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Do I Negotiate?

Published: Jul 06 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

A couple of times over the last week I have been told by prospect clients, that whilst they suspect they get involved in negotiations, they are not quite sure if they are negotiating or not. It seemed to them that all they had to do was discover the optimal position that could be agreed by all parties and that would inevitably win the day.

This struck me as both being a bit idealistic and also somewhat soft. The optimal position may indeed mean that I do not meet my, or my organisations best case. Worse still who decides what the optimal position is? Me, them or some arbitrary power?

When individuals are in conflict, and negotiation is a method of conflict resolution, they mostly think in terms of positions that they want to take. What they need or demand of the situation. We want a 10% increase in price? We need 90-day payment terms? These are positions. What the negotiator is more interested in is the interests that lie beneath these positions.

Typically, there is only one way to meet a position, but there may be hundreds of ways, literally (depending on how creative you are) to meet an interest. People, however, find it very difficult to articulate what their interests are. They are pretty good at knowing what they want, but less good at recognizing the drivers that sit beneath it.

Some pretty simple analysis should be used before entering any significant negotiation. What are my fundamental goals? What am I trying to achieve and why? What is most important to me? Repeat the process for the other side.

In many ways this should be the first step in any basic analysis about whether to begin the process of preparation for a negotiation. Other things like alternatives, bargaining arenas, costs of the negotiation itself both financially and emotionally and if the deal could actually be implemented will fall out of this basic objective setting exercise.

So do you negotiate? Well if you don’t get your own way 100%, 100% of the time, I suspect you do. In my view negotiation is critical in business, but also a fundamental life skill.

Take control of it by understanding the issues and drivers and you are starting to think like a negotiator. 


Alan Smith

About the author:

Alan Smith
My background is marketing and advertising. After graduating in Economics I entered the agency world to become, at 28, MD of London's largest independent below-the-line marketing provider.

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“When it comes to the qualifications we demand of our president, to start with, we need someone who will take the job seriously.” Michelle Obama. Don’t stop reading - this blog is not about Donald Trump. In the run up to the election of a new Labour Party Leader 4 years ago, the four candidates were invited by LBC radio to quiz each other. You can see the questions to Jeremy Corbyn here. There are two points of note. Firstly, when asked if he wants to be Prime Minister he ducks the question several times, instead referring to the ideological changes he wants to make within the Labour Party. Secondly when asked about his qualifications and experience to be leader of a major political party his answer is objectively underwhelming – before being an MP, he says, he had been a local councillor for 10 years. I don’t think it is difficult to relate those answers in 2015 to the current divided state of the Labour Party.

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