Negotiation Blog

Check Your Negotiator Blind Spots

By Thomas Wood

Did you ever have a negotiation where you felt well prepared going in, but during the discussions you became frustrated? For most of us, frustration brings out our worst instincts and behaviors, ultimately leading to a poor outcome.

Here’s a quick quiz to help you see if you were held back by any of the common negotiator blind spots.

Answer Yes or No: 
  1. Are you good at picking your battles?
  2. Do you consider it a successful resolution if you get everything you or your company wants without making concessions?
  3. Do you think that usually the best solutions come from the options offered by you or the other parties at the start of the negotiation?
  4. Do you tire of listening to the other side’s version of events and perspective on their own needs, and prefer moving forward with the agenda?
  5. Do you value objectivity and pride yourself on sticking to the facts in your negotiations?
  6. Do you act in a certain way to ensure people know you are a strong negotiator?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of the questions above, you may be suffering from one of the common negotiator blind spots. While teaching our negotiation workshops, we have found that participants often fall prey to these blind spots:

Battle Alert: He believes that it is important to pick his battles because negotiations are battles. He does not believe that a win-win outcome is actually possible, and thus approaches every interaction as a competition.

  • Attitude is everything in collaborative negotiations! Enter your next negotiation as a discussion, and you may find the battle never was.

Give nothing/get nothing: She figured out what was fair long before the two parties started talking. She wants to achieve her goal, and show that she is a strong negotiator by giving nothing away.

  • Negotiation is about getting, AND giving. Good negotiators come prepared to give concessions. You may get everything and give nothing, but don’t fool yourself. The party that feels "taken" will find a way to get it back.

There’s only one way to skin a cat: He has an idea of what will satisfy his counterpart, and has listened carefully to his counterpart’s idea. Both ideas were part of the opening offers. One of these ideas will win the day, or perhaps parts of each idea. Let’s decide and move on.

  • The best ideas result from discourse, not solo genius. Very rarely does our first idea prove to be the best. Take comfort in knowing that the 3rd crazy suggestion might lead to a novel approach that is more mutually satisfying to the parties.

Can you hear me listening?: She has listened so much that she tires of the other side talking. Her counterpart feels that he hasn’t been heard. Was she listening loudly enough?

  • Listening is not a silent or passive activity. It involves attitude, body language and follow-up that convince the other side you wanted to hear what they had to say. Sometimes, active listening – sincere curiosity, leaning forward, obvious contemplation and asking relevant follow-up questions – is the largest concession you will have to give.

Just the facts, ma’am: He prides himself on his objectivity. The numbers tell it all. We just have to stick to the facts and the negotiation will progress.

  • People, not institutions, negotiate. People have history – his-story. Some stories are personal (ego, mood, fears), and some stories arise from circumstances. Ask for your counterpart’s story, and tell yours. Stories engage, leading to more open discussion and mutually satisfying solutions.

Never let ‘em see you sweat: She feels intimidated by her counterpart’s experience or reputation. He’s known to get what he wants. She intends to show him from the start that she’s no pushover and is tough as nails.

  • Reciprocity is an ancient concept. You be bad and he be bad back. The best way to set the tone is to prove yourself as a worthy negotiator. Prove you did your homework. Prove you came to listen, learn, and give. Prove you can be creative. Prove you can be trusted. Your best leverage is your skill as a negotiator.

These natural inclinations and defenses can blind us from success in our negotiations. See clearly now.

Negotiating Tip

It's helpful to get a verbal commitment of willingness to be cooperative at the start of a contentious negotiation.

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Negotiation Blog

Oprah, Weight Watchers and Win-Win Negotiations

By Leslie Mulligan

No stranger to success in negotiations, Oprah Winfrey has once again made both parties a winner. She and Weight Watchers have joined forces to help the rest of us achieve health and happiness. Their arrangement is based on one of the most fundamental negotiation principals: when the parties' interests are aligned, more value can be created.

Oprah made a major investment in Weight Watchers, announcing a $43 million investment, 10% of the company, on Oct 19th – and both Weight Watchers and Winfrey seem to be winning ever since. Their Interests clearly overlapped; “there is tremendous alignment between Oprah’s intention and our mission”, said Jim Chambers, Weight Watchers CEO.

