Tanya Little: Negotiation Strategies—The Path to Profitability

Tanya Little

Have you ever been sitting across the table negotiating a deal and wondered if you really had an edge in the negotiations? Do you consider yourself a master negotiator?

The SMU CREW Leadership Certificate program just held its third course entitled, “Profitable Negotiations: A Gain-Gain Approach”, led by Robin Pinkley, Ph.D., professor at the SMU Cox School and founder of M2M Center for Profitable Negotiation.

Pinkley’s approach was quite interesting and focused on our beliefs about how and when to negotiate, the value and benefit of negotiation, and how to seek a “gain-gain” instead of a “win-win” in negotiation, as the traditional “win-win” approach has led people to measure success in negotiation in terms of everyone being happy. As a result, negotiators are often satisfied with low-valued outcomes and unhappy with high-valued outcomes because the search for “happy-happy” leads them to focus on false cues in the negotiation, rather than real evidence regarding value creation and obtainment.

So, how well do you negotiate? Here are a few tips:

• Have a firm objective, clear plan and flexible strategy—before you enter the negotiation. If you’re correct, clear, and concise, your objective should not change. Rather, it should drive both proactive strategies that influence the other party and reactive strategies that adapt to the actions of the other party. Should your plan of action hit road blocks, adapt your strategy to meet your objective, but don’t change your objective to compensate for your failed strategies.

• Gather your facts and constantly test and challenge your assumptions.

• Although you must find ways to give value to get value, exchanging value is not enough. Offering acceptance, satisfaction with outcome, and interest in a long-term relationship appears to have more to do with negotiator “interpretation” of value than with actual value itself.

Negotiators are sense-makers, and as such, they look for information to confirm the quality of a deal. This means that they are more often influenced by the social reactions of the other party and movement away from initial offers than they are by how well they did relative to their best alternatives or above their bottom lines.

Manage yourself by comparing your outcome to relevant cues, such as moving above your bottom line. Manage the other party by providing social cues, strategic first offers and carefully considered concessions to signal their success.

• Separate people from the problem, but don’t forget the [eople or they will become a problem.

• Watch to see if what they say is consistent with what else they say, what they do, and what you know.

• Have a plan for managing your emotional response and theirs.

• Understand and recognize the power of persuasion.

• Review, learn and celebrate your successes and failures to build on the next negotiation.

Now more than ever, we are squeezed for profits, and negotiations are happening in every part of business today. Good luck!

Tanya Little is CEO of Hart Advisors Group. Contact her at [email protected]