Silence As A Negotiating Tactic
Everyone is gathered around the table, the stakes are high, tensions fills the air as the other person layouts a detailed counter-proposal for your consideration. What to do. Everyone is hanging on your reaction, waiting, expecting a response.
When your proposal or offer is countered you have three obvious options. You can accept, reject, or counter. You also have two additional options that are seldom considered but are frequently worthy strategies. You can 1) simply sit back and do nothing or you can 2) ask for a break to consider the terms.
Doing nothing causes a pregnant silence. Often the other person will feel compelled to fill the void. Your silence is telegraphing that you are not entirely happy with the proposal. If the other person offers to improve or modify the proposal or if he becomes otherwise uncomfortable with the silence, he is signaling that he has room to negotiate further. Either reaction helps you decide which of the first three options you should pursue.
Asking for a break is another form of the silence tactic. It also signals that you have issues with the counter proposal. Watch how the other person reacts to your taking a break. If he or she appears anxious or ill at ease, it likely means that there is room to negotiate further. If instead the person appears uninterested and willing to delay for an extended time, it may mean that he or she has reached a final position and it is up to you to accept or reject the offer.
In either case, you have the opportunity to qualify how firm their counter proposal is by deploying either of these tactics. If, instead, you choose from the first three, you lose the opportunity. Learn to deploy and use silence as a negotiating tactic. The timing of your response signals a lot of information. Be aware of what a prompt or delayed response means to the other person and selectively use a variety of timed responses to send the signal you want to send rather than reveal what you are thinking at the moment.
Ironically, the art of negotiating is most required when you are presented with an offer that is acceptable. The dilemma is in knowing if it is the best you can do and if it is time to stop negotiating and accept the terms.
While you do not want to needlessly leave anything on the table, you do not want to over negotiate and risk losing the opportunity to come to an agreement. Understanding the difference in your wants and needs and being able to place these in perspective with what you have learned about the "marketplace value" of the currencies involved enables you to know when you have "won enough." "Marketplace value" is much more than the monetary value of a commodity or service. When valuing something always take into account the currencies of time, convenience, need and risk. Also try to assess the other person's unique/personal situation relating to the item, transaction or service.
Personal need or desire usually enhances actual value and can be used to leverage ancillary concessions. the use of silence as a negotiating tactic can bring out the extraordinary interest the other person may have in the negotiation.
Running into a angry grizzly requires swift, deliberate action. It is often best to aim and shoot rather than think and plan how to react.
Flash Negotiations is a tactic used to quickly resolve an issue. The proper use of this tactic relies on the sixth sense a negotiator gets that a resolution is at hand. This can happen when meeting the other person for the first time. Usually such meetings are tactical opportunities to gather and validate information upon which future strategies are developed. But the experienced negotiator will, on occasion, get a flash opportunity to open resolution discussions while the other person is off guard. Take advantage of these situations to save time and money. Flash Negotiations often yield the best possible deal available.
How does flash negotiating work?
To be able to deploy Flash Negotiations one must be able to draw upon his or her experience reading people, understanding the specific situation, knowing the background facts and understanding what they are prepared to do to make the deal. Armed with a strong base of experience and people skills, an aware negotiator commences the research interview. As the discussion develops, the other person may signal that he or she is receptive to an offer, is caught off guard, wants quick resolution, or is up to speed and prepared to discuss the matter.
Any of these signals presents an opportunity for Flash Negotiations.
If you are prepared to open negotiations, take the initiative and make a low but realistic offer. Tender as low an offer as you think will be received without shutting off the dialogue.
If the other person counters the offer or asks for more information you will know that the opportunity exists for a Flash Negotiation. His counter will set the parameter of the bid / ask and you can typically assume that the negotiation will end up at the median of the bid and ask. In a flash negotiation I often move quickly to that median point and use the swift pace of the negotiation as a reason to acknowledge the other person's professionalism, insight and forthrightness.
If you are ready to deploy Flash Negotiations as a tactic you will typically find that you will secure better terms and save time by doing so. As you have initiated the dialogue, you should be in control of the facts, be better prepared, and have the negotiating advantage while the other person has had little time to assess the situation.
When to use Flash Negotiations:
-When more time benefits the other person.
-When time is critical to your cause.
-When you know what you are willing to spend.
When Flash Negotiations may not be appropriate:
-When you aren't sure what your initial offer should be.
-When you do not know what you are willing to spend.
-When time is critical to the other person.
-When you are not prepared.
-When you do not have the authority to commit to the terms.
Develop the discipline to be alert and ready to deploy Flash Negotiations and you will be more effective as a negotiator or mediator.
Bluffing is a dangerous negotiation tactic.
A pack of wolves can smell your fear. Yelling and shouting is better than running, but not as good as firing your rifle if only you had remembered to bring it!
Do not employ bluffing as a tactic unless you are prepared to have it called. Bluffing can be a strategic mistake if you can't back it up.
