Booked review: The Negotiation Book by Steve Gates
Highly accessible guide to getting the best result when making deals
The Negotiation Book: Your Definitive Guide to Successful Negotiating by Steve Gates
The negotiation book, your definitive guide to successful negotiating
Many people are uncomfortable with the process of negotiating. For some it goes against the grain of who they are in terms of values such as fairness, honesty and transparency. As noted here by Steve Gates, founder and chief executive of The Gap Partnership, a specialist negotiation consultancy firm, personal values have their place within the dynamics of a relationship but business relationships can and often do exist on the basis of different value sets.
It’s all very well remaining true to your values during a negotiating process but if those on the other side do not, you can find yourself compromised. If you choose, for example, to be honest and open about sharing information with the other party but they choose to not reciprocate, the balance of power will shift to the other party.
Trust and seeing the perspective of the other party can be good up to a point and can help to promote sustainable business relationships. However, in a negotiation, these values can lead to complacency, familiarity and passive and lazy practices that can end up costing organisations through their sheer inefficiency.
The distinctions are subtle, however. Negotiating is not about winning. It is about maximising value in the deal for all sides. This involves understanding what the other party wants, needs or believes, what they do and how that affects the possibilities. If you set out to understand them and their motivations, you may be able to use these insights to your advantage and increase the value of the deal for yourself.
Tough positionNegotiation can be uncomfortable if the other party strikes up a tough position which makes you feel challenged or competitive. Becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable in situations like this, where you may also experience pressure and tension, is one of the most important skills of a good negotiator.
This is achieved through heightened states of self-awareness and learning to do what is necessary from an objective point of view. Body language is crucial, especially when change, speed or the timing of movement correlates with something that has happened.
A key time to observe body language is when the other party responds immediately, suggesting they will not or cannot accept an offer. It is likely there will be some emotion involved here. If there are two or more individuals on the other side, the advice here is to check for correlations in body language, such as facial expressions. This is usually most recognisable when they are stating a position, rejecting a position or making a significant statement.
Negotiating is different from selling. Selling involves promoting the positives and aligning the solution to the need. As Gates says, the “gift of the gab” is associated with the salesperson who has an enthusiastic answer for everything; negotiation is not. A skilled negotiator uses silence as well as talk. That means listening to everything the other party is saying and working out their true position.
Master stateMoreover, if you find yourself selling the benefits of your proposal during a negotiation, you are demonstrating a weakness and may be giving away power. It suggests that you don’t feel that your proposals are strong enough and that they require further promoting. The more you talk, the more likely you are to make a concession.
The book describes a four-stage process of improving competency starting with moving from being an unconscious incompetent negotiator to becoming a conscious incompetent one. The second half of the process is to move from being an unconscious competent negotiator, where you can perform but are prone to being too familiar leading to dangerous assumptions, to becoming a conscious competent negotiator. In this latter master state, you will be able to negotiate with absolute focus and will not take anything for granted.
This is an impressive and highly accessible guide that should help anyone whose job involves some element of negotiating.