Negotiation Blog

Should you present your negotiation offer differently to a man than to a woman?

By Marianne Eby

Taking gender into consideration as one factor that may affect a person’s receptiveness to an offer is helpful, as long as you remember that broad categories don’t always work and many other factors affect a negotiator’s style besides gender. But yes, it may help to present your offer differently to a man than to a woman.

This question came up at one of our negotiation workshops recently, during a discussion about how different communication styles affect negotiations. A participant brought up a rule of thumb she’d read about gender considerations when asking for something:

If you’re asking something from a woman, start with small talk or a narrative that prepares her for your request. But if you’re asking a man, do the opposite – open with your request, and elaborate with context and detail afterwards.

Was this a good rule of thumb, and if so would it be useful in negotiation?

Let’s consider this rule in a simple negotiation. If you want to ask your neighbor to remove a tree that leans into your yard, and your neighbor is a woman, you would begin by talking about her garden, your garden, and what is thriving in your yards, before asking about the tree. If your neighbor is a man, on the other hand, such a rule of thumb suggests you start right off with the “ask” about the tree, and fill in the details next.

The participant was spot on. In fact, the last few years of research on the differences between male and female brains can help us. In the 2008 book Leadership and the Sexes: Using Gender to Create Success in Business, Barbara Annis and Michael Gurian describe the differences in male and female brains (there are over 100, and how understanding them can make or break effective communication in corporate culture).

The research tells us that as it turns out, many clichés about gender -- i.e., women are more emotional, men are less talkative -- are proven by PET and SPECT scans of our brains! Images of brain activity show that:

  • In men, language tends to occur mostly in the left brain (the logical, linear-reasoning side), whereas in women, language occurs in both the left and right brain (the perceptive, intuitive, “artistic” side).
  • In women’s brains, there are more active sensorial and emotional centers, and they too have stronger links to language. Men don’t process as much emotion, and they don’t tend to link feelings and senses to words as much.
  • Men’s brains enter a rest state, or “zone out,” several times a day, and particularly when overwhelmed by words. Women’s brains usually do not shut off in this way except during sleep.
  • Men’s brains circulate more testosterone, the competition/aggression chemical, whereas women’s circulate oxytocin – the bonding chemical.

These differences have contributed to the different expectations women and men bring to communication, and to the clichés or cultural norms that have developed.

It’s easy to dismiss the chit-chat part of the approach to a woman as a waste of time. But it’s actually quite efficient, because women tend to get lots of clues during the chit chat. It’s not that the chit chat itself is so stimulating to them; what is stimulating is the wealth of information they gather from the chit chat about trust, comfort/discomfort, readiness to close, ect.

Men, on the other hand, tend to get fewer or no clues during such chit chat, so it makes sense that men find it stressful or wasteful: they find themselves processing what seems to be otherwise useless information.

Let’s say we approach Bob and say: "Hi Bob, how’s it going? I’ve got a question about this tree of yours that is causing me some concern.” For Bob, it is important to have a kind of frame or subject heading for the conversation before he can engage productively. Without that, the extra effort to establish “relational harmony” may be more verbiage and more detail than he wants to absorb at that moment. The chit chat would be inefficient and ineffective.

Let’s say we approach Sally and say: "Hi Sally, how’s it going? You really did get a nice deep blue in that hydrangea. How did you do it?....Your tulips were magnificent this year as well. Any tips for me?.....Now tell me about this tree….” For Sally, the entry dialogue is important: it establishes that they are friendly neighbors, with an interest in a win-win solution, which is her “frame” for a problem-solving negotiation about the tree.

Do these findings about the male and female brains change the way we negotiate in business? No and Yes.

No -- Establishing rapport and trust are critical parts of any negotiation, whether your counterpart is the same gender or not. And that rapport typically depends on a conversation which helps uncover shared interests.

And Yes – Style matters, and a master negotiator adopts strategies that will be most effective with the style of his/her counterpart. Establishing rapport is critical, but it doesn’t have to be the opener.

The real value of our workshop participant’s rule of thumb is that it gives us one simple tip to take with us on the road: plan your approach; sequence and timing matter.

