Crucial Considerations in Interests-Based Negotiation

Negotiation doesn’t always need to be about “winning” or ensuring your side walks away from the table with as much as possible while leaving the other side with as few concessions as possible. This positional bargaining approach may have been the favored strategy among business negotiators in previous years, but now we know that this strategy doesn’t empower long-term success the way interests-based negotiation or cooperative negotiation can.

When you adapt your approach to negotiation with a leaning toward integrative bargaining, you not only increase your chances of having a successful conclusion but also raise the likelihood of forging a long-lasting relationship with the other side. A few key considerations can empower you at the negotiation table and increase the chances of successful interests-based negotiation.

Examine the Research Carefully

Consider what generational or gender aspects may affect what your team brings to the table. For instance, some women have to overcome cultural stigmas around negotiation – one study suggested only 16% of women in one control group even attempted to negotiate. Millennials tend to have difficulty negotiating compared with other past generations for much different reasons than women traditionally have. Both these issues, once considered, can actually help the process.

By now, your negotiation team should be aware of what their life experience brings with them. It can actually be an effective way to handle opposition research. When you know the goals and motivations of the other side because you feel empathy, it is easier to connect with them from a cooperative angle. Instead of leveraging their needs and wants against them, positioning your side to offer them a competitive edge is much more likely to yield positive results than a standard transactional negotiation.

To capitalize on interests-based negotiation, make sure your team spends as much time as possible examining all available research on the other side prior to commencing negotiations. The more you know about the other side’s motivations and goals, the more information you have to make calculated suggestions and replies during negotiations.

Appreciate the Value of Considering the Other Party

Everyone approaches the negotiation table with goals. Falling into a pattern of considering these negotiations as a competition could lead to a great deal of missed opportunities. When you acknowledge and appreciate the other party’s position, you inherently open up more opportunities for your own organization’s advancement. You likely have short-term goals you would like to realize through your negotiations, but an interests-based approach opens the door to long-term partnerships that can be mutually advantageous for your team and the other party.

Transactional or competitive bargaining inherently reduces the chances of reaching a win-win outcome. A competitive approach to negotiation may work out in your favor in the short-term, but it ultimately harms your chances of building lasting relationships that could be incredibly valuable for the future of your organization. Interests-based negotiation tactics can also strengthen your reputation among other businesses, potentially opening even more doors in the future. Once your team has established a reputation for seeking the win-win scenario in every negotiation, the process gets even easier.

Have Your Team Implement Interests-Based Negotiation Strategies

For your negotiation team to successfully reach the win-win scenario in each negotiation, they must remember that they are only one of two sides in each negotiation. It can be easy for negotiators to lose sight of the big picture and focus solely on walking away from the table with as much as possible while yielding as little as possible. However, this is not a viable long-term strategy for successful sales negotiation. Instead, start cultivating better habits among your team members geared toward interests-based negotiations.

1. Teach your team the value of research.

It’s simply good practice to walk into any negotiation armed with as much information as possible. Research the other party’s past transactions, if possible, and try to glean as much insight as you can into their short-term and long-term goals. Understanding the other party is the first step in successful interests-based negotiation.

2. Encourage agility.

Make sure your top negotiators know the differences between integrative and distributive negotiations and how to adjust their tactics accordingly. Some negotiations revolve around a single factor, while others have many moving parts in play. It’s possible to strive for interests-based negotiation in both. Your team should be able to vary their strategies to account for both of these types of negotiations and navigate all types of business discussions fluently.

3. Deliver carefully measured responses and teach conflict resolution.

Some people are more forthcoming with details about their goals, while others play their cards closer to the vest. Whatever the case may be, make sure your team knows how to take their time and avoid rushing their responses. Encourage your team to absorb as much information as possible during a negotiation and use that information to deliver the most effective responses possible. It’s equally important for them to know how to defuse heated moments and steer the discussion back toward aligning both parties’ goals.

4. Always have a BATNA, or Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

Your negotiation team should walk into every conversation with a clear vision of their goals for the negotiation. Remember, these goals may not always be entirely attainable; walking away from the table as soon as you realize you’re not going to get exactly what you want is not interests-based negotiation. Establishing a BATNA essentially gives you much more to work with when it comes to achieving an acceptable middle ground with the other party. If your primary goals are unattainable, you can still leverage the principles of interests-based negotiation to reach your BATNA and preserve your relationship with the other party.

5. Ensure your team knows how to listen and remain flexible. 

The key to interests-based negotiation is reaching a mutually agreeable resolution with the other side, and this doesn’t always mean compromise. Instead of only getting some of what you want and the other side getting some of what they want, encourage your team to be alert for opportunities to create the win-win scenario. Listening is crucial: your team should be able to pick up on the verbal and nonverbal cues that hint toward the other party’s motivations and underlying goals.

Interests-based negotiation isn’t just an option for your negotiation team to try. It’s a scientifically proven way to improve the outcomes of your negotiations. Even negotiations limited to basic positional negotiation strategies can benefit from implementation of interests-based negotiation principles. After reaching a satisfactory agreement, pursuing interests instead of objectives could potentially lead to both sides of the negotiation extracting even more value from their agreement.

Ultimately, interests-based negotiation should be the standard operating procedure for any forward-thinking negotiation team. This approach to negotiation provides several tangible benefits over more traditional, aggressive bargaining tactics that leave little room for the win-win scenario.

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