By Ian Newall, Open Course Manager, Huthwaite International
"The right (wo)man is the one who seizes the moment." Goethe
My first article on power ended with the suggestion that negotiators should seize the initiative when negotiating. As usual when it comes to power, this can be a very subtle process. In fact, the more subtle, the better.
Picture the start to a negotiation meeting. The two teams come into a room and take places around a table. There is a scraping of chairs, a cough or two and the shuffling of papers. Then an embarrassed silence…
Alternatively one negotiator speaks.
"Good morning. I would like to introduce my colleagues, Betty Smith, Financial Manager, and Roger Jones, Production Manager."
The speaker pauses, while the other side introduce themselves, and then continues.
"My understanding is that we are here today to agree a contract for the supply of our SX395 drum-wound micro armatures which you will be using in your latest D6300. We have been in discussions for several months and you have indicated that our SX395's will best meet the requirements of your new model. The issues that we need to agree are quantity, price, delivery and quality assurance?"
The speaker pauses. The other team nod agreement.
"In that case I will ask Roger to outline how the SX395 is packed and delivered."
The negotiator has seized control of the meeting simply by managing the introductions, setting the agenda and bringing one of the team into the discussion.
Another opportunity to seize power arises when it becomes necessary to make a proposal. Cleverly framed, an initial proposal can have a major impact on the rest of the negotiation.
Any experienced negotiator will tell you that you should ask for more than you expect to get. This is to allow for manoeuvring and trading that will inevitably happen in the course of negotiation. It also sets the expectations of the other side.
Of course, if you have already submitted a bid then your opening position is already on the table.
However, whether your opening position is submitted via a bid or at the negotiating table, it must be carefully planned.
For example, if you are a seller, your opening price should be high but realistic. If you pitch it too high you could cause the other side to do a deal with your competition. After all, they have probably also considered their alternatives.
Or you may have to make a big concession, losing face in the process and creating an expectation for concessions next time you negotiate.
Getting your opening position right is a delicate balancing act and requires that you have a good understanding of the market, the competition and the other side.
Finally, you can enhance your power by summarising at key points. Summaries are good in any case because they help maintain clarity in the negotiation. But, crucially, they allow the person summarising to gain control over the meeting:
"Let's see. We have agreed the process of supply and we are both happy with the payment terms. We have proposed a unit price of £69.50 per unit, supplied in consignments of 200 per month, you will test each unit when it is removed from its package and any faulty units will be replaced in 48 hours. Are you happy with our proposal?"
If you want to learn more about how to enhance power in negotiations consider booking on a Huthwaite Negotiation Skills course.