Negotiating Tip

When negotiating, give good news in small chunks. Give bad news all at once.


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Negotiation Blog

Are You Ready To Negotiate? 5 Steps To Take If You're Not

By Thomas Wood

What if you find yourself in a negotiation you're not prepared for?

At one of our workshops recently, a petroleum landman, who negotiates mineral and land rights, asked this question. Earlier that week he had received a phone call from a corporate executive with whom he eventually hoped to negotiate land leases.

He had begun his research, and knew some things about the land value, the corporate owner, and the executive. But when this executive called him out of the blue and started shooting out ideas, making offers, and using terms he didn't understand, the landman stumbled. He said that by the end of the call he had a sour taste in his mouth. The class came up with 5 powerful steps to turn lemon into lemonade.

Our client had found himself, unprepared, in the middle of a negotiation that he hadn't meant to start yet. He didn't know whether it was more important to try to capitalize on the moment, the enthusiasm, and the momentum, or whether to stall. He also wondered if the executive had purposely tried to catch him unprepared in order to gain an advantage. 

What would a master negotiator do?

There are certainly times and places for informal, impromptu bargaining. Much negotiation is accomplished at cocktail parties or business meals that are ostensibly social occasions, and in all bargaining learning to improvise is a key part of your skill-set as a negotiator.  

But improvised negotiations are an oxymoron, because they are the purposeful result of much planning. Improvised negotiations are for negotiators whose interests, positions, goals, and arguments are so familiar to them that they can talk about them spontaneously. In web designer blog "A List Apart" awhile ago, we ran across "Improvising in the Boardroom," which describes the advantages of improvising a presentation to a client if you really know your subject. "What you really bring to bear in the moment is not a rehearsed plan, but the sum total of your cumulative knowledge and experience to that point."

So when you find yourself in a negotiation or an exchange you're not prepared for, as in our landman's situation, or even something smaller in scale in the elevator or at a cocktail party, don't try to think on your feet.

Five steps you should take:

1) Stay calm. Thinking is short-circuited by anxiety. Deep breathing convinces your body and brain that it is calm and protects your cognitive ability.

2) Compliment the other party on his or her obvious expertise, and use this conversation as a chance to show respect and begin developing rapport.

3) Ask "dumb" questions (this is when "dumb is smart"). Say "clearly, you know a lot about this -- explain x to me." Change the nature of the phone call from a bargaining session to an information exchange, and take notes on answers that are useful to your process. Let them know you're taking notes, and repeat things back to them to slow the process down.

4) Buy yourself time. After a brief exchange that provides you information and builds rapport, get off the phone. Say "look, it's really great talking to you, you have some great ideas and I'm sure I'm going to learn a lot from you. I was about to head into another meeting when you called -- can I call you back?" Then do not pass go, do not collect $200, but go directly to your other meeting with yourself -- where you get back to preparing for the negotiation.

5) Prepare. Even if you have only five minutes, prepare the essentials.  Write down what you know about your and the other party's interests, likely opening offers and bottom lines, BATNAs and valuable concessions. Writing down the essentials forces you to think through your position and whether you are ready to bargain.

Negotiating Tip

It’s easy to lose your cool when negotiating. Taking three deep breaths will quickly calm you down. Now you can think clearly again.


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Top 5 Negotiation Lessons from Summer Vacation

By Marianne Eby

Like me, many of you are returning from summer vacation. You relaxed, explored, and played. But you didn’t sharpen your negotiation saw. Or did you? Without realizing, you likely practiced your negotiation skills, and upped our negotiation quotient.  Here’s my Top 5 negotiation lessons from summer vacation:

  1. Have confidence in the process. 
    Almost two thirds of Americans work during summer vacation, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. .  We know we have to work, at least some, while we’re gone.  And yet, we go, with confidence in the value of vacation -- expecting we will come back refreshed for a positive impact on our lives. We should go into negotiations the same -- confident that if we follow a disciplined process, we will achieve predictable and repeatable results that create value for both parties. 
     
