Virtually all negotiators over-estimate their own weaknesses and the other side’s strengths. Try to take an honest inventory of each side’s real strong points and vulnerabilities. An analysis of the other items in the Preparation Planner should be a part of that inventory. Ask yourself if your vulnerabilities appear as weaknesses to the other side or if you are more sensitive to them. The same applies to strengths. Give yourself credit for you pluses. Assess the other side’s strengths analytically, not emotionally.
Examples of other factors include: Their company may be bigger but not as market-responsive as yours. They may have been around longer but are they as in tune with today’s demands? The real strength you have is knowing your own strengths and weaknesses.
Often participants in our programs voice the following frustration: “How can you possibly achieve a Win-Win result when you are in a weak position? When the other side holds all of the cards, isn’t it impossible to be an effective negotiator?” I believe the most effective negotiators are able to use their skills, both when they have the leverage, as well as when they don’t. In order to be more effective when you are in a weak position, I suggest the following:
1. Check Your Assumptions – If you take the time to identify their weaknesses you may very well discover strengths in your own position of which you were previously unaware.
2. Expand Your Alternatives – Is the other side the only person in the world with the product or service that you want? Seldom is there ever a single source supplier for a particular item. It might be more convenient to buy from this person, or maybe the quality is better, but in the end, there are typically many alternatives to choose from, even when your alternatives look limited.
3. Change the Subject – You might talk about benefits you provided to the other side in the past. You might discuss future opportunities that could exist. You even might inquire as to what else the other side is interested in beyond the deal at hand. Seldom does a transaction consist of only one component. Find out what other items can be brought into the negotiation and see if you can establish an upper hand with regard to these issues.
4. Find Those Similarly Situated – If you find yourself in a weak position, there are likely others very similar to you. Seek out these people and see if the sum is greater than the individual parts. Consider class action suits, where an individual claimant is definitely in a weaker position when compared to a large company.