Tough times, such as the various crises happening around the world today, give rise to tough conversations. They open opportunities to practice hard negotiation skills, like when you have to renegotiate established agreements, in order to adjust to the challenging situation.
Lisa Lang, general counsel at Kentucky State University, acknowledges tough conversations during tough times where existing contracts, for instance, have to be renegotiated due to unforeseen changes in the circumstances. For her, nothing beats the value of collaborative negotiation to turn these situations around.
She reveals three skills to focus on to help you succeed in tough negotiations.
1. Avoid Positional Bargaining
Positional bargaining means entering into the conversation with a very firm, specific and held position. It prevents the right negotiation from happening because from the start, you are unwilling to show flexibility regardless of the considerations. In times of crisis, however, holding on to a position can become very difficult, as both parties are impacted in a certain way. At times, there’s no way to understand how deeply the other side is affected.
To avoid positional bargaining, make sure you understand the perspectives on both sides as you begin. Know what obstacles and potential threats the other side has because of the crisis and how much they are going to lose. This way, both of you can come up with the best possible solution and distribute the loss equally between each of you.
By avoiding positional bargaining, you are ensuring survival not only of the business you represent but also of the other party so you can continue a fruitful relationship with each other.
This is a win-win and a classic in collaborative negotiation.
2. Establish Transparency
Transparency in negotiation refers to the positive aspect of reciprocity where you share information and the other person shares back information. It develops trust between the two parties and consequently assures you that both sides are in good faith in trying to solve the problem together.
It discourages the negative aspect of reciprocity (also known as vengeance) because when you withhold fairly necessary information, the other side will also hold back information. In the end, you will both fail to achieve your desired negotiation outcome.
While transparency encourages openness, make sure you discuss and agree first with your team – if anyone’s joining you in the negotiation – the kind of information you will keep confidential in case the negotiation becomes contentious.
Be also mindful that the sharing of information is not disproportionate, ie, what you are sharing far outweighs the amount of information they are sharing. This is far from being a collaborative scenario. Don’t dump all information at once as you begin, hoping they’ll do the same. One information for each information they give is an ideal process.
3. Make Reasonable Adjustments
As you determine how far you can go or adjust in your problem-solving brainstorming, reciprocity dictates that you’re not the only one giving concessions. Exhaust all avenues where you can make adjustments, but make sure the other party does as well.
This is called reciprocal concession, and as Lang emphasizes, “Everything you’re offering should be tied to getting something in return. That’s so important when it comes to maintaining a good position in these negotiations. “
But while pre-negotiation planning on the specifics of your adjustments is helpful, everything will still depend on the kind of information the other party will give, and the flexibility they are willing to extend in certain areas. So keep an open mind.
And lastly, once you get the best possible terms, don’t commit to anything until you have them reviewed by the relevant teams, such as your procurement team and the top management or the board. Clarify that you are not the final decision makers. Remember that your job is to get a fair and reasonable deal that you can justify before the board and / or management, and have them approved.
As a negotiator, never underestimate the value of collaborative negotiation, as Lang loves to say. When you walk into that process, think of it as a partner coming together, problem solving, so that you can continue your relationship moving forward into the future.
Click here to listen to Lisa’s full episode.