On how to adapt your behaviour to fit different negotiation scenarios

More often than not, when we approach commercial negotiations, we allow our personality and ability to influence both the ­process and our behaviour. How­ever, the substance of the negotiation is the key factor that should determine both what we do and how we approach it.
For example, from a buyer&'s perspective, when faced with a long-term supplier who continuously pushes for greater space and promo­tional exposure, denying them access through avoiding calls and/or refu­sal will almost certainly create inordinately competitive behaviour in response. They may start making more extreme demands and issuing impulsive threats in retaliation.
Oppositely, faced with a buyer who unilaterally and unprovoked threatens to delist your top three SKUs if you fail to agree to their margin ­demand, deciding to give in on all three will almost certainly drive their greed through your generosity.
While these two examples are ­extreme, many of our clients fail to determine the nature of the ­relationship they are facing. If both parties have a long-term relationship built on trust and openness, with many issues to nego­tiate, and neither has a significant choice of options, the balance of power is relatively even. In this situation, working together in a collaborative manner will mostly create ­greater value.
If both parties are able to understand and satisfy the needs of the other, they can start looking for true synergistic benefits to trade with an &'all gain&' result. Using language that is warm and always looking for a solution as to &'how&' this deal can be reached will aid the agreement. Of course, this can be highly complex. This scenario has been ­colloquially termed &'win-win&'. This appears to be, for many, the obvious approach to extract the greatest value.
However, is this always the best approach? If you have a trusting long-term relationship and are both empowered to negotiate multiple issues, of course this result is extracting far more value. But, if the relation­ship is in fact a short-term, price-driven negotiation focusing on only two or three issues, with price being central to the overall deal, adopting a ­firmer and more assertive manner will almost cer­tainly put you in a stronger position.
Which is right? Well, of course neither. Both have their merits, depending on the circumstances and substance of the situation.
Negotiation is uncomfortable. Learn to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Graham Botwright is a partner in The Gap Partnership, specialising in commercial negotiation and development solutions
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