NOTE – This is an excerpt from the course “Filthy Negotiating”. You can check out the course here
A position is a goal that has been decided by one party before entering into the negotiation. How can a position be decided without hearing from the other party?
Don’t Negotiate Over Positions
Use good negotiation
- Meets both sides interests
- Yield a result that is safe and stable
- Is inline with general expectations
- As time efficient and cost efficient as possible
- It should either improve the relationship or not change the relationship between the 2 parties.
Arguing over positions is inefficient.
- Causes people to shut down and dig their feet in. When you waste time doing this it gets compounded. (Sunken Cost – You continue to fight the position because you have spend 2 months already fighting for it!)
- Ego can become a problem ( I will lose face if I back down now)
- The other problem with taking a strong prior position is that it is often quite extreme and can drag out everything unnecessarily and damage the relationship.
Good Negotiation Factors
- Decide that you want to join forces with both parties to fight for their problems as well as your own.
- Obviously you want to get a good result, but you must give the impression that you genuinely understand the other party’s problem and you want to resolve it.
Go Beyond The Position Of Your Opponent
- If your opponent takes a position you need to “open them up”.
- What are they really concerned about?
- What do they really want?
- Do they have a large ego!
- Do they want to feel that they won?
- Are they afraid of something?
- What is their fear?
We do not want to focus on the position but we must understand the emotion and real desire of the other party. If we come up with a solution that focuses on these desires we may get to a result which satisfies them but one that is much more beneficial to us compared to the opponent’s original position.
Prepare By Creating Multiple Options
- Generate a variety of possibilities for mutual gain before deciding what to do.
- Include one option that is slightly extreme in your favour but be willing to concede it.
Clarify The Criteria For A Good Result
- Ask the party for some objective measures that will constitute a good result for both. If they make a demand you can ask them to rationalize how that demand meets all of the mutually agreed, beneficial criteria.
Attack The Ball Not The Person
When I played junior football I remember a day where I was more worried than I was usually. I knew that I was going to be matched up against a superstar player. My opponent was very athletic and had been selected in the state team.
When it came to the game I found that I was so worried about this player that I forgot how to play and was completely outclassed.
2 months later a Lightning Tournament was organised. When I saw the schedule I saw that I had to play against this team twice in one afternoon. I was going to be matched up with this guy again! But twice in one afternoon!
The coach could sense my anxiety. He pulled me aside and said “Attack the ball, ignore the man”
He must have noticed that I was so worried about this player last time that I spent the whole game trying to tackle him. The result was that I forgot what I was supposed to do.
When I focused on attacking the ball, I completely forgot about my opponent and I had a much better performance. He still beat me, but I felt that he earned it this time and I was proud of my performance.
With negotiating you want to avoid the trap of focussing on your opponent too much.
Your opponent is just a person like you. They have a different view than you but they have emotions and flaws just like you do.
You want to acknowledge the position of your opponent but you want to focus on the problem (or ball) at all times.
This will help you in a couple of ways. You will not be intimidated to the point that you lose sight of your objectives. When you get intimidated, you tend to operate on emotions and you can become defensive for example which will likely yield a poor outcome.
It can also help you understand your opponent. You will start to see why they have taken the position that they have. You may not agree with their position but at least you will understand why they have taken it.
When you understand the perspective of your opponent and all of the emotions that they have in relation to that perspective you have a much greater chance of being able to influence your opponent.
I want to be clear that I am not saying that you need to agree with them or let them gain the advantage, just that you need to understand why they have taken that particular position.
One mistake that can be made is to dismiss the importance of any concerns that your opponent may have. You should actually do the opposite by treating the concerns of your opponent as extremely important, more so than you feel is probably the case.
Your opponent will feel that they are being treated with respect and getting fair treatment of their concerns. They may feel satisfied enough to concede ground on some of your own concerns.
Crack Open Your Opponent
Imagine you are negotiating a large contract for services. Your opponent has indicated that they are not happy with the price.
What should you do?
Many people would suggest that you should cut your price in this situation. This would be a huge mistake.
For several reasons. Once you drop your price, you have lost ground and can never recover your position. You can not renegotiate the price back up. Once you quote a price, the only way it can go is downwards.
Secondly you have demonstrated a great deal of weakness in your position. It tells your opponent that you do not even believe that your services are worth the price you quoted.
You also lose trust. If you backtrack on your price so easily it makes you look dishonest and desperate. It’s as if you must be over quoting the price and trying to take advantage of your opponent.
These reasons are bad enough, but there is an even more serious problem that you have created.
You may have fallen for a “Red Herring”.
A skilled negotiator will often use a fake objection to hide their real position.
Often price is used as a cover for something else altogether.
So if you fall for it and drop your price, your problems have just compounded.
