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Negotiation Blog - Messaging
Balancing the Individual and the Group in Team Negotiating
By Thomas Wood
I recently consulted with a sales team that was preparing for negotiations with their company’s largest customer. They encountered some roadblocks along the way, not with the customer as it turns out, but within the team itself. Negotiating as a team can be as challenging as it is rewarding. Having just gone through this experience, I wanted to share three of the lessons learned:
Individual ideas matter. Though teams are individuals brought together to reach a common goal, it is easy to get lost in the group. When I arrived at the client, I interviewed the individual team members and was impressed with their great ideas. Then I reviewed the preliminary negotiation strategy the team had developed. Guess what? Most of those great ideas were missing! One key to success is to negotiate as a team, but prepare as a group of creative individuals.
Different ideas stimulate progress and thought; each member of the team is there to contribute his/her expertise, talent and unique perspective. We gathered together with this new approach in mind, and followed some practical advice from Kristin Arnold of The Extraordinary Team. Kristin advocates that teams “encourage robust dialogue” and “suffer the silence to allow our team mates to think through the question, evaluate the options and then to raise their voices.” And on the most critical issues, we took a practical tip right out of Kristin’s playbook and polled the group to see where each person stood on difficult decisions.
Conversations impact negotiations. Several team members had been in communication with the customer as part of the information gathering stage. That’s good – each performing their role in finance, sales, engineering et al. To our surprise, the customer came to the table with some unfortunate misperceptions about our positions that hindered productive bargaining. We eventually realized the source of the problem -- our own team! The problem was that there had been no prior coordination of the message among our team – why we are asking these questions; what our new goals are; what market changes concern us, etc. All conversations impact negotiations, so it is imperative that all team members are on board with the message.
Know your role. It’s important to assign roles among the team, such as team leader, lead negotiator, subject matter expert, finance, scribe, coach, spokesperson, bad guy, etc. On our team the jobs of team leader and lead negotiator resided in the same person. While this might work in less complex negotiations, we lost the benefit of a team leader most of the time. All would agree that our lead negotiator did a fabulous job of following the plan at the bargaining table, but he was so drawn into the negotiations with the customer that nobody was leading the team, which needed to consider alternative strategies and concessions as the customer’s proposals took into uncharted water.
Team Leader is a critical role, and deserves its own focus. The Lead Negotiator is the face-to-face lead person heading the negotiation at the bargaining table, and must be shown respect by the team before, during and after the meeting for the other side to realize that concessions will come only from the lead negotiator. The Team Leader, on the other hand, is responsible for providing the team guidance and leadership and need not be present during face-to-face bargaining sessions.
If you have to wear more than one hat on the team, take Kristin Arnold’s simple advice: “To alleviate the confusion, let your team mates know which hat you are wearing and when you change your role.”
Final thoughts - the good, the bad, and the beautiful
The good. Negotiating as a team represents a smart, indispensable and productive way of negotiating when the right team is in place, preparation is thorough, stakeholders are on board, and team members stay in role and on message.
The bad. The many benefits to team negotiating come with tradeoffs – teams are more time intensive, ego and emotions management are critical, group-think can take over, there are more opportunities for missteps, etc.
The beautiful. Utilizing individual strengths while keeping the team engaged and organized can produce powerful results.
Learn more about teams and team facilitation from expert Kristen Arnold at www.extraordinaryteam.com. For more tips on effective negotiating teams, email [email protected] and ask for our comprehensive article on “Best Negotiating Practices for Teams.”
Negotiators Do Judge a Book by Its Cover
By Marianne Eby
To really understand why something so superficial matters, we are going to think out of the negotiation box. Let's think restaurant menu, think Apple products, think Erin Brokovich, and before we finish, think Mao Zedong. Then we'll better be able to think negotiations.
8 Tips for Successful Email Negotiation
By Thomas Wood
Email may well now be the dominant form of business communication, and increasingly unavoidable in negotiations. It has its advantages -- it saves money and time, allows you to ask questions that might be more difficult in person, and sometimes reduces stress because of the time allowed for contemplation and reaction. So why do half of email negotiations end in impasse?
Negotiating by email has pitfalls too many negotiators ignore. Research shows that negotiators experience less satisfaction with the process, less rapport, and less future trust in their partners. Why?
- There is a greater tendency to lie, exaggerate, bluff, or intimidate with email.
- Negotiators don't feel the pressure of "live performance," and thus often prepare less.
- Because it is more difficult to build rapport and trust, there is often less focus on interests and more on positions and demands.
- Communication challenges arise easily, including rudeness, ambiguous messages, misinterpretations, and ill-conceived reactions.
- It is easier to say "no" and brainstorming is not possible, thus cramping creativity and the likelihood of value creation.
Because of these downsides, email negotiations can inhibit the trust and mutual understanding that builds and sustains rapport, so conflicts or misunderstandings can easily degenerate or worsen. Here are 8 tips for maximizing the value of email and minimizing the risk:
- Meet first. The first meeting is critical to establishing rapport. It gives everyone the chance to observe expressions and gestures, gauge likeability, style, and personality. Web-conferencing can work, but meet face-to-face if possible, especially for complex agreements.
- Continue to build rapport. Over the course of emailing, express emotions as you would in person, especially positive ones (e.g., excitement, confidence, hopefulness. Even a simple opening greeting and sign-off, as we naturally do in face-to-face meetings, can go a long way in maintaining essential rapport. Make “small talk” or “small text” as you naturally do in face-to-face conversations, before you get into the meat of your message. “Hope all is well.” “Were you hit by that tropical storm last week?” “Did your daughter’s team win their game?”
- Have a well-established goal. Think of negotiating as communicating with a goal in mind. Beware of stream of consciousness negotiation on key deal points. Share your expectations, and when you think things have gone awry. Always know the minimum and maximum parameters that make agreement worthwhile for your side, and return to those before responding to offers via email.
- Brainstorm offline. Email does not usually spark or encourage creativity like the back and forth of live conversation. When a solution is not apparent, schedule a phone call or in-person meeting to get the ideas moving.
- Stamp out conflict. If an email comes off as rigid, or rude, it may be unintentional. Don't respond immediately and don't respond in kind. Take a short break, then contact your counterpart by phone, or email a simple statement of concern or desire to clarify. If there is a problem, pick up the phone or schedule a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible. Conflict with emotional intensity is rarely solved over email.
- Ask more questions, not less. There is a tendency to limit questions over email because it appears tedious. Don't fall into this trap. To avoid lengthy and exhausting lists, start with broad questions, intersperse phone conversations to discuss the answers, and use shorter emails to group follow-up questions by topic.
- Keep the climate positive. Maintain a friendly tone in emails -- use emoticons, (but don't over use), if it feels friendly. Interpret email messages with caution and sensitivity, and leave room for personality, style, and cultural differences. Make sure to clarify any ambiguities right away, and use generally accepted best practices in email etiquette.
- Sprinkle in the personal touch. Share or ask something personal to connect with the other side -- even if it's only about the weather or a local team. Or look for other areas of common interest (try checking Linked In) and asking open-ended questions. Once you've found out their interests, send them URL's or articles that they might find interesting. Avoid religion or politics, though!
Business professionals continue to use email to further the negotiating and decision-making process, despite its drawbacks, so there's no avoiding it. Just use it carefully! And smile as you type.
Visit Watershed's Negotiator's Learning Center to read more on Negotiating Over Email.