Set out the agenda before the negotiation
This is a practice that I normally do on a professional level. It gets the other side prepared. So, I will write a brief email, with bullet points, things and documents to cover. I’ll ask the other side whether they are comfortable with it and if have any other additional criterion to add – and if not, acknowledge back. In this way, we can start the discussion with the right expectation.
TIP: To get people focused, print out copies of the agenda and other important documents that are necessary before entering into the negotiation room.
Start with the easy stuff
We’ll never know which person may have a bad hair day or he may have a tiff with his wife. To create a positive atmosphere, I’ll run through the easier-to-agree points in the agenda. It doesn’t has to be in sequence, the areas that you feel are light-hearted than others. So you can say “thanks for your time, here is point A about the execution time frame…..” It’s completely psychological. Just like initial small talk will build connection and ease off any possible confrontation thereafter.
Prepare visuals in your bag
Graphs, charts, tables, images – you name it, we have them. Get important materials ready before the meeting. Visuals are great tools to help parties understand. Your adversaries are able to ask relevant questions, therefore letting you know more about how they feel, what they think. Then, you can frame it effectively to a close. Flash out where needed – either to substantiate your findings or to zoom into a key point that will convince them.
Visuals help to reinforce, use them wisely.
Know where to sit in the negotiating room
In my experiences so far, depends on who you speak to in designation, it’s always good to be observant and polite. After all, you are in their host country. Let the host allocate the space for the team and you to sit. Sometimes, there are unspoken rules. Ask if unsure – usually there will be a appointed person to coordinate the meeting. For example, if you are the high level “in-charge” negotiating with the Japanese in a traditional setting, your seating arrangement will be facing the Decision Maker. The rest of your team members will be seated beside you.
As trivial as this may sound, this can be your deal breaker if not careful about it. Cross-border business culture plays an important role. Personally, I have seen folks not respecting the seating boundaries – for example, two of the team members sit on the opposite side, one sit near the projector and another sit on a tall chair. Certainly, you do not want to lose brownie points unnecessarily.
Angle your conversation to specific people
Let’s say the other side has a lady, Michelle from marketing, a guy, Simon from finance and the Decision Maker. Kelly is the Group Vice President. Take note of their names. Address them with relevant pointers. For instance, you will talk about campaign execution with Michelle but ask Simon if this would be sufficient as part of the project cost. Then, you ask Kelly for her overall opinion.
If Simon mention that the firm is only able to allocate this amount, this is where you can turn to Michelle to inquire about the list of marketing items – which are deemed really vital and which are not – and you pepper in with independent advice. What you are trying to do is to find a way to reach the funding consensus.
And if Michelle can’t delete off the list, propose a solution such as Division A forks out 50%, Division B forks out 30% and Division C forks out 20%. All gets priority to use with dedicated support.
The key here is be aware of the situation, turn to the relevant parties to get “in principle” approval.