What does style have to do with negotiation?

June 16, 2017

Best Practices Part II

So you’re preparing for a negotiation. Have you thought about your style? How about the style of your counterparty? The hard truth is that style is often left off our preparation list. Many negotiators fall into the trap of unwittingly charging forward with their own natural style and never considering what factor it plays in having a positive outcome.

It’s important to consider your partner’s potential negotiation style and your own style before you go into a negotiation.

Don’t let this happen to you. Tilt the balance in your favor by carefully considering what style will reward you with the lion’s share of the profits. Below is a list of 5 negotiation styles to consider while preparing for your next negotiation.

  1. Compete (I win - you lose): Competitive negotiators pursue their own needs and give little though to others.

    When to use: When you have an overwhelming clear advantage, need to get a deal done quickly or are involved in a singular transaction.

    Pitfalls: A highly competitive style is easy for the other party to prepare for and can often lead to deadlock. Unchecked competition can also ruin future relationships.

    Defense: Don’t cave in! Appeasing competitive negotiators creates the belief that your concessions should be expected.

  2. Accommodate (I lose – you win): Accommodating negotiators believe that part of winning people over is to give them what they want. This not only includes products and services but also valuable information.

    When to use: When you find yourself in a weak position and the only option is to give in gracefully. Sometimes, it’s better to lose the battle and live to win the war.

    Pitfalls: Giving away value too early in the negotiation can give you little to offer later when you may need a strong card to play. It can also signal to your counterparty that you have deep pockets and much more to give.

    Defense: Beware of gifts as they may have strings attached. Ensure that your counterparty is not giving something away with the intent to collect something of equivalent value later on.

  3. Avoid (I lose – you lose): High avoidance negotiators dislike conflict and can sometimes be passive aggressive.

    When to use: When the benefit of not negotiating outweighs the value of investing time to resolve a conflict or when negotiations get heated and a cool down period is required.

    Pitfalls: The party with greater urgency usually ends up with the short end of the stick. Also disengaging from the negotiation may signal to the other party that you are not interested.

    Defense: Set clear expectations on timing up front and consider escalating to a higher level of authority.

  4. Compromise (I lose/win some – you lose/win some): Often thought of as splitting the difference. Compromise often results in both negotiators settling for less than what they want or need.

    When to use: When pushed for time and a trusting relationship exists. Be careful that you win and lose the right things.

    Pitfalls: This style is often used what you’re not prepared and are just winging it. The party who starts with the most ambitious opening position often ends up with most of the value. Beware of competitive negotiators as they will spot you a mile away and will build more extreme opening positions little by little.

    Defense: If you counter party starts with an extreme opening position, be sure to counter with an offer that brings them back to reality. If you do retreat from a position be sure to do so with solid rational.

  5. Collaborate (I win - you win): Often referred to as the “expanding the pie” negotiation style. Collaborators are willing to invest the time to expand value through uncovering interests.

    When to use: When the value in the negotiation is substantial, the relationship is long term and there is risk for both parties.

    Pitfalls: It dangerous to collaborate with a party who is not reciprocal in the sharing of information. Make sure to share information at the same level of detail as your counterparty.

    Defense: Make sure to defend yourself against a collaborative negotiator if you determine that it is not in your best interest to collaborate. Your time is short, so be careful who you collaborate with.

Take control of your next negotiation by understanding what style is best suited for your situation. Above all, don’t be afraid to change course. An experienced negotiator isn’t married to one approach and moves between styles as needed. The key is to make the switch at the right time.

Now that negotiation style is on your preparation check list, you are one step closer to realizing the deal you want.

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