A bluff is a venture into the unknown. You are calculating the other side will back down or not take the challenge. If you are wrong, you will have to perform or be caught in a bluff. Once you are caught bluffing, the other side will tend to assume you are always bluffing. It is essentially being caught in a lie.
Strategically it is safest to bluff when you have nothing to lose. Sometimes last ditch bluffing pays off. Sometimes it doesn't. The odds, obviously, are in your favor of improving your position as compared to doing nothing and accepting defeat.
There are times when you know you have cornered the other person. If the person then proffers an obvious bluff, you may want to consider it. It can be strategically prudent to grant a minor, ancillary concession to shore up the transaction rather than see the deal collapse and try to make the deal again.
Eventually Negotiators Must Agree
For a negotiation to be successful, it must end in agreement. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. He has to want to take a drink.
The parties to any agreement both have to be willing to sign. This is different than wanting to sign. An agreement does not necessarily need to be equally satisfying. It just needs to be agreed to. Negotiators and mediators know that disparity of satisfaction has little to do with getting the parties to agree.
What is important is that both sides, individually, feel that they have gotten something out of the agreement.
Timing is everything. Agreements shouldn't be rushed. But a negotiator can prepare the way to reach an accord. Effective mediators and negotiators know this and use the negotiating process as a means to building an environment that promotes agreement.
Practice makes perfect. Actually, we all learn by practicing. Getting the parties comfortable with committing is part of achieving a global accord. All too often a negotiator tries to rush to an agreement only to be frustrated when the other person pulls back at the last minute. The problem is that the other person is psychologically not prepared to agree. This may well be an unconscious reaction to being pressed too hard to do something that he knows, in the end, he will agree to do. But undue or ill-timed pressure may cause him to rethink, and often change his mind.
One can pave the way to reach a global accord by making it a point to recognize each sub-agreement the parties make during the conversation or negotiation. These agreement opportunities can be as simple as deciding where to meet, to selecting a restaurant for a lunch break. They will also apply to small issues within the context of the discussion. These small achievements of collaboration establish a pattern of cooperation that prepares the parties mentally to accept the final terms.
Unless you have pre-emptive power and intend to use it, realize that you have the power to do everything but make the other party sign the agreement.
Few negotiations are concluded through invoking absolute power. Those that do would be better referred to as mugging the other person. In such situations, one side is out to decimate the other with little regard to the damage done in the process. This is an abusive situation, and after the dust settles, the oppressed party will be laying in wait for any excuse to break the contract or simply leave.
Power driven agreements are typically short-lived. Given the chance, the other person will renig as soon as possible.
When to Accept an Offer
Crossing a rushing stream is easier if you take the time to locate the stones creating a path across the stream before wading into the water.
The art of negotiating is most required when you are presented with an offer that is acceptable; but you don't know if it is the best you can do!
When it's time to stop negotiating and accept the terms is an art of timing.
While you do not want to needlessly leave anything on the table, you do not want to over negotiate a point and risk losing the whole transaction. Understanding your business model enables you to know when you have acceptable terms. Knowing the other person enables you to know when you have pushed him as far as possible.
How do you get to 'know' the other person in the time span of a negotiation?
You do it by observing how he or she reacts/responds to various aspects of the negotiation. As you discuss terms, make offers, and react to offers made to you, carefully observe the non-verbal reactions of the other person. These reactions become the benchmarks you will need to evaluate how hard you have pressed them when the final offers and counter offers are being made.
No conversation should be treated as idle conversation. If you are not studiously learning something about the other side you should assume they are learning a lot about you. Learn to mask or vary your reactions, especially the non-verbal reactions, to keep them off balance. Negotiating is in no small part bluffing.
Decisions and Negotiating
Negotiators must be able to make decisions. Large decisions, small decisions, important decisions and mundane decisions. The process of making decisions is what advances a negotiation to its final outcome. Decision-making requires confidence, awareness, information, and courage. Most of all, it requires being prepared.
Prepare properly and agree to meet only when you are comfortable deciding what to do. Even though you may be meeting to gather information, the other person may present an opportunity for you to make an offer or accept a proposal. Being prepared to consider and act on such an opportunity enables you to take advantage of "The Moment".
There are those times when things just seem to go right and an opportunity to act presents itself. Unless you know what you want and need from a given situation, you will not be in a position to respond. Failing to do so may cost the deal later when the other person discovers other options or rethinks his or her offer.
People naturally resist making decisions. This is especially true when they feel they are being pressured to do so. To be an effective negotiator one needs to know how to prepare others to make decisions and commit. The climate of the negotiation plays a significant role in making everyone comfortable with making important decisions. Mediators work hard at giving everyone at the table a sense of power. They also use caucus or breakout sessions to separate people when emotions become too volatile. A negotiator can assume the role of a mediator in any negotiation by being sensitive to the climate of the discussions. By subtly taking responsibility for the "comfort" of the others, the negotiator assumes the mantle of a small group leader and may gain the ability to direct the discussion without having to force the issues through confrontational tactics.
Preparing for the Moment of Decision Tactics:
- If tempers have flared during the discourse, seek ways to mend the personal fences before pressing for decisions. People need to feel in control to commit willingly.
