Management & Leadership

This Is How the Most Successful Negotiators Behave


What The Characteristics are of Good Negotiators Who are More Successful?

Only 11% Succeed

In the studies we have carried out on 1,000 negotiators who conducted negotiations of varied levels of difficulty on areas such as conflict management, purchase of goods and services, annual agreements, investments, development projects as well as collaboration agreements, we have found that only 11% were capable of pacing themselves without becoming unduly stressed or pressurised. The time allocated to these by business negotiations was 120 minutes.

The participants in this study were a representative group of average Scandinavian negotiators. They came from different companies or organisations which were of varying sizes and holding varied positions on the market. Amongst them were project managers, purchasers, purchase managers, salespeople and technical managers. The majority were well-educated and graduates. Specific technical, financial or business knowledge were not required of them in this study. The one decisive factor was negotiation expertise.

Not only did this small group of eleven percent pace themselves when implementing their agreement finish before the set time, they also obtained better results than other groups when conducting negotiations. On average this little group had­ used the unused negotiation potential that we call added value much better, they had also made much better use of their time.

The Ketchup Effect

Fifty-two percent of the negotiators failed to reach an agreement until they were pressurised for time. They intensified their efforts and reached an agreement under pressure shortly before the time was up. The negotiation result for this group was considerably inferior to the eleven percent that succeeded within a set time.

Read More: Negotiation Training

33% Failed Abysmally

Approximately 1/3 of all negotiations failed completely. The parties never achieved a solution despite the possibility of mutual gain. A considerable number of the negotiators in this group said afterwards: “If these had been real negotiations, we would never have sat down for so long and negotiated with them. We would have kicked them out much earlier. We would never have accepted their behaviour, but since this was an exercise we were prepared to give them just one chance.”

One Thing About Negotiations is That you Create Success or Make a Mess

“There are reasons to suspect that lack of an ability to negotiate can be one of the greatest expense items for a company.  Not only that, it is an expense that goes unnoticed.”

This is What People Do Who are The Most Successful

Our studies have revealed that there is great variation of behaviour at the negotiation table, but there is also a typical behaviour pattern that tends to recur when people negotiate. Below factors are listed which are common to the majority of people whose performance is above average:

  1. Negotiators have analysed the negotiations and the negotiation variables.
  2. Negotiators have prioritised the important and less important variables.
  3. Negotiators have made decisions and fixed prices on the softer variables, often those that cannot be measured.
  4. They often produce an outline of their negotiations on a whiteboard in order to form a general idea.
  5. They spend more time setting out negotiation potential and bargaining than they do on arguing.
  6. Negotiators have taken it on board to secure NegoEconomics and create a negotiation strategy
  7. They have the initiative when they are negotiating.
  8. They are good at communicating.
  9. Negotiators have a high, but a realistic objective that they adjust along the way.
  10. They are quick off the mark when negotiating whilst the others ‘just pussyfoot about’.
  11. They attempt to get round problems by suggesting alternative solutions and are quick to respond with bids and counter bids.
  12. They are active in creating a favourable negotiation climate.
  13. Negotiators have distributed the roles within the group and they are disciplined.
  14. They have planned a strategy.
  15. They are methodical in their work, often with an agenda.
    Everyone contributes to notes on the whiteboard and there are summaries. They do not skip around from one point to another.
  16. They do not dig themselves into holes and quibble over details but focus on the major issues.
  17. They start bargaining early on.
  18. Before entering into agreements, they take a final break to give themselves the time to sit back and check whether or not the agreement is a good one.
  19. Their prime concern is to appear credible.

This is What People do Who are The Least Successful

There is great variation in behaviour. However, in every single failed negotiation a number of the errors below recur.

  1. People only take in half the negotiation.
  2. They make it their goal to keep within a budget or to obtain an offer that is better than the second-best offer that they have. In other words, they limit themselves early on to an objective which is far too modest instead of seeing what they can achieve without provisos.
  3. They do not actively seek added value. They end up in traditionally aggressive negotiations with a lot of argumentation. They try to press their counterparts as much as they can on every single point.
  4. Price is more important than the overall cost and they have a vague notion of what should constitute the overall cost.
  5. The concept of added value is a vague idea for them. They do not see the advantage of creating added value for themselves or their counterpart.
  6. They disregard the whole. Certain details are overemphasised. They often get bogged down with questions of detail. They do not have a proper grasp of total value or expenses. Their work is unstructured, without an agenda, no one contributes anything to notes on a whiteboard or summaries. They skip around from one point to another.
  7. They do not realise that their counterpart must also earn money.
  8. They are frightened of being open.
  9. Their work is unstructured.
  10. Roles have not been distributed within the group.
  11. They are frightened of bargaining and running short of time. They are pushy. This produces a ketchup effect, whereby the typical end-result is negotiators not knowing whether they have a good agreement or a bad agreement.
  12. They do not devise a negotiation strategy. Their negotiations are unstructured, and verbal aggression rather than creative problem solving is the order of the day. They end up in deadlock situations. Stress and uncertainty mount up. Instead of taking a break, many choose fight or flight. Those that flee make the mistake of one-sided compliance. Those that choose fight turn the negotiations into a lose/lose situation.
  13. They do not get down to negotiating but just ‘pussyfoot around’.
  14. They lose their grip on finances.
  15. They make derisory offers when things have not gone as they had envisaged and the pressure of time begins to mount up. Their counterpart responds by putting his defences up even more and in the end the negotiations come to resemble a ‘cattle market’.
  16. They do not accept that their counterpart needs to earn money.
  17. They look for ‘fair’ solutions.
  18. They are bad listeners and do not embrace new information. They miss what is being said to them and so they remain unaware of the opportunities that exist.
  19. Emotions mean more to them than common sense.

No One Learns to Negotiate by Reading a Book

No-one can automatically improve their negotiation skills by reading books or acquiring theoretical knowledge on the subject. The only way anyone can develop this skill is through practical training and a lot of experience. Your negotiation ability can only be developed one step at a time through training under expert and professional guidance.

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