Negotiating Skills: Conditional Agreement
Once all the communication probing and back-and-forth of a negotiation is over, confirmation of any agreement reached needs to take place, however long it may have taken to get there or difficult the journey may have been. The apparently easy process of summarizing what has been agreed can be risky, if one or even both parties have not finished negotiating and then try to use closing statements to add-in extra demands or assume that points are accepted when this is not the case. Instead, both parties should quickly confirm a deal with a clear summary and confirmation should be sought on every point so as to eliminate any scope for later disagreement. This can then serve as an excellent basis for any written agreement that is drawn-up to reflect the negotiated settlement.
It is critical to remember that as movement towards a potential agreement occurs, both parties can now respond with a number of final or “last minute” negotiating “ploys”. These ploys can be used by either side in the negotiation to either gain general advantage or to win a final concession before the close. They can also act to “buy time” or to get the other side to bring the discussions quickly to an end. In all cases, they can certainly act to quickly seize the initiative. This particularly happens when one side is more comfortable with one of the best negotiating weapons of all – silence. Inexperienced negotiators will feel embarrassed by silence and may look to fill the void with an ill-prepared comment (or even worse a late concession that he or she didn’t need to offer). In actual fact, silence is a neutral response and should be used as much as necessary for quiet reflection and analysis of what has just been said before moving the conversation to the next stage.
Even if the other party uses a range of response tactics, there will come a point where the possible ‘deal’ needs to be described in detail. Before this is done, it is wise to offer a final summary and to ask if anything else needs to be tabled before the discussion is wrapped-up. If nothing is added you can move on to the close on your own terms. Every negotiator has his or her own preferred closing style and it is not therefore valuable to be over-prescriptive about this. However, even at this stage, the effective negotiator may want to avoid direct closes like, “OK, I can agree with all of that – let’s shake hands.” This still has the potential for late changes or shifts by the other side. Consequently, the best approach is to keep using the “if, then” statement method and other indirect ways to signal your final agreement.
The featured video clip is drawn from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder Negotiating Skills Video Vignette Set.