- As you approach major decisions it is helpful if you have laid the groundwork with small decisions along the way. This gets everyone used to committing and following through on their word.
- Review the terms carefully and solicit edits form everyone. By incorporating their changes they are becoming invested in the agreement.
- Encourage everyone to read the document one final time. You are intentionally slowing the process to ease the stress. Watch how others react to reading the document. If you see a cloud of doubt on someone's face, stop them and ask what is bothering them. You want everyone as comfortable as possible before placing pens in their hands.
- Review the reasons the others are agreeing to the terms and reinforce why their decision is a good one.
- Take a break and suggest a beverage or something to interject a chance to relax before actually sitting down to sign documents. Well timed breathers are a great way to diffuse mounting tension.
Decisions are pivotal moments in negotiations. Treat each decision, even the small ones, with respect. This builds a degree of comfort on the part of the other person in the process. Once a decision is made, reinforce why it was a good decision. It does not hurt to intimate that you may have conceded more than expected to build up the other's ego a bit. You want each decision to become easier as you build toward the really important decisions.
Negotiation, like any other process, can be managed. Who chooses to manage the process will likely prevail at the end of the day.
Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson, the lead character on the new TNT series The Closer, faces a group of Los Angeles' finest who do not know her, do not like her, and do not respect her. As a department head new to the department, Johnson is thoroughly resented. The newly formed Priority Homicide Squad is also a threat to the existing LAPD old boys club. Her challenge during the opening season, in addition to solving the homicides, is to overcome her squad's obvious dislike and disdain for her. Johnson is a CIA trained interrogator and was previously employed by Atlanta PD. Her excellent reputation for being "a closer", getting confessions that lead directly to convictions, is why she was brought in to head the new squad.
In negotiations being a closer is being someone able to actually bring discussions to a head and walk away with a signed agreement.
Mediators are expert at closing. That is what they do. They manage the process in a fashion that the parties ultimately come to an accord. Anything short of this is typically viewed as a failure. Their sole goal is to have the parties reach agreement.
The best negotiating that does not result in an agreement is less than satisfying. Corporate managers are not likely to appreciate all your hard work if you don't win more often than not. Corporations often lead managers to ignoring that accepting a bad proposal would be worse for the company than walking away from a deal. Most companies openly recognize and reward completion of negotiations more than the actual details of the transaction itself.
Closing a negotiation requires getting the other person to actually sign or agree. People naturally resist making final decisions. This is especially true when they feel they are being pressured. The climate of the discussions leading to this moment play a significant role in everyone being comfortable with signing the document or shaking hands to seal a deal. If tempers have flared during the discourse, seek ways to mend the personal fences before pressing for decisions. People need to feel in control to commit willingly.
The timing of asking for a signature or commitment is also important. If you sense the other person's unease, take a break and suggest a beverage or something to interject a chance to relax before actually sitting down to sign documents. Well timed breathers are a great way to diffuse mounting tension.
By the end of the first season in the series Closer, Deputy Chief Johnson has demonstrated to her squad and to the LAPD as a whole that she is, in fact, a Closer. Doing so she effectively converted her squad to silent but solid supporters. She did so by demonstrating that she can get the job done, with or without their willing support. Negotiators benefit if their reputation for doing what they say precedes them into settlement discussions. Not only does this make them more credible, it allows them to bluff on occasion.
When to Use Power
"The use of force is the last option for any president. ... You know we have used force in the recent past to secure our country." -- --U.S. President George W. Bush, on the possible use of military force against Iran.
Power is a constant in all negotiations. Understanding the dynamics of power in conflict settings is essential to mastering its potential. Skilled poker players know that for a bluff to be effective you must first establish yourself as being a competent player with a tendancy to back up your bets with good hands. The public remarks made by President Bush certainly deliver that message loud and clear. As he has done in Afganistan and Iraq, he has used our military when negotiations fail. By rattling his saber, President Bush is pressing Iran to soften their resolute posture before he is forced to act. This does not mean he wants to act. Only that he might act and is not afraid to do so.
Power can complicate negotiations. Viable deals are often missed because one side assumes the other will not negotiate or will take undue advantage of their strength. This false assumption can result in an acceptable offer never being tendered. In fact, were a proposal made, there is always a chance that it could lead to a satisfactory result.
Everyone has power in a negotiation if they have the ability to walk away from the "table". A powerful person or company does not always hold all the cards. No matter your net worth, company size or investment in the situation, if you can get up and walk away, you have a degree of power. You have the power, and it is absolute, to say "No!".
In today's world, every nation appears to be vying for their own power base to remain significant on the national stage. Iran and North Korea are using the threat of obtaining nulclear status to grab the center stage while the rest of the world is trying to diminish the nulclear threat. America is very aware of the growing threat and is putting them on notice. We may just have to use the power we have to thwart their efforts as we have done in the past. His statements are to be taken seriously as he has the track record of doing what he says he is going to do. Saddam did not listen or believe. Hopefully others will.