  2. Be creative. 
    Vacation presented us opportunities to play outside the sandbox. In a new place our personality wasn’t known, so we experimented with our approach or style to get the results we wanted. We experienced new things: different foods, new ways of taking photos, other cultures. Being creative with our choices allowed us to discover new things. Being creative in a negotiation allows us to find new solutions to difficult issues.
     
  3. Adjust your style and build rapport.
    People we had to deal with on vacation were unfamiliar -- hotel desk clerks, beach patrol, waiters, tour guides, friends of friends. Naturally we wanted a pleasant experience, so we explored common areas of interest to build rapport. And because so much was new and different on vacation, we asked lots of questions. Because we were sincerely curious, we listened well to the answers. Some of these people even made it into our virtual rolodex. Think of your negotiation counterpart similarly. Adjusting your style to the situation or person, and making a personal connection, builds trust. And as we all know, building trust allows both parties to share their true interests, and find hidden value in negotiations.
     
  4. Plan, Propose options, and develop alternatives.
    Most of us planned our vacations more thoroughly than we plan most negotiations – hotel reservations, addresses to enter into our GPS, must-go concert tickets. We knew the budget we wanted to keep and the money and time limits we could not exceed. When different members of our family were unhappy with the offering, we proposed options. We suggested a willingness to hike the long trail today if everyone would get up early for kayaking tomorrow. Indeed, one of the best negotiation practices is to offer options. People stay involved when they have to respond to options.  And on vacation we thought of backup plans if rain stole a beach day. Our vacation /learning-center-item/batna.htmlBATNA! Without knowing it, we practiced our negotiations skills on vacation!
     
  5. Take breaks.
    We took breaks to relax – mini-vacations within a vacation. Relaxing gave us time to reflect and rethink our needs and priorities, or to calm friction from too much time with family and friends. Taking breaks during negotiations is equally beneficial. Time away allows issue clarification, a chance to reset the emotional climate, and check in with stakeholders. Taking a breather is rarely a step back; more often it provides a renewed vigor  to work toward common goals.

We’re refreshed upon our return from vacation. And without realizing it, we honed our negotiation skills in the process. Be sure to apply those summer lesson to your next negotiation.

Negotiating Tip

Ask "why" to understand interests. Ask your counterpart’s advice on how to achieve shared goals. Be sincerely curious.


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Negotiation Blog

Hagglers in Paradise

By Marianne Eby

There are many places in the world where consumers haggle and would never pay asking price – like the souks of Marrakech and the Beijing Silk Street Market. But nowadays even the US retail stores are fertile haggling territory. Know how to extend your holiday haggling into the January 2014 retail sales bonanza.

Haggling is a cousin to serious negotiations. Haggling is the back and forth that is used to get a quick deal from someone you aren't likely to deal with again, like in the souks and flea markets. A 2009 Consumer  Reports survey found that only 28% of Americans say they haggle often. But by 2011, talk of negotiating price tags at retail stores became a common sport of savvy consumers who read Kiplinger advice columns. And now it’s so common that one click on wikihow teaches us how to do it.

As reported in the New York Times, what’s more interesting in this last holiday season is that retailers are both training their floor sales managers to haggle, and inviting the public to do so. This may be an attempt to turn the tide from consumers who use brick and mortar stores for looking, only to return home and search the Web for the best price on the same item. The retail stores are fighting back. One has trained its managers not only to meet competitors’ prices, but given them authority to beat them. And they’re not just focused on price, but are creative in offering you add ons (that may or may not meet your needs).

As consumers, our job is to answer this call to action. You don’t need to be someone who negotiates deals at your day job; you just need to follow a few simple guidelines -- the fundamentals all master negotiators hone:

  • Prepare: get information so that you know why they should lower their price for you or what else they can offer you (or you them). It’s never been easier to do research on the price and quality of what you want before entering a store, or just use your smart device while browsing.
     
  • Plan your positions: Determine your opening request (what would be the most awesome deal, but one that you can defend), and know at what point you will walk away. Write those two positions down to prevent yourself from asking for less, or settling for less.
     
