(adapted from “Top 10 Negotiation Skills” by Katie Shonk, September 19, 2016)
Absorb these integrative negotiation guidelines to improve your outcomes for all parties.
Multiple decision makers with conflicting objectives must compete with each other to effectively represent their own interests. But increasingly, they are recognizing that the most effective way to reach the best integrative agreements is through collaboration. The following ten negotiation skills will help you succeed at collaborative integrative negotiation using the Smartsettle Infinity eNegotiation process support system.
1. Analyze and cultivate your BATNA. Whether your style is integrative or adversarial, your best source of power is your ability and willingness to walk away and take another deal. Before arriving at the bargaining table, wise negotiators spend significant time identifying their best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA, and taking steps to improve it. Also important is to assess the other party’s BATNA. You might decide that a fair solution is somewhere in between and that you must achieve a solution much better than your own BATNA.
2. Negotiate the process. Don’t assume that you’re all on the same page when it comes to determining when to meet, who should be present, what your agenda will be, and the negotiation process that you will follow. If any of the parties are unfamiliar with Smartsettle they should participate in basic orientation in order to understand the process. Getting off on the right foot concentrating on building a Single Negotiating Framework (SNF) will help avoid much wasted time and clear the way for much more focused talks.
3. Build rapport. Although it’s not always feasible to engage in small talk at the start of a negotiation (particularly if you’re on a tight deadline), doing so can bring real benefits, research shows. You and your counterparts may be more collaborative and likely to reach agreement if you spend some time trying to get to know each other. If you’re negotiating over email, even a brief introductory phone call may make a difference. You may wish to relate your experience with Smartsettle and that you are looking forward to creation of the SNF being a relationship building experience that will set a collaborative tone for the negotiation.
4. Listen actively. Once you start discussing substance, resist the urge to enter into any arguments. If anything is controversial, listen carefully and craft interests as well as you can with text that includes a blank to be negotiated later with the Smartsettle system. Encourage the other parties to do the same with the things you say.
5. Ask good questions. You can gain more in integrative negotiation by asking lots of questions—ones that are likely to get helpful answers. Avoid asking “yes or no” questions and leading questions, such as “Don’t you think that’s a great idea?” Instead, craft neutral questions that encourage detailed responses, such as “Can you tell me about the challenges you’re facing this quarter?”
6. Search for smart tradeoffs. In a distributive negotiation, parties are often stuck making concessions and demands on a single issue, such as price. In integrative negotiation, you can capitalize on the presence of multiple issues to get both sides more of what they want. Specifically, try to identify issues that your counterpart cares deeply about that you value less. Be sure to include all of these issues in the SNF. Contingencies can be creative ways to help when negotiators disagree about how a certain scenario will play out over time. In such cases, try proposing a contingent contract—in essence, a bet about how future events will unfold. For example, if you doubt a contractor’s claims that she can finish a project in six months, propose a contingent contract that will penalize her for late completion and/or reward her for early completion. If she truly believes her claims, such terms will be helpful in the contract.
7. Emphasize collaboration. Look for ways to collaborate rather than how to gain an advantage with a particular strategy. For example you might be tempted by ample research that shows that the first number mentioned in a negotiation, however arbitrary, exerts a powerful influence on the negotiation that follows. But you can side-step those anchoring distractions by agreeing in advance that part of your task while creating the SNF is to agree on negotiating ranges for the issues. Neither ends of the range for any issue will necessarily be part of any formal proposal. Agree that your goal is a fair outcome and understand together how Smartsettle rewards early generosity.
8. Request Smartsettle Suggestions after submitting optimistic proposals. Once you commence exchanging packages in the Smartsettle interface you can request Suggestions from Smartsettle that will usually fall between your proposals. Smartsettle’s proprietary Visual Blind Bidding process virtually eliminates the tedious negotiation dance that characterizes ordinary negotiations. After several sessions, if all parties have secretly accepted what they are willing to agree to, if parties seem to be stuck, Smartsettle may be able to generate creative Suggestions that will solve the impasse.
9. Plan for the implementation stage. Another way to improve the long-term durability of your contract is to place milestones and deadlines in your contract to ensure that commitments are being met. You might also agree, in writing, to meet at regular intervals throughout the life of the contract to check in and, if necessary, re-negotiate. In addition, adding a dispute-resolution clause that calls for the use of expert neutral intervention if a conflict arises can be a wise move.
10. Uncover hidden value in a final step. If Smartsettle is used for the entire process you can be sure that you are on the efficiency frontier and that no hidden value remains. Complex negotiations using Smartsettle often deliver ten to twenty percent more value for each party.