Not only have you slashed any potential profitability, you are completely oblivious to the real position that your opponent is taking.
You will learn the hard way when your opponent continues to stall even after the price has been dropped.
Now your opponent has the upper hand. They have reduced the price and are in a position to push it down further. It is at this point that they will reveal their true position.
For example they may say,
“I like your price but the problem I have is that I need the software to run on all our systems, we don’t use Windows that much. We also have Linux and Mac systems”
Now if you had known that early you could have easily accommodate this request. You had sufficient profit in the deal to contract your software engineers to create a customized solution that will run on every system.
But you blew it. You failed to crack open the prospect. They didn’t really care about the price, they cared about cross system compatibility.
They probably will not consent to a price increase to get these features.
The first mistake was to easily fold on your quoted price. A skilled negotiator will understand that they need to test this objection to see if it is genuine.
How Would You Do That?
Questioning! “You might say other than price, what is the next concern that you have about this deal?”
When you discover the real objection (cross compatibility) You could say…
YOU – “I cannot reduce the price but I will send our software engineers over to create custom coding that will ensure compatibility for all of your systems. I will keep the price the same but you will need to allow an extra 2 months to the timeframe”
OPPONENT – “Deal!”
Hold your price until you have discovered the real objections, issues and concerns. Throughout the entire course of conversations keep an ear out for hints as to what the concerns are. There will be many hints!
Use questioning to get confirmation on the real objections.
Open Question Examples To Uncover The Real Objection
Here are some questions that will open up the prospect.
“__________, I can feel that something is not sitting right with you. Can you tell me what it is?”
“Is there something more to the story that I should know?”
“What specifically is it that you need to think about, is it the features?”
“__________, paint a picture for me, I can see you thinking about something”
“Ok, let’s do a progress check, where are you at with this?”
“Are you shopping around for alternatives?”
“What is the 1 biggest reason that is causing you hesitation?”
“I hear that you need to think about it. Which thing is it that you need to think about most?”
“I get the sense that , _________, is the most important sticking point. Can you tell me why?”
“Who will this decision impact most at your business?”
“If you went ahead with the purchase and it was not what you imagined, what impact would that have on you?”
“If you make the purchase and it ends up working out great, How will that impact you?”
“_________, interesting, what gave you that impression”
“Who do you have to confer with about this decision?”
“And what is your opinion about that?”
“Can you elaborate on that, please?”
“What is the opinion of the management team on this?”
“If you decide to follow through, do you have the funds organized?”
“Do you agree with their opinion? What is your take on the issue
“And how much say do you have when it comes to decisions?”
“When you say _________, I feel like there is something you are not telling me. What could it be?”
“There is something you are not telling me?”
“How does this align with your objectives at the moment?”
“This is the vibe I am getting _____________. Am I close?”
“Do you mean not if, but when you buy it?”
“If you get the go ahead to purchase, what month would you like to get it all finalized?”
“I don’t understand, can you spell it out for me?”
“How urgent is the decision deadline for this?”
“_________, from everything you have seen, do you feel that this is a smart and good use of your money?”
“What do I have to do to earn your business today?”
“What do you need me to do for you to make a decision now?”
“Ok let’s be frank and honest, what is holding you back here?”
“What is stopping you from pulling the trigger on this deal?”
“Is there anything that I can do today, to get you over the line?”
“What is it going to take for us to get this done together?”
“Is there something I need to know?”
Make a list of all of the objections.
Acknowledge them as very important, never dismiss them.
Formulate several options for the prospect that address all of their concerns and objections.
Develop Emotional Intelligence
Strategies in Dealing with Individuals
- Try not to denigrate, denounce or grumble.
- Give genuine and earnest appreciation.
- Try to create desire in the prospect by addressing their needs and emotions
- ABGI – Always be genuinely interested.
- Focus on appearing warm and friendly in your face ie smile!
- Use the prospect’s name often. It’s validating and people love to hear it.
- Be a decent audience. Urge them to discuss themselves.
- Frame the conversation around the prospects interests, not your own.
- Cause the other individual to feel significant – and do it earnestly.
Gently Move People To Your Way Of Thinking
- De-escalate conflict. Never create conflict.
- Recognize the other individual’s viewpoints. Never say, “You’re off-base.”
- When you are incorrect, let it be known quickly and loudly.
- Open with warmth.
- Get the other individual saying “OK, yes” right away. ie “Is that correct? Do you agree with that?”
- Allow the other individual to do most of the talking.
- Lead the prospect to the idea that you want them to have and tell them it sounds like a very good idea.
- Attempt genuinely to see things according to the prospect’s perspective.
- Validate the other individual’s thoughts and wants.
- Take the highest road.