  • Have a planB, whether it’s foregoing the purchase, waiting for a big sales day, or going elsewhere. Having a back-up plan (referred to by business negotiators as a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, or BATNA) will give you the confidence to ask for what you want, and to engage in a conversation about the possibilities.
     
  • Do engage! Friendliness wins every time, not arrogance. Every master negotiator knows that people give the best deals to people they like. But don’t waste the retail staff’s time on lots of small talk about the weather and yourself; use sincere curiosity to ask themquestions about the company, the job, their long day, the product or service, the other customers, the market this year. Show an interest in them and they will show an interest in you.
     
  • Don’t make assumptions that prices and terms are set in stone. At a clearance sale at a high-end retailer the other day, I asked for help with the down coats (facing our first cold winter in years). I fretted over the high price which showed a markdown of only 20%. I then asked the sales person if she could try the coat on so I could see how it looked on someone else. I added in some flattery when I saw the coat on her, and only then asked if a further reduction was coming. She whispered that that there will be a pre-sale in 3 days with another 40% off, where shoppers can purchase then and pick the item up a few days later once the actual sale begins. Knowing I would risk losing the perfect down coat, I asked if I could do a pre-pre-sale – getting the extra 40% off now, but willing to wait to pick up the coat with all the other shoppers in a week. I’ve been nice and warm ever since!
     
  • Be creative: offer them something (like cash, buying in bulk, taking the odd size off their hands, a comliment to their manager). This is where your creativity can pay off, as you give something of value that costs you little or nothing but that they value, in exchange for something you want. What value can you find, beyond the price and the profit margin, to bring into the negotiation? Would using cash save them money? Will it go on sale soon anyway? Do they work on commission and would rather you buy from the now than from their colleague on another day? Would a referral, or a positive “Yelp” review be valuable PR?
     
  • Above all, respect your counterpart as a person making a living. Haggling over a retail price, if you engage in it, is a game which involves a short-term relationship. Insulting your counterpart or being a jerk will ruin the game and most likely, your chances of a good deal.  

Want more advice? Here's 10 Tricks for Haggling Over Price at Any Store.

One more reason to haggle in this January's retail sales?

Negotiation takes practice. The more you practice, the better you become at building rapport, asking for what you want, seeing possibilities, asking questions, and leveraging your willingness to walk away. The more you do it, the better negotiator you will become.

Have fun haggling in and out of your vacation paradise!

Negotiating Tip

A weak partner is a dangerous partner. At minimum, find ways for all parties at the negotiating table to save face. 


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Masters of the "Mulligan" on the Golf Course and in Negotiations

By Leslie Mulligan

One of the preeminent “grand slam” golf tournaments celebrated globally, The Masters in the U.S.(Augusta, Georgia), began today, Thursday, April 9th. As a negotiation expert with a long career in sales and business development, I know how helpful golf can be to your professional career. Forbes distilled the 19 tips to “Closing a Deal on the Golf Course” and all of them ring true for me. But what many negotiators miss is that mastering the game is not enough; you must also master the "Mulligan", on and off the course.

A "mulligan" is a do over stroke in golf. My last name is also "Mulligan." As you may imagine, many people ask me if I play golf. I do play golf, enjoying the mental and physical challenge as well as the time spent with colleagues, on business and with friends. And I also leverage the "mulligan."

If you are not aware of the golfing term “mulligan”, it is a free stroke that you can claim, but only if your partner agrees. For example, if your ball happens to make its way into the sandtrap (never happens to you?), well, you get a do-over – a mulligan. It's sort of an unwritten rule of golf that found its way into the game when prominent golfer David Bernard Mulligan took a correction shot on the course with friends, and he and his partner later won by 1 point. Getting a mulligan can make a difference.

But offering a free stroke or mulligan, may be even more impactful – on and off the course. 

Let's back up and take a look at Forbes tip # 6 -- also a cornerstone for master negotiators – “don’t be too competitive. The emphasis in a business golf setting should be on building rapport and trust with your playing partners.” In collaborative negotiations, a win-win philosophy where value is expanded for all by addressing parties' interests, establishing a trusting relationship is imperative if you want your “playing partners” to reveal their essential interests. If they view you as trustworthy, they may let you know what their priorities are – and you can do the same – allowing the business deal to grow in value for both parties.

