Negotiation Strategy: Four Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Sometimes negotiators fall into traps and leave resources on the table because they can’t see that silver lining. Some common pitfalls are:

Poor planning
Successful negotiators make detailed plans. They know their priorities —  and alternatives, should they fail to reach an agreement. You must know your bottom line, your walkaway point. In addition, you need to understand time constraints and know whether this is the only time you will see your opponents in negotiation. After preparing your own agenda, outline the same for your opponents: What are their preferences, alternatives, and bottom line? Once at the bargaining table, test your hypotheses to determine what the opposition’s priorities really are. Prepare a written goal and analysis sheet for yourself.

Failing to pay attention to your opponent
Negotiators need to analyze the biases their opponents bring to the table.  One way to get inside your opponent’s head and influence his attitude is to shape the issues for him, a technique called “framing.” If you get your opponent to accept your view of the situation, then you can influence the amount of risk he is willing to take.

Caving in too quickly
Accepting a well-priced deal too quickly can cause anger on the other side, too. If you list a used car for £5,000, you might really be thinking of accepting £4,500. But when your first buyer has it checked by a mechanic and then immediately writes you a check for £5,000 without trying to bargain, how do you feel? Disappointed. You’ll think you sold it for too little. The lesson is: No matter what the price, even if it’s fair, always offer less — if only to make your opponent feel good about the deal. You may come up to full price in the end, but at least your opponent will feel as if he made you work for it.

Don’t Gloat
Finally, when you’ve cut a sweet deal, never do the dance of joy in public by turning to your opponents and telling them you would have done it for less. Gloating will only drive your opponent to extract the difference from you sometime in the future. Today, flagging corporate allegiances and rampant job hopping make it essential to keep on professional terms with your negotiating opponents. You may find yourself on the same side of the bargaining table one day.

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