Your team or department has an important negotiation coming up. So how does your team prepare? The sad reality is most business negotiators prepare a few minutes before the negotiation meeting. Most preparations are based on ‘what if they say’ scenario discussions (not the most effective preparation). Most haven’t taken any training in negotiations skills, few more have read any books related to negotiation. So where’s the danger if most others haven’t prepared effectively either? You’ll know, just as soon as you come up against a negotiation team who have worked together for years or have attended one of our negotiation skills training courses.
Although I would always recommend your attending one of our negotiation skills training courses, this article passes on some of the bigger team preparation lessons our clients take after attending our training skills courses. One of the most important ingredients to effective negotiation meeting preparation is to make sure that the right people are there. By ‘there’ I mean at your preparation meetings and at the negotiation table. So who to invite to negotiate by your side and who should be in the shadows to coach you through?
Negotiation Team Roles
What happens if you don’t give each negotiator a clear team role and area of responsibility? Usually: chaos. Usually embarrassing chaos – with your team contradicting each other, or worse yet: someone ‘giving away the farm’, followed by a manager trying to claw back the farm. Sound familiar? This stepping on each others toes and giving away value doesn’t just happen on our foundation negotiation training courses, we also witness it happening early on in our advanced negotiation training courses. There are many ways to slice roles and assign responsibilities in a team negotiation, and once you do, as our clients have learned, you’ll reduce risk of losing value, and increase your deal closing ratio, and boost your bottom line profits. Lets start by looking at two methods:
Relationship vs. Task
If building a collaborative longer term relationship is important to you, then we recommend you assign a ‘relationship’ person. This will normally be the person in your team with the most regular contact with the other side. So who deals most closely with the other team? Next up, think of who is in charge off achieving your major negotiation goals. The decision maker or the person with the most negotiation experience is often assigned this role, but there are many other motivations for choosing others in the team for this role. Lets call this person the Task Master or simply in charge of successfully closing your negotiation deal.
Why would it be a mistake to make your your Task and Relationship the same person? The other side being human, and as humans we have a hard time believing that the person who’s getting us to laugh and is assuring us of how much they have our best interests close to their heart is also the one in the same same person driving a hard bargain and talking about a future without us. If executed in its most crude skill form, this can be seen as a ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ role. If relationship isn’t important to you, then playing this negotiation tactic can stand to your advantage. Otherwise we recommend that you steer clear of unethical tactics.
Consider playing to your strengths or natural skills. Have your team profiled, there are many affordable thinking profiles available online to give your team insights into their patterns of thinking. So playing to your strengths may mean typecasting your most caring and rapportful negotiation team member into your side’s Relationship role. Alternatively you may choose to give this same ‘touchy-feely’ person a developmental opportunity by having them take care of the task of achieving mission numbers. The result will be a more well balanced and skilful negotiator in the longer term.
Job Title and Competency
All too often the numbers guy takes care of the financial aspects, whilst the big picture lady from marketing paints the frame at the outset and sells the big idea. The bigger the team, the more opportunities you will have to slide up the agenda (ensure you slide the entire agenda up) by area of competency and experience. If you do divide the responsibility pie by job title or skills competency, then ensure that your team are clear on when to allow (or call for) your Task and Relationship experts to jump in. We often find on our sales negotiation training or procurement negotiation training courses that a junior, or shy team member who doesn’t often speak out is discovered to be a diamond in the rough. When put in front of our training camera, they shine – carving out a fantastic deal. So be careful to give everyone a chance to negotiate effectively. If a negotiation training course is beyond the reach of your negotiation
Take a step back for a moment. Do you know how the best negotiators achieve results that are consistently above average? The same way the armies of legendary Generals such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Alexander the Great consistently won at battle. Superior preparation. So if preparation is important for effective team performance at the negotiation table, and roles are important at the negotiation, then you would be on the money for guessing that roles are also important for effective preparation. What roles I hear you ask?
How to waste your team’s time in Preparation
- Don’t look at the clock! Without an eye on the clock, time is usually squandered in discussing various battle scenarios, without enough time being invested into the really important areas (to read about the most important areas of negotiation preparation, read our free negotiation articles).
- Start your team meeting without an agenda. Your agenda is your road-map. Without mapping out where you’re going, you’re unlikely to get there. Best to include the following in your negotiation preparation team meeting: Who should be in attendance and for which parts of your team meeting; who has which areas of responsibility (key to success is your choice of negotiation team facilitator), topics for discuss and their order of discussion.
- Don’t capture actions. Actions are the fruits born by your meetings labour. So don’t leave your fruit on your negotiation meeting preparation table.
Negotiation Team Facilitator
Democracy in negotiation preparation results in time overruns and lack of focus. So choose someone to stand at the flip chart, or the computer hooked up to the projector if yours is a technologically advanced team.Be prepared for this person to make less of a contribution to the discussions, as they will be primarily focused on capturing, and if they are sufficiently skilled, they can steer the meeting through facilitation. A facilitator can’t be expected to wear too many hats simultaneously. Be careful not to have your facilitator dominate the proceedings – your facilitator is in a position of power.
Pot of Gold
For most people, you will need to prepare and negotiate on your own for most of your negotiations. The larger the negotiation, the higher the stakes, the more important team preparation becomes. Team’s add value both at the negotiation table and before the meeting. If your organization is serious about building a negotiation capability, then you will reap profits and other positive results by also putting in place a post negotiation team review process. If you’re not at the top of your company ladder, then your success in this area will likely be limited at best to your team / department / region / country. If you are in charge, then you have an opportunity to seize a competitive skills advantage, or at least to bridge the gap between your company and your toughest competitors. This article assumes that you have recruited the best talent and are equipping them with the right strategies, tool-sets, processes and tactics to succeed. Without the right support, your people are unlikely to buy in or perform to the best of their potential.