Oprah is no stranger to weight loss programs any more than she is to success, and has both achieved goals and endured setbacks in this area for decades. So why endorse Weight Watchers? 

Oprah went on the Weight Watchers program earlier in the summer and lost 15 pounds, as she proudly announced on the Ellen show. Her personal experience gave her confidence that the Weight Watchers program could work. But Oprah would not be swayed by just her own weight loss, as she is a shrewd investor and perhaps more importantly, a renowned philanthropist who cares about bettering the world.

And as it turned out, Weight Watchers was intent upon expanding its brand from a weight loss company to one that focuses on “helping people lead a healthier, happier life”, said their CEO, Jim Chambers recently. With that brand shift, Oprah got on board: their interests were now even more powerfully aligned. In a Linked In Pulse that she penned recently, Oprah talked about her philosophy on life, how it matters what we believe.  She said “Our intentions become thoughts … our thoughts become beliefs … our beliefs become words and actions”. Oprah has put her beliefs and dollars into this deal.

When both sides at the negotiation table identify their Interests early in the discussion, real value can be created. While Oprah may have lost some weight, the WTW stock price doubled since her investment.

Time will tell whether this investment pays off – Oprah is committed for at least 5 years, as she cannot sell her shares until that time under the terms of this agreement. But she has always taken the long view, hosting the Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, one of the longest day-time talk shows in history, even after she had earned more than $1 billion. Weight Watchers not only received a committed investor, but as part of its effort to stay relevant in a crowded market of weight loss fads, it got a boost in brand recognition by joining with the Queen of Media herself.

Of course, the holiday season presents another obstacle, at least for any personal weight loss goals. But we know the Oprah-Weight Watchers deal will prevail even through the holidays, as it was built on strongly aligned interests – the road to Win-Win!

Negotiating Tip

Contrary to popular belief, 9 out of 10 times you will benefit greatly by making the first offer.

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Negotiation Blog

Happy People Make Better Negotiators

By Marianne Eby

Inc. magazine contributor Jeff Haden gives us a list of “10 Things to Stop Doing Right Now”  to be happier. We couldn’t help but point out that if you subtract these 10 things from your negotiations, too, you’ll be happier AND a better negotiator.

Haden's top 10 subtractions on the road to happiness are no-brainers to master negotiators, so we wanted to highlight the biggies from a negotiator’s perspective:

1. Blaming - Take responsibility for your part. If your customer hasn’t kept up with its volume commitment, ask yourself – did you set the bar too high, have you trained their users on your service, what part of this is yours?

2. Impressing – It’s important to sell value – yours, your company’s, your product and service. But if all you do is promote you and yours, you will miss the golden opportunity to learn about your counterpart.

3. Interrupting – Even new negotiators know to ask a lot of questions, but it doesn’t pay off if you interrupt the answers. And fake listening doesn’t count – master negotiators listen with sincere curiosity!

4. Controlling – Even when you have all the power, trying to control the outcome of negotiations is counter-productive. Controlling the discussion or outcome ensures that you will miss opportunities to talk, to find hidden value for both parties, and thereby create a sustainable and viable agreement.

5. Dwelling – Haden tells us “the past is just training.” Negotiators, even the best, make mistakes. They do their homework and they diligently follow the best practices, but to get the best deal they are creative risk takers. Asking questions has risks. Suggesting options has risks. Showing your cards has risks. And with the risks come some mistakes. But master negotiators don’t dwell; they turn mistakes into lessons.

6. Fearing - For negotiators, fear is what keeps us from asking for what we want, the nail in the coffin for achieving a beneficial agreement. Think of the "big ask" as a way to start the conversation. If your request is defensible, then you can confidently ask for it.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate for what you want! You’ll be happier, build stronger relationships, and achieve mutually beneficial agreements.

Negotiating Tip

Do you have a clean, funny story or joke? Tell it in a negotiation. Laughter relaxes people. Relaxed people are less confrontational and say yes.

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