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A good negotiator needs not just a repertoire of strategies, tactics and techniques, but also the experience to know when and how to deploy them.
One strategy - the concession strategy - lies at the heart of every negotiation as it determines how you can manage the way a negotiation plays out. Yet the concept and the actual reality of putting it into practice seem to be difficult to match up.
It is a moveable feast of what we can and cannot accept, combined with how we manage what we need to negotiate, and a planned means, that helps us reach the end goal in a way that maximises our success. In my experience, the concession strategy is the least planned-for and most-avoided component of negotiation preparation.
Yet, an effective concession strategy is one that equips us to visualise all the moving parts of a negotiation, enabling us to manage our actions and interventions in a planned and considered way to achieve our goals.
Below are ten winning techniques to help you do just that. But, before we dive in, it’s worth spending a bit of time on the first technique - ‘something for something’ - as this principle lies at the heart of giving concessions.
Ultimately, we have a choice as to whether we give a concession or not so when faced with a demand to give something, we can do one of four things. We can either:
There is definitely a time and place for all four responses, subject to what is possible and appropriate. Within any concession there is an opportunity to leverage a benefit in return so concessions represent a source of power.
Wherever possible, this should be realised by attempting to negotiate ‘something for something’, a technique that children learn early on. Here’s a good example of this:
Mother: “I want you to go and tidy your room this morning.”
Daughter: “Arrgh! Mum! OK, if I tidy my room can I go to the park this afternoon?”
Applying the ‘something for something’ principle helps to strengthen and maintain an overall negotiation position. However, this doesn’t always mean success. For example, the mother could simply have said no or maybe part-conceded saying: “You can’t go to the park today but perhaps we will all go tomorrow.”
Let’s not forget, of course, that there are also scenarios where something for something is inappropriate or simply won’t work. These include:
To help you secure something for something, try using hypothetical questions such as: “It is possible that I could give X but, if I did, would you provide Y and also Z?”
So, going back to the ten techniques, here is the full list:
The next time you are preparing for a concession trade, just remember the above rules and you’ll soon find yourself on the path to success.
This article has been adapted from Negotiation for Procurement Professionals by Jonathan O’Brien (published by Kogan Page). Jonathan O’Brien is a leading expert on negotiation and helped pioneer the Red Sheet® Negotiation methodology.
This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.