Dynamic Negotiation Workshop: When talks stall, it's tempting to jump to conclusions

Dynamic Negotiation Workshop When talks stall, it's tempting to jump to conclusions

This can mean finding and nurturing an influential internal champion on the other side who would truly benefit from added quality and service. The supplier might induce such an advocate to persuade the agent on her behalf, directly or via links to senior management. Beyond a good negotiation workshop and the effective interpersonal skills needed in the initial two-party negotiation, a three- or four-party set-up—internal champion plus senior management in addition to the supplier and agent—can maximize the odds of the supplier's success at the negotiation workshop.

The broader point is to do a 3-D barriers negotiation workshop, then craft a 3-D strategy to overcome those specific barriers. A 3-D strategy is an aligned combination of set-up moves away from the table, deal design moves "on the drawing board," and tactics "at the table" all tailored to overcome the barriers you've identified.

Q: One-on-one negotiations are often tough, but the complexity is magnified during multiparty negotiations, especially when some of the interested parties are not obvious. How do you advise flagging all key influencers?

A: To get the set-up of a negotiation workshop right, you need to get the parties right. You might think that the parties are simply you and the person on the other side of the table, but it is often much more complex, requiring an act of disciplined imagination rather than a mechanical list. In our new book, we systematically work through ways to get the right negotiation workshop. In a nutshell, you need to take a disciplined look beyond the usual suspects to figure out who might really matter: potential and actual parties, internal and external players, principals and agents, decision makers and influencers, allies and blockers, and high- and low-value parties, as well as those who must approve and implement the deal. Map the relationships among those on your all-party map by assessing the informal as well as the formal decision and governance processes.

For example, to improve the odds of your ultimate negotiation workshop saying "yes," we often use a process called "backward mapping." Start by trying to discern who influences the target player and to whom that player defers. For example, when we were advising a client who was eager to sell his negotiation workshop, we counseled him against his instincts to quickly open serious negotiations with a potential acquirer's CEO. Instead, we researched whom the CEO would turn to regarding acquisitions. Of course, his CFO would be pivotal. Continuing to map backwards from the CFO, we turned up an analyst in the finance department whom the CFO deeply respected and who would almost certainly do the valuation work on this somewhat unorthodox negotiation workshop. After initial contact with the CEO, we spent a great deal of time ensuring that the key analyst bought into the deal. When intensive negotiation workshop finally began with the CEO, the groundwork had been laid. The CEO turned to his CFO, who turned to his key analyst, who made our case from the inside.

To hone their negotiation skills, the first requirement is to recognize the prevalence of formal and informal negotiating situations. Then, naturally, we suggest becoming familiar with the framework of 3-D negotiation. Much like the job of a manager, a negotiation workshop is not merely an interpersonal task, but also a substantive one (designing value-creating arrangements), and an architectural one (getting the set-up right to induce maximally productive cooperation).

We have contributed to all aspects of this negotiation analytic quest, both theoretical and empirical, but especially by extensive fieldwork studying great negotiators and challenging negotiations. We've also spent years, as part of each of our nonacademic careers—as investment bankers, entrepreneurs, and in government agencies such as the State Department—both doing deals directly and advising on them. This long-term negotiation workshop with deals and dealmakers has left us increasingly dissatisfied with the "one dimensional" model that dominates most current thinking about negotiation. This model is primarily focused on the face-to-face tactical interplay "at the table." Extensive field observation and analysis has led us to codify the 3-D approach in which moves away from the table set up the most promising situation.

Of course we are hardly alone. Exceedingly popular negotiation courses for MBAs and executives abound at major business schools. Negotiation analysis, in all its three dimensions—tactics, deal design, and set up—is the province of a wide range of scholars. We're very bullish on the field.