Two Differences between Good and Great Negotiators

1. Assessing their Reaction

Good negotiators put their offer on the table, promote it strongly in terms of benefits for the other side, and then look for the other side’s reaction.  Great negotiators are able to assess the other side’s reaction before they make their offer.  They hold back on putting their proposal too early because they know that once a proposal is put on the table, the other side is expected to respond with a counter-proposal.  Then, the negotiation process moves on to bargaining.

The trouble is, once you start bargaining, you stop sharing information – the information that could allow you to identify where you can offer additional value to the other side.  Research has shown that the later that a first offer is made the more likely it is to be more creative and contain better value for all parties.

Great negotiators make full use of the ‘Preamble’ – the stage in negotiation before proposals are put.  They create ‘safe’ spaces where the other side can share their thoughts and feelings without committing themselves.  They use lines like, “I’m not asking for any commitment here.  I’m just playing around with ideas.  How would you feel if…”.

2. Focus on Their Interests & Decisions

Good negotiators know what they want and work diligently to achieve it.  Great negotiators focus relentlessly on the interests of the other side.  They move behind their positions (their demands) and look to identify their interests.  They ask  lot of ‘why’ questions: “Why do you want that?” “Why is that important to you?”

Great negotiators are also brilliant decision facilitators – they focus n the decisions the other side needs to make and how they can make saying ‘yes’ easier than saying ‘no’.