Reaching your negotiation objectives

23. December 2017
The Master Negotiator Bestseller Amin Talab

Setting, understanding and pursuing a goal:
1 of the 6 essential strengths of the Master Negotiator

His unconditional orientation towards his own, but also his partner’s objectives, is one of the main success factors for the Master Negotiator (this article is an excerpt from the book “The Master Negotiator”).

By neglecting his own objectives, he will hardly achieve them. Ignoring opposing objectives will leave his negotiation partner little reason to come to an agreement.

Preparing well also means being aware of one´s own aims and the partner’s presumed objectives and interests by asking very specific questions:

  •     What do I really want?
  •     How much of this do I really have to achieve?
  •     Which parts could I abandon the easiest?
  •     Why do I want exactly that outcome?
  •     What personal, organisational and other interests are involved?

Already, by briefly considering possible principles, character of the negotiation partner and viability of expectations, a lot of time and effort will be saved later on.

However, the most important homework is specifying one’s objective. You must be very clear on what you really need to exit the negotiation with. When formulating objectives, one has to be clear about its main tasks:

  •     The objective determines the journey
  •     Time efficiency
  •     Offers can only be rated by reference to objectives
  •     The aim legitimises the negotiation process
  •     Competency requirements become clear
  •     Clarity of objectives fosters the creation of options

It is useful to formulate a rather limited negotiation objective and build in “alarms bells” that force you to stop the negotiation and reconsider your situation, given certain outcomes. But be careful. If you limit yourself too much, you might find it hard to develop creative solutions with the little development space left.

achieved completely

 

all major parts

 

satisfying

 

minimum

 

not acceptable

 

catastrophe

 

Goal Setting and Attainment

As an “negotiation joker” – advisor and “ghost negotiator“, it is my task in preparations to come up with ideas and analyse strategies. Sometimes, time is rather limited and I only meet negotiators on the day of the negotiation round.

After getting a first overview of the strategy, I generally like to put forward a very simple question: “What is the specific aim of this upcoming round?” It is startling that in 7 out of 10 cases, I do not get a satisfactory answer, but something along the lines of “I want to get out of this as much as I can” or “I am not sure what I can abandon. I want to see first what the other side is offering.” Naturally, problems are bound to happen.

 

If one does not know what port one is steering for, no wind is favourable to him.

Lucius A. Seneca, 5 BC- AD 65

 

Even if objectives were set initially, one sometimes loses sight of them in arduous, lengthy proceedings. However, objectives determine the success of the negotiation. The negotiation is not meant to be an end in itself; working on objectives is the central element in the preparation.

At first sight, flexibility in the negotiation and the consideration of the negotiation partner´s wishes seem to contradict the attainment of one´s goals. Often, this contradiction can be solved by uncovering the hidden interests behind the stated positions.[1] In order to stay flexible, it is crucial to know one´s own interests and motivation and be able to prioritise.

An experiment proves the dependence of the outcome on the formulation of the objective[2]:

In a classic buy-sell transaction, the negotiators were given a specific objective. Reaching that objective meant being able to continue and go to a “bonus round”.

The first group was given the objective of $2.10 to continue. The second group was given $6.10 as the objective to be able to continue. Both groups were given the same minimum price (walk-away point) and both groups thought the objective was realistically achievable. Why else would there be a bonus round?

A look into the results is most revealing: The group with the higher qualification objection achieved an average of $ 6.25 whereas the second group only bargained for an average $ 3.35! The sales price was doubled with identical conditions apart from the given objectives!


[1] For the distinction see above Interest: the lighthouse in the negotiation

[2] Sydney SIEGEL and Lawrence FOURAKER “The Effect of Level of Aspiration on Differential Payoff“