A strategy is an overarching guideline for the entire negotiation process. Therefore, it should be defined in the preparation phase.
Your strategy in a negotiation depends on two factors: demands and possibilities for cooperation (both need to be defined prior to the negotiation.) We strongly recommend joining the negotiation with at least ten demands to ensure flexibility within the negotiating process.
In difficult negotiations, dynamics change drastically; furthermore, there is always a power game. Conflicting parties often assess the degree of mutual dependence differently. If one of the parties sees itself in a stronger position, they will likely exert power to subdue their opponent.
Power depends on the following factors:
Relevance: How important is this negotiation process to you? Is this deal worth negotiating? What are your primary goals of this negotiation? Are you negotiating because your partner tried to appeal to your pride? One must negotiate for a cause not based on emotions.
Relationships: Are you planning to have long-lasting relationships with your partner after the negotiations? And if so, would you like to be perceived as a credible negotiating partner in the future? If the answer is yes, then play by the rules. Be empathetic, fair, and polite no matter what the circumstances are.
Common interests: both parties enter negotiations with a primary purpose of fulfilling their needs. Common interests together with conflicting interests create a mutual dependence between negotiating partners. Since one must never highlight conflicting interests at the negotiating table, make sure to use common interests as leverage to secure the agreement.
After clarifying all the points mentioned above, you can proceed with determining a strategy for your negotiation.
There are five main strategies:
Competing: High demands, low willingness to cooperate.
Negotiators who abide by the strategy play fair and by the rules, however, always play to win. You commit fully to reaching your maximum target and show no willingness to cooperate.
Avoiding: You abandon your demands to prevent a conflict, thereby leaving your partner in the dominant position.
Playing for time is at the core of the strategy. Adopting the strategy means you want to avoid a conflict at the moment but might be ready to re-enter negotiations once you gain a competetive advantage. However, you give away opportunities for cooperation and reaching an agreement. Avoiding only makes sense as a short-term tactic to gain time.
Cooperating: This strategy turns both partners into winners.
Both parties have their motives and needs openly addressed. This strategy requires a high level of trust and a willingness to cooperate on both sides. Should you fail to create a bond with your partner prior to the negotiation or damage it during the process, this strategy will not work.
Giving in: Gives a clear signal - you want to avoid a conflict at all costs.
Giving in can be beneficial when it comes to issues that are not relevant for you, as it demonstrates that you are willing to accommodate your partner’s needs. There is a high risk that the other side will see it as your weakness and will exert more pressure on you. Make sure you define the areas where you are ready to give in beforehand; otherwise, you will set the wrong tone for future negotiations.
Compromising: Meeting in the middle.
Compromising essentially means abandoning your strategy. It comes with a risk of setting the wrong impression of your negotiation style/competence and establishes particular tendencies for future negotiations. Hence, despite the positive effect of attaining an agreement, a feeling of dissatisfaction might remain.
In the 5% - the most difficult negotiations we recommend to start with competing and later shift to cooperating.
To learn more about advantages and disadvantages of each strategy as well as how to apply them, follow our article series.
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