Negotiators Need a Framework and Need to be Stress Tested

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Foresight is not about predicting the future, it’s about minimising surprise.
— Karl Schroeder

Some companies and industries are slowing down for their summer holidays and end of year celebrations. However, in other industries like the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, January is busy with training and planning for 2019. Last week, a manager asked, “How do teams prepare for negotiations with major accounts?”

At Gordian Business, first we use the negotiation framework from The Creative Negotiator, 2nd Edition by Stephen Kozicki, to set a common approach to negotiation across the organisation, and it works.

Second, while we help prepare for the live deal with key accounts or critical suppliers, we use scorable simulations. Through the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation, we have access to hundreds of scorable simulations so we can tailor a simulation to the current live deal.

In contrast to theoretical teaching methods like lectures, Harvard research on simulations shows learners grasp and retain concepts better in experiential simulations. For a diverse team working on a live deal, scoreable simulations can challenge the team to think of other possibilities and can contribute to finding new ways to create value.

Scorable simulations linked to the current real deal show how behaviours under pressure can cause teams to take positions too quickly. Or sometimes cause teams to say yes too quickly and not probe for a better outcome. Teams benefit because simulations create lively arguments to examine not just price but examine all elements of the deal.

One main benefit is putting pressure on the team about their negotiating approach without creating conflict about key elements of the live deal. Using this approach, we have created many friends in the C-Suite because we help the team find greater value in the live deal and create responses to possible blockages.

Another key benefit is watching a diverse group of individuals from across the organisation start preparing for negotiation with a reserved approach. Then after the simulation, individuals have become an effective team and a good negotiation team. The negotiation team is then confident and busting at the seams to work on the live deal. The team have discussions like, ‘have you thought of this’, ‘is this worth a risk’ and my all-time favourite is, ‘that’s great, how do we prove it!’

You can never predict what will happen in live negotiations. However, preparing with a common framework and being under pressure and challenged by a simulation allows the team to develop some ‘what-if’ scenarios for the live deal. 

Finally, counter intuitively everybody is busy and wants quick results, and this process forces everyone to slow down. So, the team focuses more on the upcoming negotiation and gain shared clarity on what is a better result and how the negotiating team can deliver a better result.