- Sensationalize your thoughts slightly with positive enthusiasm.
- Offer a friendly challenge. “I tell you what, if you can do this, I will give you what you asked for”
How to Move An Individual’s Position Without Making Them Angry.
- Acknowledge their successes in a credible way.
- Point out individuals’ missteps in a roundabout way. Example say an employee is not hitting targets. Instead of “You are missing your targets every month, this is unacceptable” Try “Hey June was much better than May, you are getting closer to your target! I can’t wait to see you get there next month”.
- Talk about your own missteps prior to condemning the other individual.
- Pose inquiries as opposed to providing direct requests. “Hmm I wonder if we could do it his way, do you think it’s even do-able?”
- Allow the other individual to hide any hint of failure.
- Commend the smallest improvement and acclaim each and every improvement. Be “generous in your endorsement and lavish in your recognition.”
- Regard the person very highly. They will try to live up to your perception of them.
- Be a supporter of the person. Minimize their shortcomings and make them seem simple to address.
- Make the individual eager to do what you propose by making them feel important.
Never criticise. It wounds the ego of the other party. What good can come? None. They will reject the criticism and they will get defensive. Perhaps they will retaliate. You need to exercise self discipline and resist the urge to criticize. Show understanding and compassion. It will be much more powerful and persuasive.
“The best people are kind to waitresses and janitors”
People Are Big Toddlers
If you have experience dealing with toddlers you might just be an expert at de-escalating conflict. You may think that adults are much easier to deal with?
Well they are of course, but they still retain many of the characteristics that we know from witnessing toddlers.
It can be helpful to view your opponent as a toddler that you love like a family member.
You think of them fondly and want them to get a good outcome but you are wary of the hotbed of emotions that may be triggered if you offend them or make them think that they are not getting their way. So you tread carefully. You offer praise and make sure they feel that they are not getting unfair treatment.
I know that I am being facetious and that most people behave with more maturity, but try this change of mindset.
When you imagine that your opponent has all of the emotions of a toddler you should be able to keep them engaged.
Focus On What They Want
Make the conversation about what they want and show them how to get it.
Put Their Shoes On
You need to get inside their head. Understand what they feel and what they want and use that as the basis for moving towards what you want.
Creating Objection Focussed Options
So now that you know what your prospect is most worried about you will need to create some options for them. These options will prioritize all of the prospects’ concerns.
IMPORTANT – Avoid these traps which limit your ability to create options.
- Criticising Your Opponents’ Idea – No matter how bad their idea is. Find the good parts of it. Criticism stops progress dead.
- Don’t Focus On A Singular Solution –This is a natural tendency but you risk boxing your opponent into a corner. You want to offer multiple solutions which all address aspects of your opponents concerns and desires
- Don’t Try To Win – We don’t want a winner and a loser.
- Don’t Be Greedy Or Selfish- Genuinely try to render benefit to your opponent in the outcome
The solution to these obstacles:
- Go Crazy With Brainstorming Solutions. Include more options than you think you should come up with off the top of your head, even ones that seem a little absurd. It’s a creative process and you can always eliminate it later on.
- Offer A No Brainer- An option that is easy and hard for them not to accept.
Justify Every Option
Similar to playing the ball, not the person. Stick to the proposed options. Don’t yield to manipulation, force or tension. Don’t engage on those terms. Justify your options based on the needs of your opponent
- Eg This is option 1. “This is why I think it’s fair and reasonable. These are your concerns that are addressed with this option”
- Whenever the negotiation gets off track ie frustration or emotion creeps in or your opponent tries to win and dominate…de-escalate and steer back to the options and justify them.
- It is far easier to deal with people when both sides are discussing objective standards for settling a problem instead of trying to force each other to back down.
What To Do When Your opponent Has Leverage
What To Do When Your Opponent Has Leverage
Let me illustrate what I mean here with leverage.
In 2021 many States and Cities closed their borders to deal with the Covid pandemic.
My home state Western Australia imposed one of the strictest border closures in the.
Imagine that you had a business based in Western Australia which installed process monitoring systems for the mining industry and were based in Western Australia. Your business employed engineers that regularly flew around the country to manage mine site testing laboratories where crushed ore was analysed to check for signs of mineral content.
You were looking to expand and were aggressively seeking contracts in new mine sites around the country.
Then the border closes for 12 months.
All of your contracts out of state become void as you can not travel to meet your contractual obligations. This is compounded by the fact that sales reps are also unable to travel interstate to acquire new business.
You only have one client in your home state. You are free to travel within your home state so you are able to keep this client.
Now imagine that you are due to negotiate a new contract.
If the borders were open you would have some leverage. You would have plenty of clients and the ability to grow. Now you are in a weak position. Your opponent has leverage to exploit and you risk entering a very disadvantageous contract out of sheer desperation.
