What Differentiates Successful Negotiators from Average Negotiators?

Posted on 10/01/2006 in Sales Negotiation Skills

Setting a goal is not the main thing.  It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.” - Coach Tom Landry

Successful negotiators differentiate themselves from average negotiators in several ways, starting with how they plan and prepare for a negotiation.  This newsletter is the first in a three-part series on the planning process followed by the most successful negotiators.

Negotiation Planning Process

Four interrelated steps constitute the planning process followed by successful negotiators: 

Step 1: Identify and rank your critical needs and issues
Step 2: Ask questions to identify the other side’s critical needs and issues
Step 3: Plan your Settlement Range (especially the Opening Position and Walkaway Points)
Step 4: Use Creativity on Currencies and Concessions (recall from an earlier STAR newsletter that the most common mistake made by average negotiators is to "concede too much, too soon”)

What If You Only Have A Limited Time To Plan? 

The most successful negotiators spend time planning all four steps, but they recognize that the first two factors — identifying their own critical needs and issues, as well as the other side’s — are the most crucial.  If only limited planning time is available, it should be focused on identifying the critical needs of all parties involved in the negotiation.  For the balance of this newsletter, we will focus on Step 1 and Step 2.  Our October and November newsletters will address Settlement Range factors (Step 3) and Currencies and Concessions (Step 4).

Identifying Critical Needs

The planning process should start with a focus on the critical needs of both sides.  Key questions for consideration when focusing on those critical issues are as follows:

-How would it help you during the negotiation to focus on your most critical needs and issues?

-Similarly, how would it help you to know the other side’s critical needs and issues? 

STAR’s Negotiation Workshop participants respond to the questions listed above with some common themes, including the following responses: 

  • "There is no point in reaching an agreement if I don’t satisfy my most critical needs.”
  • "I’ll make a concession on a less critical issue, and take a stronger stance on my most important issues.”
  •  "The only way to reach a win/win agreement is to ensure that both side’s needs are met.”

Negotiation Planning Tips

Identifying Needs for all Parties
During the planning process, you should consider both side’s needs and issues.  Otherwise, how can you determine if the final agreement is a good deal or bad deal?  List your own goals for the negotiation in rank order.  Go one step further by identifying those items of critical importance as well as those items that can be conceded during the negotiation if necessary.
Hot Button Issues
Average negotiators fail to consider the other side’s needs, issues, and "hot buttons.”  In the best case, prior meetings and history with the other person will allow you to anticipate correctly the other side’s wants and needs.  Knowledge is power!  Skilled negotiators ask more questions in order to identify the other side’s needs.  Educated guesses can be made to anticipate the other side’s priorities and allow you to respond effectively to those needs and potentially offer creative solutions.

The Deal-Breakers
A crucial point is to identify the critical needs of both sides.  Usually a few issues are the real deal-breakers, and will determine whether or not it even makes sense to reach an agreement.  These are the "must have” items. Pay attention to clues about the other person’s critical needs and issues.  For example: Does the other person repeat something? What questions does the other person ask you?  People tend to repeat something when it is important to them. Similarly, people tend to ask questions (for example: "how long is your warranty?”) if that particular issue is important to them.

Learn more by visiting our Negotiating for Success Workshop page and Giving and Getting Concessions while Negotiating Sales Meeting Kit page.  We help clients prepare for upcoming negotiations with one-on-one coaching sessions.