Negotiation – Strategy or tactics?

One of the most important distinctions I ask people to make early on in negotiation training is that between strategy and tactics.
I spend a lot of time helping people to see the distinction clearly, since so much of your communication, whether in person or in writing will be influenced by whether you are thinking strategically or tactically in a negotiation.
In a nutshell, strategy is the overall picture, including the long-term goals in terms of all your communication with a client. Thinking strategically helps you to remember that negotiation is a sub-set of communication. Thinking strategically means that you’ll devise, prepare, practice and follow a well-thought out plan, consistent with your long-terms goals, even if that means sacrificing some tactical battles along the way. It helps you to be firm, consistent and ethical. It helps your negotiations to be carried out pro-actively rather than re-actively.

Goals and needs

In order to prepare a strategy, you must be absolutely clear about your goals. Really ‘dig into’ what you think your goals are.  Doing this will help you to find out what you really need.
For example do you want to ‘buy a house‘ or is it that you ‘crave security‘? When negotiating a salary rise, do you just want ‘more money‘ or do you actually want ‘an easier life, with an early mortgage pay-off date and greater personal recognition‘? If purchasing another company, do you just want to ‘secure the deal‘ or do you want ‘to acquire an active, motivated group of people who will enhance and work with our existing business‘? Thinking this way really helps you to sort out your real goals.
Once you’ve identified your strategic objectives, the rest of your strategy falls into place quickly. Knowing your real goals helps to engage your creativity and look for multiple options in a negotiation. It helps you to avoid falling for tactics used by your opposite number in a negotiation. It enables you to be sure that the demands you make are exactly the right ones for you.
In a future post, I’ll look at some tactics that most people find useful, but in the meantime, think of a negotiation you have coming up soon:
Write down your goals, making sure they’re ultimate, not short-term and see whether this affects your thinking.
Collect the information that you need to back-up your demands, consistent with your goals.
Plan for the goals and needs of your opposite in the negotiation – what’s driving their negotiation? How will their goals and needs affect their reaction to you?
Do as much thinking about ‘the other side’ as you do for yourself. What trades might there be? Are there any hidden, or long-terms benefits to them which they might not be aware of?
Lastly, and much more often than we thing, it can help you to be honest and straightforward with the person you’re negotiating with about your long term goals. Telling them your goals can engage their creativity too as you work together to create a deal that satisfies both your needs.For example, telling your boss that you’re not just looking for a rise, but greater freedom, respect and and a way to pay off your mortgage early will help him or her to look at options other than just ‘more money’.
Try it, and let me know how you get on. Have you tried something similar yourself – has it worked for you? Let me know in the comments.

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