Ready, Set, Negotiate!

By Cindy Waxer

Business negotiations go through a number of preliminary steps that must be resolved. According to Henry S. Kramer, author of Game, Set, Match: Winning the Negotiations Game (ALM Publishing, 2001), seemingly small successes in the preliminary skirmishes ultimately may yield large dividends in the negotiation’s later critical stages. Kramer offers these suggestions for getting off on the right foot.

1. If only two to four people are negotiating a sales agreement, consider what impression you want to project. If informality and a sense of cooperation are desired, get out from behind a rectangular table or desk and sit at a round table. The table should be small enough to promote friendly relations, yet large enough to permit you to look at your notes and take notes without having them observed by the other party.

2. If you cannot lure the other party onto your home turf, always try to avoid negotiations on the other party’s ground. If your bargaining power permits, insist on a neutral location such as a hotel meeting room, conference room at the public library or a government office, or some similar location that is off either party’s premises. Try to select a location that is easily accessible and close to you, and far away from and difficult for the other party to access.

3. Select a meeting location that is in keeping with the specific image you wish to project. If you are claiming poverty, select a low-cost modestly appointed location. If you are seeking to impress the other side with your organization’s power and wealth, select an upscale location.

4. Determine at the outset of the negotiations how many meetings will be required overall, and the optimum amount of time that should be spent on each phase. Experienced negotiators have the background to make a reasonable estimate of how much time will be required to complete the negotiations. Budget too much time and the negotiations may bog down in details. Budget too little time and important issues may be left unresolved.