Negotiating Tip #69:
Learn From Your Colleagues What Matters to Them
This series of tips about internal negotiations is based on material in the Harvard Business Review Press book Creative Conflict: A Practical Guide for Business Negotiators by Bill Sanders and Frank Mobus
The most pervasive mistake in internal negotiations is the failure to get enough information beforehand. When we commit 90 percent of our time to investigating our stakeholders’ needs (as opposed to their wants), the investment saves untold hours and headaches down the road. It also helps us reality-check inflated expectations — our own, included. Along the way, we build credibility by keeping an eye out for bigger-picture opportunities for a broader deal.
The fundamental tools of discovery are questions, including the so-called dumb ones. Beyond clarifying technical information, savvy internal negotiators are thirsty for insights into the stakeholder’s thought process. Lawyers are notorious for their intimidating jargon and hard-bargaining tactics — it’s what they do for a living. You should expect them to be no less aggressive when negotiating internally. Emotion will get you nowhere with attorneys. Only logic can carry the day.
For more traction, it can be helpful to float a possible fix: What if we did it this way? Even if your solution fails to pass muster, it might provoke some useful brainstorming. To get your stakeholders thinking more creatively, try asking: If you could start this process/project from scratch, how would you do it? In-depth discovery soaks up time, a scarce resource. But once you make it a habit, the benefits will be profound — if not for the current deal, for the next one.