Even the PGA (Professional Golf Association) highlights the fact that golfing can help you in your business networking, enabling you to learn about your playing partners, on their Get Golf Ready website:  Networking is like socializing on the golf course (or anywhere)– “but with the purpose or intent of gaining information and insight about someone or something.”

Offering mulligans to your playing partner may significantly improve your business relationship (and their golf round). In social science, we know that doing a favor for someone triggers a debt of social obligation, where the recipient of the favor feels like they may “owe” the giver something. Even if it is a small favor, it can still work to your advantage. So why not ensure your playing partner can take a do-over now and again in their 18 holes. They will appreciate your offer, and it may pay off for you in a subsequent business deal.

Now, none of the professional golfers at The Masters will take mulligans, but for amateurs like us, it can be a powerful lever at the negotiation table! A few other tips in the Forbes article caught my eye as potentially very helpful - not just on the course, but at the negotiation table as well:

  • Be on your best behavior – golf is a very revealing sport, and if you play with potential business partners, rest assured that they will take their impressions of you on the course into the negotiating arena. If you are trustworthy, likeable and hopefully competent on the golf course, that will serve you well once you are sitting at the bargaining table with them.
     
  • Respect the etiquette of the game – on the golf course, your partners will take notice that you respect the game, and them as well, if you follow the rules and play with decorum. Don’t take your own mulligans, unless offered by your playing partner. In the negotiation process, you also want to earn respect. Don't make outrageous offers or claims, avoid tactical maneuvers (i.e., arbitrary deadlines, bluffing, good cop bad cop) designed to trip or trick the other side. Respecting the process and earnestness of the discussion will accelerate your ability to gain trust, allowing you to more easily learn the interests of your business associates.
     
  • Control your anger – emotions running high can undermine any negotiation, so best if you control yours while at the negotiation table, just like on the golf course. You want your partner across the table, and on the links, to see you as someone who is rational, capable, and working with the spirit of win-win.

In my experience, I know that do-overs in business do not happen often, even with the last name of Mulligan. So seize the moment if someone proposes one at the negotiation table, but more importantly, watch for opportunities to offer a mulligan to your negotiation partners. Favors offered early in a developing business relationship can definitely pay off down the road. And the golf course is an ideal way to tap that opportunity!

Negotiating Tip

We feel smarter when talking. But studies show that people who listen more are usually considered to be smarter than people who talk a lot.


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4 Ways to Use Negotiating Power Wisely

By Thomas Wood

Fortune 500 companies exert power in the marketplace, and by extension in negotiations. It's easy to exert power in negotiations, but not as easy to use it wisely. Seeing the new Fortune 500 list just released, and how many of our clients are in it, made me think of the many discussions with those clients, and their customers and suppliers, about the perils of being powerful.

This week Fortune released it's 61st Fortune 500 list. Fortune 500 companies are ranked for FY revenue reported, together totaling $12.5 trillion. They reported a combined profit of $945 billion, and employ almost 27 million people around the world. To say they have power at the negotiating table is an understatement.

Watershed Associates has served many of the Fortune 500 with negotiation training, including three of the top 5. We advise many negotiators in these Fortune 500 companies about their real world challenges. The negotiators on the front lines know that power from size can be real or perceived, but it can also shift easily. Revenue and profitability giants don't always hold all the power; many factors influence who holds the power in a negotiation:

  • Which of you is a customer or supplier the other can't afford to lose.
  • Which company has the available cash flow to weather a downturn.
  • Your position in the industry matters - You can be a Fortune 500 company, but if your market position is lowest among your industry competitors, you might not have power in your negotiations.
  • Your company’s agility – how fast can it change direction to adapt or respond to external market forces?
  • Expertise – which company forecasts weather, economics, access to natural resources, or consumer mood better?
  • How quickly you need a deal in relation to how quickly (or not) your counterpart needs a deal.
  • And of course, the relative strength of your Best Alternative to a Negotiating Agreement (BATNA), or plan B, as compared to your counterpart's BATNA. BATNA is all about Who stands to lose the most if there is no deal. Sometimes, it's the party with perceived power.

