6.4 Styles of negotiations


Avoid Early Concessions
The importance of making a tough but credible opening is clearly illustrated earlier in this course. In the early stages of bargaining it is important to follow this up by maintaining a firm stance, to demonstrate to the other side that you are unlikely to make substantial movements from your opening position. Your job as a negotiator is to put forward persuasive arguments that will compel the other side to agree with you and thereby make concessions. However, never verbally attack the other side, always be polite and if possible provide them with an escape route. Disagree firmly but don’t try to make the other side look small. If you indulge in personal attacks the other side may dig in and a deadlock may result.

Identifying Your Negotiating Style
Assess your own personality in the light of the negotiating styles below. Bear in mind that you are unlikely to identify exclusively with a single personality type, as most people are a complex mix of different personality types.

  • Analytical – Analytical people demonstrate an aptitude for breaking down concepts and aggregates into their component parts. To these individuals a city is a collection of streets and buildings. When faced with a proposal they will break it down into its constituent parts before working out how to adjust the separate components to benefit their side.
  • Aggressive – Some people identify what it is that they want and make a determined effort to achieve it. They may employ all manner of arguments, props and tactics to ensure that they reach their desired goal. This style can be an effective approach to negotiating, utilizing their ability to seek out and employ the tools and weapons required to construct a powerful and convincing case.
  • Persuasive – A mixture of natural charm and the ability to paint a scenario that people buy into, the persuasive individual possesses the knack of ‘getting people on board’. If you have this ability then you would do well to concentrate on face-to-face discussions at the strategic level – concentrating on gaining agreement in principle. Leave the detail of the agreement to others and avoid going head to head with individuals who are essentially analytical.
  • Inclusive – A naturally accommodating personality, in negotiations this individual tends to incorporate almost every idea or requirement into an ever changing plan or proposal. The result can be an ever-changing specification that proves increasingly difficult to ‘sign-off’. This style may frustrate individuals who want to focus the negotiations on delivering the ‘main deal’.
  • Whatever your negotiating style, if you are communicating with the same person, group or organization regularly then it is important to build up a reputation as a trustworthy and fair negotiator. This can only be achieved over time and may be helped by taking the other side’s word on particular points and keeping any suspicions you may have to yourself. You should also avoid manipulations and half-truths however tempting they may be, as if these come to light it will prove very difficult to salvage your reputation.

    Bargaining Guidelines
    Irrespective of your negotiating style, there are certain guidelines that you should follow:

  • Be willing to make small concessions.
  • Identify what is important to you and focus on achieving gains from the other side on these issues.
  • By making small concessions on a number of minor points a spirit of co-operation can be fostered, whilst enabling you to keep referring back to your main issues and seeking accommodation on them.
  • Anticipate the other side’s objections – and use this information to diffuse them.
  • By foreseeing obvious reservations that they may have you can address them and explain your point of view before the other side can raise them as a contentious issue. The one caution here is that you must be careful not to gift any arguments to the other side – by raising points that they may not have thought of.
  • Assertions of fact will have far more impact if they are backed up with published information. The use of domain experts may add a lot of weight to your position. If they are good communicators why not let them make the argument rather than just confirm your viewpoint. Before you attempt to counter the other side’s argument it is important that you understand their position, by listening carefully to what they are saying. The way in which an argument is countered will be heavily influenced by the personality and style of the individual negotiator.
  • Don’t talk too much yourself You may end up giving too much away and it is likely to reduce your ability to read signals coming from the other side. Wherever you can, ask the other side to justify their position on an item by item basis and make sure that you understand their reasoning clearly.
  • Don’t just say “No” If the other side wants something that you cannot give. Where possible, try to offer an alternative package. For example if you cannot meet the customers required delivery date, could you deliver part of the order on that date, followed by the remainder shortly afterwards.
  • Don’t overstate your case The use of emotive words and metaphors can add interest and aid understanding. However, if taken too far it can reduce the credibility of your main argument. It is often better to understate a strong case than to overstate a weak one.
  • Don’t highlight your own shortcomings Never use your own problems or shortcomings as bargaining chips, this almost inevitably backfires. For example if you try and justify a price rise as being the inevitable consequence of staffing problems, then it is likely that the customer will start to view your competitors in a better light.
  • Don’t deny obvious weaknesses in your position As you may jeopardize your credibility if you assert that they are not really weaknesses. A better tactic is to downplay them in comparison to other areas – where your position is strong.
  • Debating Tactics
    When you are listening to the other side’s arguments, or planning your own, there are some useful approaches to debating that you should be aware of:

  • Socratic Method – This is a powerful debating tool which involves framing a series of questions, the answers to which lead the participant to the conclusion that the questioner wants. It requires a good deal of planning to force the appropriate series of questions into the debate, when and where they are needed.
  • Ad Hominem Argument – This takes the form of attacking an individual rather than their argument. For example: “Mr. Smith is the chairman of the user group and therefore he’s bound to say that our maintenance costs are too high”.
  • Argument from Authority – This takes the form of assuming that the argument put forward by an individual in a position of authority, not an expert, automatically carries weight. For example: “If the chairman of the user group says our maintenance costs are reasonable then they must be.”
  • Small Sample Argument – A common tactic, whereby spurious credibility is implied in a statistical finding. For example: “80% of our customers who responded to a survey thought that our maintenance charges were reasonable”. If the organization had several hundred customers but only a carefully selected 20 were sent questionnaires and of these only 5 responded, then how much faith could realistically be attached to the finding?
  • False Dichotomy – This is an argument in which two conditions are expressed as being exhaustive with respect to the available options – when in reality others are available. For example: “Either you accept our maintenance charges or you can go ahead without a maintenance contract”.
  • Non Sequitur – This is an argument in which the second condition does not logically follow from the first. For example: “If we offer you better terms on our maintenance contract, you will have to pay more for the initial purchase”
  • Straw Man – A classic debating technique is to attach bogus significance to an issue, and then to concede your position on this at a later point. Consider for example an employee negotiating a pay rise at their annual appraisal. In this example the employee has highlighted the forthcoming move to a new project team as being a major concern to him – when in reality he is very pleased about it. Later, as the two sides near agreement, he feels the time has come to cash in his straw man . . . For example: “Look if you will come up with two more percentage points on my salary, I’ll go out of my way to ensure a seamless integration with the new project team”.
  • Making Threats – This is a tactic normally only used by individuals with a tendency to bully. Never react to threats – act as if they were never made. If you are ever in the position where you have to make threats, make sure that they are not empty ones. For example: “Agree to these terms or I’ll take my business elsewhere and we’ll never do business with your organization again”
  • Bluffing – Normally used by the buyer to indicate that other suppliers are offering a better deal than you are. You should have prepared your position carefully and should feel confident in asking for an explanation. For example: “What exactly are you being offered, what are the payment terms and are you really going to place another contract with them.”
  • Leading Questions – These are designed to channel you into a position where you have to agree with the other side. Never fall for a leading question. For example: “Do you think that your suppliers should be rewarded on merit” ‘Well . . .YES’ “Well then, you’ll have to drop the fixed bonus that ignores volume throughput, won’t you ?”
  • The Piecemeal Approach – Here your opponent will try to pick off the items one by one. Always negotiate the whole package and avoid being railroaded into a piecemeal settlement. For example: “Right we’ve agreed the price and delivery will be in two months – now this is how we charge for maintenance”