What are the mistakes people make when they negotiate? Business and finance expert Jo Haigh explores.
We learn to negotiate from being small children
“I will eat my sprouts if I can have a biscuit”
All the way through adolescence
“I will do my homework if I can go out with my friends on Friday night”
In fact you could say every day, in virtually every field we are negotiating in one way or another.
This is a skill very important, in my own job and I have seen the other side in action on literally 1000’s of occasions and have honed my skill in watching some definite masters in action.
Recent negotiations in a particular deal have however shown me how dreadful some people are at this art form and just what a bad negotiator can do to a transaction.
Preparation is definitely a winning tactic, as is making sure you are well instructed and are dealing with decision makers and not their monkeys. The problems arise though when the monkeys believe they are the organ grinders, or worse still are organ grinders without integrity.
Outright lies may seem to some common place in negotiations but such behaviour has no place in a professional setting as liars are too often found out and one of the most important aspects in doing a deal is to build trust. Trust, once destroyed, is very difficult to rebuild.
I have seen plenty of poor negotiators throw all their teddies out of the cot. This week one particularly poor negotiator packed up his papers, slamming around like a juvenile being grounded by their mother for bad behaviour because it was clear he was cornered and his position was without substance.
The trouble was this person needed to do a deal and all this did was lower his, by now quite low, credentials to the floor and all respect for him and his business ethics disappeared.
The same chaps partner’s way of negotiating was to issue ultimatums (never ever a good move ultimately particularly if they are clearly untenable) all these do is wind the other side up and win, win or even win, lose becomes lose, lose!
Seeing the issue from both sides is also very helpful when trying to reach your goals, as is admitting fault and conceding points. Clearly not to the point of lose win scenarios but the best negotiators quickly learn that being fair to both sides is what works best.
Some poor negotiators want to win every single point though, even to the point of losing the whole deal at worst, or failing to see the bigger picture and opportunities that could come about if they were somewhat more consolatory.
Unfortunately this positioning is seen by some, and I am sorry to sound sexist, but particularly the macho man as a sign of weakness whereas it is in truth a sign of strength.
If a negotiation is seen as a battle field, as indeed it can be, don’t lose sight of the fact that in order to win the war a few battles have to be lost.
Of course in an ideal world this is no battle field, rather a coordinated judo match where the professional sparring partners shake hands at the end, with neither having to check they have kept all their fingers, and leave with a mutual respect for the the others skills having learnt one or two new techniques.
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