An interview with global negotiation expert and founder of the N-Conference, Matthias Schranner

To manage the risks inherent in negotiations, it is important to take control of the process rather than strive for complete elimination.

An essential component of this process is thorough preparation. The Schranner Concept® is based on four fundamental principles: Preparation, Opening, Leadership, and Deadlock. While risks exist in each of these phases, their consequences vary greatly, and it takes considerable expertise to recognize and minimize their impact.

Ultimately, however, risk-taking and conflict orientation are crucial for success.

Risks in the Preparation Phase

Based on our extensive consulting expertise in difficult negotiations, we have identified several major risks in the preparation phase. The first risk is not aligning internally, which can manifest in various forms throughout the negotiation process.

The second risk is preparing without embracing the possibility of conflict. Conflict is an inevitable part of difficult negotiations, and avoiding it can result in damaging the relationship in the long term or an unfavourable agreement. Therefore, conflict orientation is a crucial aspect of the Schranner Negotiation Concept®, designed for winning the most difficult negotiations.

Another risk in the preparation phase is focusing solely on the conflict rather than the strategy, which is particularly risky when dealing with highly emotional counterparts. However, our negotiation concept offers a proactive solution to mitigate this risk by establishing a negotiating task force comprising the Negotiator, the Commander, and the Decision Maker. This step is critical in preparing for difficult negotiations.

The Decision Maker's role is to ensure proper preparation, including setting clear targets and walk-away positions, while providing the Negotiator and Commander with a "license to negotiate." The Commander's role is to be a silent observer at the negotiation table and report tactical changes to the Decision Maker at an agreed-upon time. It is crucial for the Commander to adhere to the Decision Maker's strategy, just as it is for the Decision Maker to choose the right strategy. By following this approach, the negotiating team can mitigate the risk of losing focus on the strategy and effectively manage the negotiation process.

Risks in Opening and Leadership

One of the most common mistakes made by negotiators in complex negotiations is failing to clearly and calmly state their demands at the very beginning, which can ultimately lead to a deadlock. Although a proactive and risk-taking approach is encouraged, it is essential to establish control over the process within the first 10 minutes of a negotiation as well as ensure your emotional stability. Failure to do so may result in the Negotiator being perceived as threatening or trigger your partner’s emotional response.

A Negotiator who is perceived as aggressive or emotional can be detrimental to the negotiation process. Additionally, a Commander who fails to communicate effectively with Decision Makers or keep all stakeholders informed risks losing control of the negotiation later on. Therefore, whether you are negotiating alone or with a team, it is crucial to establish trust not only with the external party but also internally with all the stakeholders involved to make sure there is no unwanted interference from a CEO or Board Member during the negotiation process.

In the course of a negotiation, information gradually transforms into a source of power. Hence, one of the primary dangers during this phase is excessive talking. Active listening is a key attribute of successful negotiators, as it allows them to gain a better understanding of their counterpart's motives and to observe the changing patterns of their behavior, specifically in terms of their readiness to cooperate. This is particularly crucial during deadlock situations.

Risks in Deadlock

One of the most critical stages in a negotiation is deadlock. While adept negotiators may use deadlock as a tactic to apply additional pressure on their counterpart and achieve success, it can still be risky even for the most skilled negotiators. Before initiating a deadlock, the Negotiator must evaluate the situation carefully by testing their counterpart’s emotional reaction under stress. This enables the Negotiator to determine whether the other party is prone to fight or flight responses, thereby allowing for a more accurate prediction of their behavior and emotional patterns during a crisis.

The above mentioned risks are just a handful of the significant challenges that can arise during a negotiation. There are numerous others, such as sending the wrong signals to the opposing party, selecting an inappropriate strategy, moving too quickly or slowly from competing to cooperating, and allowing the other party to exert excessive power, among others.

At the Negotiation Conference 2023, I will be covering these topics and more. If you're interested in improving your negotiation skills and mastering the art and science of negotiation, I encourage you to join us!

Register to the Negotiation Conference 2023‍

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