I recently led a seminar with a panel of six expert negotiators from the legal and business worlds, and I asked each to share their most effective negotiation strategies. Here are some of their “pearls of wisdom” along with my thoughts on them. Three of the experts’ “pearls” are here – with the remaining three in my January column.
Pat Sullivan, CEO and Co-Founder, Contatta. 1) Get at least two possible buyers when selling, and 2) Find out the other side’s true needs – don’t assume you know.
Both these strategies are critical. Having two possible buyers can provide strong leverage, as the better your Plan B (buyer #2), the stronger your leverage with Plan A (buyer #1), and vice versa. There’s a reason we sell public companies through auctions, a defined process used to get at least two bidders. Pat should know – he sold two companies (ACT! and SalesLogix) for almost $400 million total.
Regarding the other side’s true needs, Sullivan shared a story in which he was selling a small company and he originally thought the buyer was particularly interested in one aspect of his company. He later found – after a lot of questioning and listening – that the buyer was more interested in another. This led to a much greater sales price than he originally anticipated.
Mark Larson, Chief Litigation Counsel, Honeywell Aerospace. There’s great value in team negotiations, where you and your colleagues can play different roles (including good cop/bad cop).
We all have strengths and weaknesses. Some are better at developing rapport and getting information. Others are better at managing emotions or on-the-spot financial analysis. Still others can say “no” particularly effectively and still move the negotiation forward.
Putting the right team together, and then planning how to best use them, can be the difference between success and failure.
Judith Wolf, Co-Founder, Arizona Mediation Institute. Don’t underestimate the power of written goals.
One of the most effective family law/divorce mediators in the country, Wolf shared how she always explores the parties’ goals early in a mediation and then conspicuously writes them down in her notes. Then, near the conclusion of the mediation – when the parties have inevitably gone back and forth multiple times, emotions have run the gamut, and the end seems near – Wolf will take out her notes and separately show the parties their goals.
This simple move, Wolf said, helps ground the parties and remind them of what they wanted to accomplish before they got caught up in the back-and-forth dynamics of the process. Since the move on the table at that point almost always is close to that written goal – it also often helps close the deal.
Read the subsequent column: Words of negotiation wisdom, Part 2.
Published December 7, 2014 The Arizona Republic