People often worry that being collaborative in a negotiation can be weak or can leave you open to being taken advantage of. The Strong Win-Win approach allows you to be collaborative confident you will not be taken advantage of. Moreover, it makes the other person much more likely to be collaborative.
Step 1: Prepare!
The first step is to prepare. Again, this might seem self-evident but too few negotiators take the time to prepare sufficiently for their negotiation. Olympic athletes prepare for 4 years for one event, that’s how seriously they take it. Sunday players put their pint down and stub out their cigarette and waddle on the pitch. Which would you rather be? If the outcome of your negotiation is worthwhile, put in the preparation.
I worked with someone who was effectively the chief purchasing officer for one of the large Japanese electronics giants. He described his job as if ever a large purchasing situation went wrong, he would get flown in to sort it out. He said it invariable broke down because of insufficient preparation. He believed that 70% of the negotiation is in the preparation.
Step 2: Develop a Strong Plan B
The second step is to develop a strong Plan B. You should never be dependent on any given deal. If you are, you will be in a very weak negotiating position and you will have to agree to anything they say. So have a strong Plan B and always be willing to walk away to it.
If you are looking for a new place to live, never fall in love with one house, fall in love with three. If you fall in love with one, they’ve got you and they will reel you in. If you have fallen in love with three houses, though, you will end up in your dream house (we don’t know which one yet) at a good price because you are not dependent on any given one of them.
So develop a strong Plan B, it will put you in a very good negotiating position.
Step 3: Establish high rapport and high credibility
The third step is to establish high rapport and high credibility.
Relationship is important in a negotiation, it can help you get a better deal. If you think about it, your friends are less likely to trick or deceive you. But don’t focus on the relationship at the expense of the outcome. Don’t give too much away just so that they will like you. So credibility and projecting strength is equally important. This could be organisational strength or personal strength but project the fact that there is no point in them trying to bully you or try anything on with you.
So relationship and credibility are both important. Typically, we tend to be good at one and not the other. So think about what your strength is – and you will get most improvement by focussing on the other one.
Step 4: Move them to win-win
The fourth step is to move them to win-win. Often people think of this as being the hardest step because the person they are negotiating with is not a natural win-win player. In actual fact, it is often the simplest step and happens automatically if you have put the other steps into practice.
If you have thoroughly prepared and so you really know your stuff, if you have a very clear idea of your win and you are helping the other party get their win, if you have built relationship and at the same time are projecting strength so they realise there is no point in trying anything on, and you have a strong plan B which you are very happy to walk to if they do not play the game – if you have done all of these things, it is very likely that will already be being collaborative and looking for a win-win outcome themselves.
Step 5: Solve the problem
Now, once they are on the win-win side of the table, work together to solve the problem at hand.
The structure of the problem is: you have a particular outcome you would like to achieve, they have an outcome they would like to achieve; you have real constraints, real limitations beyond which you can’t go, they have real constraints too; but you have resources you can bring to the table and they have resources they can bring to the table.
So put all of these on the table and solve the problem together so that both parties get their outcomes, given the constraints and given the resources. In fact, we can reframe the whole of negotiation as a problem-solving process.
Step 6: Trust but verify
The last step is trust but verify. Unfortunately, such is our species that we can’t always trust. But, again, if we’ve done all of the steps up to now, then you will be able to in a very large majority of situations. But you will still want to put verification procedures into place to ensure you can trust and it is those verification procedures that will embed the trust into the deal.