Complex Negotiations: Challenges and Opportunities

Tom Tripp, Professor of Management, WSU Vancouver
Business Growth MAP Alliance, Sept. 20, 2017

Negotiating is critical to business success. Managers and business owners often negotiate with employees, customers, vendors and sometimes community members. While most view negotiating as common sense, the reality is that without proper training, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Tom Tripp, professor of management at WSU Vancouver, advised listeners at the September MAP Alliance about key negotiation strategies that create gains for both parties. Focus on priorities, he said, adding, “Most go into a negotiation with differing priorities than the other party. Some people think this creates conflict, when in actuality it helps resolve it.”

Tripp offered a takeaway checklist to prepare for real-world negotiations:

  1. Know yourself and what you aim to gain.
    • What is your overall goal? Understanding your goal will help put all aspects of the negotiation into perspective.
    • List your issues and rearrange them in order of importance. In understanding which issues you need to stand firm on, you can then decide which you can afford to concede.
    • Have a backup plan in case your negotiations fail. Having a clear BATNA, or Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement, will help protect you from accepting a deal that you would be better off not taking.
    • Identify your resistance point. This is the point which you decide to walk away if your needs are not being met. You shouldn’t accept anything less than a great offer.
  2. Know the other side and what they expect to gain.
    • Estimate what their priorities are. In considering your counterpart’s priorities, you can design potential tradeoffs during the negotiation process.
    • Learn the other side’s BATNA. Understand what their alternatives are to doing business with you. Just as you have a backup plan, so do they. Try to learn how far you can push before they choose to walk away.
    • Do they have a resistance point? It is wise to assume the other party is as well-prepared as you. Through understanding their resistance point you can estimate the least favorable deal they might settle.
    • Identify your target. Consider the bargaining zone, which is the range between the two parties’ resistance points. Then focus primarily on the most favorable agreement you hope to reach.
  3. Understand the situation as a whole.
    • Identify deadlines. The party who feels a greater sense of urgency will often make rapid concessions in hopes of securing a quick deal. Flexibility with regard to time can be a negotiating strength.
    • Determine what constitutes a “fair deal.” There are many valid ways to determine fairness. Depending on the other party, consider alternative norms of fairness for each negotiation.
    • Recognize what topics you want to avoid. Should they come up, prepare deflections in advance to keep from losing confidence or being caught unprepared.
  4. Be aware of the relationship between parties.
    • Will these negotiations be a part of a series? Consider whether you will have a continued business relationship with the other party. If so, avoid tactics that might be perceived as bullying, insulting or manipulative.
    • Try to develop trust. How much you trust the other party will influence your negotiation style. Formulate a series of small information “trades” to build mutual trust without exploitation.
    • Research the other party’s styles and tactics. There are three types of negotiators: those who ease into negotiations, those who take a more direct approach, and those who insist it is their way or the highway. Only through understanding your counterpart’s tactics can you know how best to communicate.
    • Establish the level of the other party’s authority. Determine whether you are negotiating with the right person who is authorized to make that deal.

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