of punctuality in different cultures.

Going Beyond Stereotypes

Giuseppe Conti made the point that cultural averages and stereotypes don’t necessarily apply to all individuals. Individual culture is instead influenced by a number of factors including work experience, upbringing, family values, and education, amongst other things.

When negotiating in a cross-cultural situation, it’s important to get past stereotypes, and uncover specific traits of the individuals you are dealing with.

The participants had a number of ways that this could be done. Thierry Blomet, Senior Vice President at Kemira, suggested an informal discussion over dinner the day before the negotiation. This would allow people to avoid entering negotiations without having ever met the other party before.

Other participants highlighted the importance of building relationships, and getting to know the other party better. This was especially important when dealing with Asian counterparts.

Other good strategies were identified as building information through local agents, creating an emotional connection, and building trust in the early stages. With high value placed against trust by many cultures, it’s key to get it right. Participants even highlighted instances where contracts had been signed on the basis of trust alone.

All Down to Timing
Laurence Perot
Laurence Perot

Time was also a factor mentioned by the Roundtable. Laurence Pérot, Director of Global & Strategic Sourcing at Logitech, recommended planning for time, as it’s likely to be treated differently in different cultures.

Laurence recommended planning for more time than you think you will need. This will help ensure you have good conversations, and get what you need. It will also help to show the other party that you’re not just rushing to close the deal.

However, there were also warnings that suppliers might try to use time to their advantage. Ali Atasoy, CMO Operations Manager (Intercontinental) at Merck, stated that the other party may be deliberately slowing the negotiation down, as efficiency may not be at the top of their agenda. He advised patience in this situation, helped by knowing that there were no major time limitations for your negotiations.

Finally, the reputation of an organisation was also highlighted. Matthias Manegold, Head of Procurement and Supply Chain Practice at Kinetic Consulting, advised that procurement professionals need to be consistent in their negotiations, and make sure the other party feels good about the outcomes.

Outcomes will drive what people say about you, and negative comments could harm your reputation with the wider supply base.

In the final article in this series, we’ll look at discussions on how individuals can adapt their behaviours based on information that is gathered, as well as the experts’ advice on how to negotiate with people of their own nationality.

This roundtable was organised by Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a Swiss training company that specialises in Negotiation & Influencing training. Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience and 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

The Fine Art of Negotiation

Your negotiation skills come into play practically every day in the procurement game. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

essential negotiation strategies

Strong negotiators master verbal, written and non-verbal communications. They’re assertive, approachable and know what they want.

And while procurement professionals are relying on their negotiation skills more than most, there’s always room for improvement to ensure you’re getting what you want during the negotiation process, regardless of whether you’re the buyer or seller.

Getting the Right Result

Strong negotiators rely on specific skills including patience, self-confidence and creativity. This is according to Australian business and leadership coach Cheryl Daley, who focuses specifically on the art of influencing others.

“People don’t often believe they have strong negotiation skills, but it’s a skill we all need in life, particularly in business. There’s always better ways to approach negotiations, but we often fall into the same rut and forget about the importance of looking for new ways to get the result we want when negotiating,” Daley says.

Negotiations often become a power-play between two parties, but the aim should be for everyone to walk away feeling good about the outcome, she says.

Long-Term vs. Short-Term

Anyone about to enter into a negotiation of any kind should start by determining the type of negotiation it will be.

“The type of negotiation will have a huge impact on the way you approach it. A buy and sell negotiation with someone you will deal with once, will be a completely different situation than if you’re entering into something you believe will be a long-term partnership,” Daley explains.

“The longer-term negotiation processes in the business world can take months or even years. These usually involve higher stakes, and can involve a discussion back and forth for some time until everyone has an outcome they are happy with.”

Set Your Goals

Be sure to set the goals in your own mind, before the initial discussions with the other party, so you don’t feel disadvantaged from the outset, Daley says.

“Be prepared to do some personal preparation before the first discussion with the other part. Always be polite and create a dialogue that doesn’t position one party as the ultimate winner and the other one as the loser. Be firm, but not aggressive. Stay calm, because the moment you lose it, you’ve lost the battle.”

Knowing what the other person’s weaknesses are will really help. It’s easy to be steamrolled by the other party if there’s no connection or relationship in place, so take the time to get to know them, and how you can help them achieve what they’re aiming for.

“It will always be more difficult to negotiate if you don’t first ask a few questions of the other party first to determine whether you’re able to solve their problems during the negotiation process. Otherwise, you could find yourself at a disadvantage,” Daley adds.

Not All About Price

Meanwhile, licensed Buyers’ Agent Nicole Marsh reminds us that negotiation isn’t always just about price. Often, negotiating other terms for real estate buyers such as a longer settlement, being able to move in on an earlier date, or the vendor leaving behind the white goods is enough to get the deal over the line.

“Long term partnerships may require each party to make concessions to make it work and may involve more problem solving skills to get the deal across the line,” Marsh says.

On the other hand, when a negotiation does come down to price, it’s important to set a ‘walk away’ price so you don’t agree to a higher price than you can afford, she says.

“It’s never too late to look at how you approach your negotiations, and consider adding new skills to your repertoire,” Marsh says.

Top Tips for Negotiating

Marsh also shared her top tips for negotiating:

  • Be firm, but not aggressive.
  • Strive for solutions that work for both parties.
  • Stay calm. Stick to the issue, and don’t become hostile or frustrated.
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Pick a mutually convenient time and place for the negotiation to take place.
  • Put details in writing.
  • Consider whether you need legal advice.

The best way to negotiate

Welcome to the third article in a monthly series from John Viner-Smith.

