The goal of any meeting is to decide the exchange of goods/ currency/ value. But that’s just scratching the surface. What you do behind the closed doors of a meeting room is trade power. Show who’s in control. Who gets to decide how things are done. Unfortunately, this trait of the game perverts the way it is played…
However, there are lots of things you can do to tip the scales in your favour.
Sharks with sharp tongues
There are several negotiation techniques that you can use to coerce your discussion partner to take a specific course of action (more on them, in another article). Adopting them leads to a “Win-Lose” situation, with you as the sole victor of the meeting. However beneficial on the short-term, a Win-Lose will most likely not lead to future business with that partner. It tends to put the Other out of business.
For instance, let’s say you’re a used car dealer. And you want to buy in bulk from a company who renews their car fleet every four years. Your drive is to pay the least amount of money possible. Their drive is to lose as little money as possible. You evaluate the cars based on what their current price is. They look at what the new cars will cost them and at their used cars current price, trying to minimize the gap between the two.
You have the upper-hand: their cars’ prices are dropping each day. They’re desperate.
If all you want to do is follow your interest and cut costs, you can Prolong the discussions and use time in your favour. Invent procedures that span days/weeks/months, all the while promising to buy. And do so until their prices are low enough for you to take advantage of them. It’s a form of harassment, but it does work.
However, they won’t sell to you again. They’ll go somewhere else. And they’ll probably advise others against dealing with you.
You’re the shark who cost them 4 cars.
Mellow is Yellow
But maybe that’s not your style. Maybe you want to forge a long lasting relationship with them - after all, their employees might be the ones who get to buy the cars from you. And you get to buy from the company again, because you were really nice to them.
If you choose to accept some losses just to keep the partner, you’re undermining yourself.
The message you send is that your margin is high enough to accept said losses. So your meeting partner will naturally assume you can go lower. And they’ll force you to go lower.
Our brains are rigged so that we want to be consistent with our own actions. So you yield. And you slash your prices when they ask you to.
By doing this over and over again, you leave the impression of a push-over. And it’s a sure way of being bullied in meetings. You lose respect with each one-sided concession.
Morose to lose
This outcome is the simplest of all. Both parties lose. The agreement is too costly for your partner and too time-consuming for you, but you go on with it and lose resources in the process.
BATNA Way Or The Highway
BATNA is an acronym for Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement (as presented in “Getting to Yes”, by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton). And you should never book a meeting room without having your BATNA in mind. To develop it is to understand your partner’s needs and position. But compare them to your own.
In short, you assess your business needs, list what you can do to solve them with the partner with which you are to negotiate. And then pick the one that’s slightly better than not working with that partner at all.
You shouldn’t strive to get to your BATNA - you should try to see what the other’s BATNA is and how you can sweeten the deal for them. All the while making it more beneficial for you as well.
But once you get to your BATNA, be ready to up and leave. It shows that your partner is acting as an opponent and you’re probably better off not working with them.
But do go for a win-win. Aim for mutually beneficial solutions. And ask for a concession everytime you agree to one yourself.
Negotiation should be perceived a balance of power. This attitude will not only win you recurring business, but image and reputation points as well.
A meeting is a brand’s strongest touch points with some of its most influential stakeholders. Just ask your brand manager.
Next week we’ll go into more detail, assessing the main principles of persuasion you should keep in mind while preparing for a negotiation. And we’ll also cover some points on negotiation etiquette.