The Negotiating Table
You can negotiate virtually anything. Projects, resources, expectations and deadlines are all outcomes of negotiation. Some people negotiate deals for a living. Dr Herb Cohen is one of these professional talkers, called in by companies to negotiate on their behalf . He approaches the art of negotiation as a game because, as he is usually negotiating for somebody else, he says this helps him drain the emotional content from his conversation. He is working in a competitive field and needs to avoid being too adversarial. Whether he succeeds or not, it is important to him to make a good impression so that people will recommend him.
The starting point for any deal, he believes, is to identify exactly what you want from each other. More often than not, one party will be trying to persuade the other round to their point of view. Negotiation requires two people at the end saying ‘yes”. This can be a problem because one of them usually begins by saying “no”. However, although this can make talks more difficult, this is often just a starting point in the negotiation game. Top management may well reject the idea initially because it is the safer option but they would not be there if they were not interested.
It is a misconception that skilled negotiators are smooth operators in smart suits. Dr Cohen says that one of his strategies is to dress down so that the other side can relate to you. Pitch your look to suit your customer. You do not need to make them feel better than you but, For example, dressing in a style that is not overtly expensive or successful will make you more approachable. People will generally feel more comfortable with somebody who appears to be like them rather than superior to them. They may not like you but they will feel they can trust you.
Dr Cohen suggests that the best way to sell your proposal is by getting into the world of the other side. Ask questions rather than give answers and take an interest in what the other person is saying, even if you think what they are saying is silly. You do not need to become their best friends but being too clever will alienate them. A lot of deals are made on impressions. Do not rush what you are saying---put a few hesitations in , do not try to blind them with your verbal dexterity. Also, you should repeat back to them what they have said to show you take them seriously.
Inevitably some deals will not succeed. Generally the longer the negotiations go on, the better chance they have because people do not want to think their investment and energies have gone to waste. However , joint venture can mean joint risk and sometimes , if this becomes too great , neither party may be prepared to see the deal through . More common is a corporate culture clash between companies, which can put paid to any deal. Even having agreed a deal, things may not be tied up quickly because when the lawyers get involved, everything gets slowed down as they argue about small details.
De Cohen thinks that children are the masters of negotiation. Their goals are totally selfish. They understand the decision-making process within families perfectly. If Mum refuses their request , they will troop along to Dad and pressure him. If al else fails, they will try the grandparents, using some emotional blackmail. They can also be very single-minded and have an inexhaustible supply of energy for the cause they are pursuing. So there are lesson to be learned from watching and listening to children.
Dr Cohen treats negotiation as a game in order to
A put people at ease
B remain detached
C be competitive
D impress rivals