How to negotiate effectively

If you’re a student of negotiation (and, as a procurement professional, how could you not be a student of negotiation?) then you should have a well-thumbed copy of Richard Fisher and Bill Ury’s “Getting to Yes” within easy reach on your bookshelf. Fisher and Ury literally wrote the book on what is termed “principled” or “interest-based” negotiation (often simplified to “win-win” negotiation). When asked “what’s the best way to negotiate?” most academics will point you to this approach.

How to negotiate - getting to yes

There are five central guiding principles to this approach.

  1. Separate the people from the problem. In other words, seek to decide issues on their merits rather than the emotions, fears and egos of the negotiators
  2. Focus on interests, not positions. Fisher and Ury assume that almost all disputes can be resolved with principled negotiation because, when you cut through the positions adopted by negotiators to their actual interests, they are often more easily reconciled
  3. Invent options for mutual gain. By working creatively and collaboratively around the interests, negotiators can achieve outcomes that deliver gains to both sides.
  4. Insist on objective criteria for decisions. The classic examples quoted here are the purchase or sale of something like a house or a car, where there will be plentiful benchmark data available pointing to the “fair” price for the item being traded or an independent appraisal can be carried out.
  5. Know your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). Your BATNA is the best outcome you can achieve if you don’t do this deal. If the proposal on the table is as good as or better than your BATNA, the deal is worth doing. If it isn’t, it’s not.

There are definite advantages inherent to this approach. If you genuinely have scope to negotiate this way you can engineer “all gain” deals which add value to both sides. In some cases, correct and thorough preparation on both sides and conscientious commitment to maintaining an atmosphere of curiosity, creativity and collaboration can result in deals which represent increased value to both sides and are the foundation of strategic partnership in business.

In a previous Procurious article I wrote that “win-win” is a myth, so you may be wondering how I reconcile that view with the idea of engineered, all-gain deals. “Win-win” is a term that is bandied about so much it has lost all meaning. All too frequently it’s used by one side or the other when they’re winning something, but haven’t given any real thought to what the outcome does for the other side. Engineered, All-Gain deals are only possible when both sides are genuinely curious enough to understand the other side’s underlying interests and candidly share their own. Sharing that information makes both sides vulnerable to the other, so an environment of trust and authentic commitment to the long term is vital. Business relationships like that are like marriages, and it is no more appropriate to talk about who won what in such a relationship than it is to call a winner in a marriage.

So is interest-based negotiation the best way to negotiate? My answer would be “sometimes”.

Let’s start by looking at this idea of calling interest based negotiation “principled”. Does that imply that all other kinds of negotiation are unprincipled? That’s a dangerous value judgement to make! Let’s use an example to explore this question. “Joe” is buying a house.

  • Joe’s budget is £500,000
  • The asking price for the house is £510,000
  • The vendor (unbeknownst to Joe, of course) needs £455,000 from the sale
  • The identical house next door sold last week for £489,000

Getting to yes-style, “principled” negotiation theory dictates that Joe should work with the vendor to find the deal that best suits both their interests and is fair to both, possibly taking market benchmarks into account. Under these conditions, you might consider that a settlement around £490k is fair and principled.

Instead of doing that deal, Joe uses an array of questioning skills, market knowledge and tactics to establish that the vendor could do the deal at £455k and wants money fast.  Joe then uses that information to apply pressure on the vendor to close the deal for £460k, thirty thousand pounds less than the “objective”, “fair”, benchmark price. Recognising that he’s never going to see the vendor again and therefore there is no value in a warm or trusting relationship, Joe uses every available lever to push the vendor down to a price that is closer to their walk-away point than the middle of the range.

Joe’s negotiating methodology is the antithesis of Fisher and Ury’s approach. He deliberately makes the person the focus by using the pressures on the vendor to create leverage. He focuses that leverage entirely on meeting his own interests to the greatest degree at the expense of the vendors’  and makes no attempt to come up with options for mutual gain. He ignores the objective criteria, focusing instead on the subjective pressures in the vendor’s head. Finally he closes a deal, keeping the lion’s share of the value in the deal for himself. So does that make Joe unprincipled?

If you’re tempted to say “yes”, ask yourself why. Certainly Joe is unlikely to enjoy a warm relationship with the vendor after the deal but why should that matter? He’s never going to see the vendor again. So if you did answer “yes”, is it possible that you just don’t like Joe? Maybe he seems greedy. Maybe you have some sympathy for the vendor. Viewed in isolation, Joe’s approach might seem aggressive and selfish. But let’s say Joe has a family, ask yourself this; who has more right to Joe’s £30,000; the vendor or Joe’s kids? They can’t both have it. Viewed that way, you might conclude that by pushing the vendor to accept the lowest possible price and saving himself enough money to put one of his kids through University without debt, Joe’s actions are entirely principled.

Life (personal and business life) is complex. We all balance complicated and often conflicting principles and duties and it is tempting, in the stress of negotiation, to lose sight of who’s interests you are there to serve. As a matter of principle you owe yourself the best deal possible. You owe your stakeholders the best deal possible. You owe your counterparty only what the circumstances of the deal at hand dictate that they are due, at the lowest possible cost to yourself.

Saying “It’s always best to adopt an interest-based approach to negotiations…” is correct in academic terms, but in the real world you have to qualify that by adding “…when you can”. As a negotiator you have other options available to you and they will be valid some of the time. In selecting which approach you adopt, I offer you a single guiding principle that works for me;

“Adopt the approach that will deliver the greatest benefit to yourself and the interests you represent”.

If circumstances allow an interest-based approach, this one principle will guide you to that approach. If not, this principle will help to focus you on doing what is necessary.