I’ve just been listening to somebody’s views on negotiation. They were banging on about the need in a negotiation to be able to manipulate the situation to their advantage, and were recommending two of the most dated and worn out techniques in the book. Sorry, that won’t cut it today.
They were recommending two particular negotiation tactics to gain advantage: The sharp intake of breath and the slamming shut of the briefcase. Let’s pause for a moment to look at these a bit harder. In summary, they’re both about using some amateur dramatics to try to win a point.
Sharp intake of breath
This negotiation tactic is very simple. As soon as the other side names any position – though it’s usually used in relation to a price – you do the sharp intake of breath.
So for example they say, “This costs £100”.
You respond with the sharp intake of breath and a “How much?” in the most incredulous tone you can.
Slamming the briefcase shut
This negotiation tactic is equally simple. When the other side states a position, you slam your briefcase closed and say there’s no point in talking if they’re going to be ridiculous. If you really fancy yourself as a thespian, you might even storm off out of the room.
Why don’t they work?
Simple. Because they belong to a bygone age. They might have worked years ago, but pretty much everybody today would recognise them for the manipulative tactics they are. Far from building trust, they’re much more likely to severely damage it.
It’s about pies
What? Pies? Yes, pies. Try this line of thinking. Imagine your negotiation is a pie.
The traditional approach is one of division, to think of the pie as a fixed size, and then to fight to split the pie in a way where your objective is to get the bigger portion. The modern approach is one of collaboration, where the approach is to find ways of making the pie bigger so that both parties benefit.
Sharp intakes of breath and slamming briefcases closed have no part to play in a negotiation trying to make the pie bigger.
If you’re going to collaborate, you’ve got to trust, and be trusted. And that comes from being genuine and honest. It also demands that your intent is truly to get a great deal for both sides.
Make the pie bigger
If you’re really trying to make the pie bigger, you really need to understand what’s important to the other side. What do they value, and why? How valuable is it to them?
With that knowledge, you can start to think creatively about options you might add into the negotiation. That has the very useful side effect of taking the focus off purely the price. If price is the only factor being discussed, you’re going to end up splitting the pie, not making it bigger.
Amateur dramatics have their place in the local village hall, they don’t belong in a negotiation. You aim is to get the best deal you can, for both parties. That demands a collaborative approach to try to make the pie bigger.
Here’s what to do next
If you’re interested in how this could help you, or feel I may be able to help you with some of the challenges you’re facing, please get in touch for an informal discussion.
There’s no commitment, we’ll just discuss your situation to see if working together might be a good fit. Contact me now.