Negotiation Techniques to Use When Representing Others

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Whether you’re selling or buying, a product, service or idea, after the initial presentation, you inevitably are involved with negotiating. One of the classic books on the topic, Getting to Yes, focuses the reader on reframing an adversary situation into one of “partners” in the collaborative effort of enabling both parties to achieve win-win.

In Good for You, Great for Me, Lawrence Susskind, a cofounder of the program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and professor at MIT, offers us advanced tips in his book, which focuses on negotiations in which the person at the table represents the interests of a group of people not present at the table. For instance, in all of the global conferences in which countries try to reach agreements concerning international trade, financial relations, release of toxic gases into the environment, etc. the people at the table represent a large group of ultimate decision-makers at a “back” table. His tips focus on what you should do while in the “trading zone”; they include:

  • Reframe your negotiating partner’s mandate and priorities. They may have been given a list without clarity on the specific priorities, including mixed messages about some. Or, you may raise issues that were not already considered – and thus force the person to reconsider a wider range of issues.
  • Propose packages that are good for them and great for you. The key is to create value –

so there is more to trade – for both sides; the goal is for the other side to see the trade as too valuable to turn down, but that’s advantageous to you.

  • Use contingent offers to claim more than the other side. “What-if” proposal allow you to figure out what you can give and get, with minimum risk.
  • Help the other side sell your best deal to their back table. Your partners are emissaries to their back tables, and may be less skilled than they need to in presenting why your new offer on the table is really in their best interest. Help them make an effective presentation in order to succeed.
  • Institute agreements against “predictable surprises”. During the follow-up period after an agreement has been signed, things can go wrong (e.g., markets change). Take into account that new circumstances will require new solutions, such as by stating the intent behind the decisions and by including dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve the unexpected events.
  • Build your organization’s negotiating capabilities so winning gets easier over time. Since you can’t always control how other people on your own team can get in the way of future negotiations, review with them the approaches that worked so they can build upon the successful processed. Skipping this step is one of the reasons that follow-up negotiations often fail!

Share your experiences as negotiators of other parties; have you used these techniques? What other ones would you recommend?