I recently met Richard McWilliam, the long-time Chairman of Upper Deck, the worldwide sports and entertainment company that revolutionized the sports trading card business. Since McWilliam constantly negotiates with sports agents and icons such as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, I asked him to share his keys to negotiation success. He mentioned two.
1. Know more than they do
Regular readers of this column will recognize McWilliam’s key as in line with the first Golden Rule of Negotiation: Information is Power – So Get It! But there’s more to this comment than simply recognizing the importance of information.
It also points to the critical nature of doing your negotiation homework before you jump into crucial meetings or telephone calls. Too many continue to believe that great negotiators are simply born with the skills and just intuitively negotiate the best possible deals.
While our DNA certainly has a big impact on our skills, there is just too much research in the last 30 years that identifies proven strategies and tactics that increase negotiators’ ability to achieve their goals. These learnable strategies – one of which McWilliam identifies here – represent critical components to achieving long-term negotiation success.
So what type of information-related homework does the research suggest?
First, know the substantive issues cold. But also dive deeper and explore the parties’ interests underlying their positions. Explore their fundamental motivations, needs, desires, concerns and fears.
For some it’s ego. They want everyone to know they “won.” For others it’s security or economic well-being. Still others crave recognition or a sense of belonging. There are many and varied interests in negotiations. Uncover them.
Second, do your strategic due diligence and explore your counterpart’s reputation and past tactics. And find out more than if they’re honest or trustworthy. Find out if they regularly walk out one day – and almost always come back to the table the next day. Consider the impact of knowing your counterpart has a reputation for being really aggressive at the start but almost always caving at the end.
This isn’t about DNA – it’s about doing the right kind of homework.
2. Make sure everyone feels good at the end
McWilliam’s business success depends in part on long-term relationships with the world’s top sports agents and athletes. As such, he recognizes the importance of your counterparts walking away feeling good.
How can you accomplish this? Be honest, credible, professional, respectful, trustworthy, and fulfill your commitments.
Also thoroughly understand the back-and-forth patterns in your negotiations and act sufficiently consistent with them so your counterparts feel like you valued their interests and negotiated in good faith.
This might also include your making the last concession, which is often fairly small, so your counterpart walks away with the psychological feeling that they got a good deal.
Published December 2, 2010 The Arizona Republic