But when you do have the power in a negotiations, you still have challenges:

Others are trying to shift the power balance; bet on it! 
Power holders are often less diligent and thus more oblivious to the growing power of the powerless; they don’t assess the situation accurately and don’t change to suit it. This arrogance can leave you oblivious to a growing source of power. 

Your behavior reveals much to the other side and can drive defensive behavior.
For example, when a customer or supplier feels they get unfair deals from a powerful company, they might shift power by building coalitions, give better deals to the competitors at your back door, and strengthen relationships with your next generation decision makers. Or if they feel the deal struck was one-sided, there is always potential for you to be blindsided or receive less during execution of the contract, and the party who feels they got less at the bargaining table will be the one looking for ways to recapture that value during the contract period. Remember, the powerless go on the offensive if they perceive unfairness. 

The powerful are not always liked.
Let's face it, we can love a company on its way up -- think Amazon or Google or Microsoft  -- but once those companies became giants, we started rooting for the new players. There is greater focus on showcasing failings of the powerful, so they are actually more vulnerable to downfall than the smaller companies. 

With power in hand, what can you do to keep that power from working against you? Try these 4 strategies to use your inherent negotiating power wisely:

​1. Be Likeable.
Being likeable is highly underrated in life and in negotiations. There is lots of advice on how to be likeable. And being likeable doesn't mean you give away value at the negotiating table. It does mean that you:

  • Invest time into building relationships; Get to know your counterpart's company and the individual negotiator(s). Use rapport, find affiliations (common interests), and keep committments.
  • Demonstrate that you are working as much on this deal as your less powerful counterpart.
  • Reveal your humanity; Share stories about volunteer work, injuries, mistakes you learned from, etc. Smile and laugh when appropriate as they share their stories. Enjoy them!
  • Like them! Even if they aren't very likeable, think about what you do like or admire -- their sense of humor, their recall of detail, their interesting analogies, etc. But be sincere and don't overdo it. Let the other side earn your respect and professional friendship over time.

Remember, companies don't negotiate. People negotiate. And people extend the most consideration to people they respect and trust.

2. Ask for Collaboration
Articulate your company’s interest in mutually beneficial negotiations with smaller players. Literally, ASK them to engage in a collaborative discussion with you. Persuade your less powerful counterpart why you want this deal (because they may be assuming you don't really care, and thus they have nothing to lose by playing hardball). They will be surprised to hear you ask them to be collaborative, when that is exactly what they thought was not attainable.

3. Demonstrate You Are a Collaborator
The less powerful counterpart comes to the table expecting to have to grab whatever value they can and hide any weaknesses. If they find you are collaborative from the start, they become less guarded. When they are less guarded, you will be able to identify their interests and find alignment with yours in a way that builds value rather than simply dividing it. 

To show you are collaborative:

  • Show empathy -- care about what matters to your counterpart.
  • Use objective criteria and standards of fairness to explain offers -- don't just assert positions. Explain your position with data, industry standards, expert analysis, etc.
  • Early on, the offer of a small "free gift" may be in order.
  • Plan at least one concession they need or want and let them earn it along the way.
  • Allow yourself to be nibbled (gently), giving a little more at the close of negotiations.

4. Never Threaten Your BATNA.
If you have the power, your less powerful counterpart knows you have BATNAs, or alternatives to this deal. No need to talk about your BATNAs. When the powerful talk about their leverage and alternatives, it is perceived as a threat. People react to threats with every possible counter offense.

Being a collaborative power holder pays dividends now and later.
You want the other side to expose their true interests, propose ideas and creative solutions, so that more value can be created and a sustainable agreement results. You want to be known as a fair negotiator who creates value at the bargaining table. Flaunt your power, and you will not achieve this. And one day, the power will shift!

Negotiating Tip

Try not to negotiate if you are in a negative emotional mood. Research shows you will make inappropriate or unnecessary concessions.


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