Our success or failure in everyday negotiation has a huge impact on our goals, desires, and dreams. Putting in the extra work to not only learn how to negotiate, but why negotiations fail, will set you up for more successful negotiations.

The reasons we’ve reviewed so far on why negotiations fail, rigidity and fear, are both internal contributors. In addition to working through issues “in your head,” there are many aspects of external research and preparation necessary for a successful negotiation.

There are two major areas in which many people fail due to lack of external preparation:

  1. Knowing who is on the other side of the table
  2. Accounting for cultural differences

KNOWING WHO IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TABLE

Having insights about the individual negotiator or negotiators on the other side of that table can make or break a negotiation, and you should never neglect that effort. Learn their personal investment in the negotiation, individual style, preferences, motivations, and objectives. Knowing their personal investment is critical because your deal may be a great thing for the company, but if you can’t get that individual negotiator on board, you will probably never get anybody else in the company to see the value either.

The first step is to do as much research as you can ahead of your initial meeting. The Internet is a rich mine of information, if you’re willing to dig a little.

If there’s anything you can’t gather before you meet, you can size your counterpart up once you’re in the room together. Be ready to ask the right questions in order to figure out where they are coming from. What are their personal motivations, fears, and goals? Naturally, you’re not going to ask them those questions outright, but you can ask questions that elicit that information.

What kinds of questions might you ask?

  • Ask about prior deals they have done and what worked or didn’t work.
  • Ask questions related to what upper management is looking for.
  • Ask how they can help deliver for upper management.
  • Try to connect with them on a more personal level by asking about interests, family, or where they are from. Show genuine interested in that person’s story.

Once you have a sense of what their personal investments are and you know where they are coming from, you’ll be in a better place to reassure them or help them feel comfortable.

ACCOUNTING FOR CULTURAL DIFFERENCES

There are significant cultural differences in negotiating styles and approaches, including the sense of what is proper and what is considered good etiquette, that negotiators too often ignore to their peril. Whether you’re negotiating internationally or domestically, in different geographic regions from which you are accustomed, intergenerationally, or in a different business culture, it is essential to research on those cultural, geographic, and generational differences.

For example, how you accept a person’s business card in Japan is very different from how it is done in the US. With the Japanese, you don’t just take a glance at the business card and stick it in your pocket. Instead, take it with both hands and hold it in front of you, read it, look at the person who gave it to you, and then put the card down on the conference table in front of you. If you don’t follow that protocol, it’s an insult—and the last way you want to begin an important meeting is by insulting your counterparts across the table—even inadvertently.

How have you historically prepared for negotiations? Are there any cultural differences you already know about? What can you do to better research the people on the other side of the table in future negotiations?

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