Negotiation – The Conversational Way admin July 1, 2012

Negotiation – The Conversational Way


It’s a smoke-filled room, getting close to midnight, they’re shouting and banging the table, and sweat is dripping down your temples as you desperately try to save the deal. The clock is ticking…

Hmm, quick reality check: this may be the cartoon image, it may even be your recurring nightmare, but it’s not usually what happens on Planet Earth.

Let’s de-mystify negotiation for you. It’s simply two parties coming to an agreement where both are happy with the deal – and there is nothing in that definition that mentions guns to the head or being dangled by your feet from a 10th floor window.

On the contrary, negotiation can be as simple as having a chat. In fact, it can be surprisingly pleasant.

As an example, I have one colleague who has led many nine-figure deals. He told me that often he would meet up with the other party, they would have a nice chat over coffee and somehow they would come out of the meeting shaking hands over a deal done. He was never sure quite how it happened.

Sounds quite agreeable, actually.


Frame it as a game

Here is the secret: it is all in the framing. Frame it as a battle, it will be a battle. Frame it as an arm-wrestle, it will be an arm-wrestle. Frame it as a game, on the other hand, and it will be a game. Frame it as something to be enjoyed and, guess what, you will enjoy it.

So much of life is a self-fulfilling prophecy and negotiations are no different.

So try this one: frame it as a problem to be solved – the two of you working together as partners, where the problem is how both of you can achieve your desired outcomes given your resources and your constraints.

This is the very nature of win-win and if you go in win-win, 90% of people will respond accordingly.


Help them get what they want

If you focus on helping the other party get what they want, too, they will return the favour and help you get what you want.

This is a different approach to normal. Typically (and quite naturally), in any situation we focus on what we’d like to achieve. Unfortunately, as my mum told me a million times, ‘I want never gets!’  So, don’t just think about yourself, think about them, too.

Now, remember: win-win doesn’t mean lose-win. Be pleasant and friendly, but be strong, too. Don’t get pushed back easily; and if you think they’re not playing the game, call them on it.

And, ultimately, if they still don’t come around, walk away. As Stephen Covey says, its win-win or no deal. But mostly it shouldn’t come to that.

Instead, you can just enjoy your conversation as both of you find ways to get your win.

Enjoy? Do I seriously think you can enjoy negotiation?

Absolutely. In fact, I would go further: I even think you should enjoy it. If you enjoy something, you are much more likely to do it well. So, enjoy it, think of it as a hobby, think of it as a friendly chat. Forget the meeting room, forget the big imposing table. Why not hold it at your favourite café with the nice sofas or that bar overlooking the river? Why not hold it over dinner? Seems crazy? I bet you some of the biggest and best deals in the history of the world have been done whilst eating the nicest food and drinking the finest wine.

And if your boss questions your expenses claim? Tell them you read it on a blog.

Good luck with it all!