Negotiation … One on One, or is it a Team Sport?

Dance partner

So you’re sitting there, alone, on one side of the table. And across from you is an army of briefcases. They’re gonna tear you apart, right? Not so fast …

There’s a great advantage to having a negotiating “team”. But there are some huge disadvantages as well.

Building a Negotiating Team

Whether it’s a good-cop, bad-cop “buddy movie” kind of team or it’s a boardroom platoon, there’s just one rule your team has to live by: Nobody says nothin’.

The power of having a good negotiating team is knowledge. Each person on your team is an expert in something. But that knowledge has to be very carefully safeguarded so it can be used strategically. The only time a team member should be engaging the other team at the table is when the team leader specifically asks for their input into the discussion.

There’s 3 reasons for this:

  1. Rhythm. Your opponent is putting an offer in front of you. You’re quiet, looking kind of stupid and uninterested. You want more. And you want to control the rhythm of the negotiation … and then someone on your team blurts out “Great! Let’s get this down on paper”. Silence is uncomfortable and very effective. And even your own team can crack under its weight.
  2. Who’s My Dance Partner? If the people across the table start to get different ideas from different people on your team, they’re going to wonder who it is they’re supposed to be dancing with. Who’s calling the shots here? Is this a company with a lot of internal turmoil and ladder-climbing that can be exploited?
  3. Name That Tune. Is this the salsa or the rhumba? With different ideas flying around, it’s easy to lose sight of what your goals are and how you’re getting to them. You don’t want anyone leaving the negotiation unsure of what it is they’re expected to do next.

Understanding the inherent strength and weakness a team can bring to the table is critical. If it’s your team, you need to make sure it’s a disciplined one. And if it’s theirs, you might want to take it apart piece by piece.

If you don’t have a team that “gets it”, then it’s better to just go in solo.

Personally I like to negotiate one-on-one simply for the entertainment value; playing both good-cop and bad-cop can be a little schizophrenic, but it is amusing …

One minute you’re Starsky. The next, you’re Hutch.

Also check out my previous posts, The Art of Negotiation and Aikido Negotiation Tactics.

1 thought on “Negotiation … One on One, or is it a Team Sport?”

  1. I like the fact that this post puts emphasis on having a team of partners who are in sync with each other. It is important to construct a good team who are all tuned to the same channel, and each person knows their role.

    One very simple, yet empowering piece of advice I recently got was when a successful business man asked me, “What is the most important rule of negotiation?” When I didn’t know the answer he said, “Always be willing to walk away.” It seems obvious to me now, but at the time it was not. This has become one of the most important lessons I have learned.

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