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An Underutilized Negotiating Skill

The mere mention of the word "negotiation" creates a rather visceral response in people.

For some, it’s excitement around competing for, and striking, the best deal. Others (likely the majority), cringe at the thought of the back-and-forth, trying to guess what will, and will not, work.

"Negotiating," in either of the above scenarios, is basically a zero sum game with two or more sides vying to grab as much of the pie as they can get. Sometimes, they're vying for the lion's share of the pie whether or not they even need it!

What if you could open up the conversation in a very different way? Ironically, it's a strategy that's seldom used.

Are you ready for it? It’s pretty revolutionary, so hold onto your seats!

Ok, here it is.  The #1 negotiating strategy for striking the best deal for all involved is to ask the other party, "so, what do you need”?

Shocking, right?

Now, to be sure, there are variations to this question.  You can choose from any of these:

- "What do you need to make this work for you?"
- "What’s the most important part of your agenda that needs to be met?"
- "What’s your primary goal? And, how do you see this helping you achieve it?"

And so on…

Forging a "Design Conversation"

I’ve sat across the table from many potential partners for iPEC. Those looking to develop new territories, new programs, new markets, etc.  Inevitably, the other party tries to play their cards close to the vest, but the conversation changes when we put our agenda, our goals, and our needs right on the table - upfront.

Then, we ask them to do the same.

When the conversation takes this direction, it becomes a “design conversation” instead of a negotiation. What this means is that we make sure we’re clear on the primary goal and subgoals we’re trying to achieve. In addition, we seek clarity concerning what resources we have available and what each side, respectively, wants to accomplish. Then, we can begin brainstorming within the context and construct of the “deal” we’re discussing- including what options and possibilities exist for potentially meeting all objectives we’re after (in priority order).

It’s amazing how much gets accomplished with this approach. And perhaps, most importantly, each side is either fully engaged by, and bought into, the ultimate approach -- or we don’t proceed with an agreement!

Negotiations should be design conversations, with each side not “compromising” (especially on priorities), but collaborating to create something new, something workable, instead.

If WE don’t ALL win, we don’t play!

Try this approach sometime.  You may just surprise yourself (and the other party too!)

Live on Fire!

D. Luke Iorio, CPC, PCC, ELI-MP
President & CEO
Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)

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