So you need to have some strategies to preserve your position as much as possible
The Best Option When You Lack Leverage
- The best you can hope for is to fight against giving up easily to a position which heavily favours your opponent.
- It’s a case of being prepared to get the best possible result that you can.
- Try to identify your unique proposition that will allow you to bargain to some extent in your favor.
- Try to formulate a position that indicates an advantage that you have over competitors for example.
- Just because you lack leverage, you should still challenge what is being proposed by your opposition.
- If you have alternatives to what is being proposed by your opponent you should communicate this. If your opponent thinks that you have no alternatives they are likely to offer a solution that is not advantageous to you. Also consider the alternatives of your opponent. Do they really have strong alternatives or do they need to come to an agreement?
Dealing With Deadlocks
When your opponent stays firm on a position. Do not fight it or criticise it. Maintain a “Poker Face”
Ask them to justify it.
- “What are the reasons that you have for taking that position”
- Suggest a position that improves your situation. Justify this improved position and point out why you have requested it. If the new position also has an advantage for your opposition, then you should mention that.
- When you suggest a position, do not defend it. Just state the reasons why you came to that position.
- Rather than defend your position you should ask what your opponent thinks about it.
- When your position is attacked, you should agree and express a desire to hear them out.
- Ask what they see as negative aspects of your position. Agree that these points are very valid
- When they give you negative points they are further revealing what their real interests are. You can use this new information to re-formulate a position which better caters to the new position.
- When you re-calibrate your new position, you should mention that you have done so in light of the opponents negative points about your original position.
When You Cannot Recalibrate A New Position
Sometimes you cannot accommodate what is being requested. The only way forward is if your opponent recalibrates their position.
You need to keep the negotiations on track. If you say “NO, I cannot do that” you may have derailed your chance to come to an agreement. Your opponent may say, “Well if you can’t do that, I will find someone who can ”.
This is the time where you deflect the attack by coming back with a question, for example, “Can you tell me why that is justified”. You can also refer back to the most important issue that had been discussed previously, one which you can satisfy. You could say “Which issue is most important, Issue A or Issue B”.
When they say the original A, you can say, “Yes that’s the most important issue and we are committed to that in our proposal”.
When The Attack is Unjustified
When I worked in sales I would deal with unreasonable counter offers by taking my pen back, putting it in my top pocket and just silently stare at the person sitting across from me.
An unjustified position is disrespectful. If you try to talk quickly or effusively you are showing weakness. Instead just sit there in silence and wait for your opponent to backtrack from the ridiculous position or at least attempt to justify it.
Ask questions and pause.
- They use questions instead of definitive replies, which allows the other side to articulate what they want and helps you get the the bottom of their true position.
- Say NOTHING and just look back at them. On the off chance that they make an outlandish proposition or an assault you see as inappropriate, the best thing isn’t to say anything. Being totally quiet created a feeling of awkwardness and will usually lead to more information being offered by your opponent. Remember that they are being unreasonable, let them justify the statement. Why you you say anything?
Dealing With Manipulation
Some people will play a ruthless game of manipulation or force in order to concede as little as possible and gain the maximum for the solution.
How To Deal With This
Be clear about the rules of engagement. Explain at the very beginning that you will outline a position that is desirable to me. I will explain what my reasons are and will justify my position
I will pay you the same respect and will allow you to state your position and justify it.
I will not use aggression or personal attacks and I will not try to manipulate you or force you.
Types Of Manipulation Or Fallacies That Break Rules Of Engagement
Where the speaker attacks the character, motive, or some other attribute of the person making an argument rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself. . For example, when someone rejects or criticizes another point of view based on the personal characteristics, ethnic background, physical appearance, or other non-relevant traits of the person who holds it.
A straw man (sometimes written as strawman) is a form of argument and an informal fallacy of having the impression of refuting an argument, whereas the real subject of the argument was not addressed or refuted, but instead replaced with a false one.One who engages in this fallacy is said to be “attacking a straw man”.
A discussion about marijuana legalization.
A: We should legalize marijuana.
B: No, any society that promotes marijuana to kids is also rife with narcotic use like heroin amphetamines. Not to mention the effects on crime. The original proposal was to relax laws on marijuana. Person B has misrepresented this proposal by responding to it as if it had been to “promote marijuana to kids”. It is a logical fallacy because Person A never advocated promoting marijuana to kids.
So What Do You Do When Your Opponent Breaks The Rules
Call Out – Immediately stop and mention that you are breaking the rules that were agreed upon. This usually diffuses the attack. If not you must pull out of the negotiations because your opponent is not acting in good faith.
Usually it can help to quickly revisit the rules of engagement followed by, “let’s continue on”…