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  • Writer's pictureDaywey Chen

Successful negotiation by focusing more on the other party's issues

During a negotiation, we often concentrate too much on ourselves. We concentrate on what we are trying to get out of from this negotiation. What do we want, what do we need, what happens if we fail to reach a deal? What issues or trouble will we get ourselves into if we don't reach a deal? Sounds familiar?

Yes, focusing on ourselves is no doubt the priority. Otherwise, what is the point of negotiation in the first place? Isn't it to seek a result that would benefit us more when compared to a no-deal? However, during the negotiation process, it is wise to pay attention to what the other party wants. More, importantly, what matter does the other party sees as an issue. Only then, we are more likely to obtain a successful deal for ourself.

The other party will say yes for its reasons, not yours

Let me illustrate what I mean by sharing a real-life successful negotiation case study that I have recently read from a Harvard Business Review article.

Theodore Roosevelt, nearing the end of the presidential election campaign in 1912. The plan is to distribute a pamphlet with a stern presidential portrait of Roosevelt on the cover and with a speech "Confession of Faith" inside. Around 3 million copies had been printed for the campaign ready for distribution. At the last minute, a campaign worker noticed a small line under the photograph that is used in the brochure that reads "Moffett Studios, Chicago." What does it mean? It means that Moffett Studios from Chicago held the copyright of the photo used in the brochure. If they were to reprint the brochure it would cost around one dollar per reproduction. On top, there is no time for the reprint. The campaign team realized they would have to negotiate with Moffett Studio. After conducting research on the Moffett Studio, they turned up with bad news: the owner of Moffett had received little recognition throughout his career. Now the ower is financially hard up and bitterly approaching retirement meaning he is probably going to take advantage of the campaign's urgency see this as an opportunity to make big money.

If Roosevelt's negotiation team only looked at their own problem such as low on campaign budget, short in time...etc. They will probably end up paying big money for the photo usage authorization. Instead, they looked at Moffett Studio's potential problem. The negotiation team called up Moffett Studios and said " We are planning to distribute 3 million copies of pamphlets with Roosevelt's picture on the cover and with other photos. It would be great publicity for the studio whose photograph we choose to use. How much will you pay us to use your photo?" After consideration, Moffett Studio replied, we would be pleased to pay you $250. The negotiation team happily accepted the deal. Issue solved!

Shape how your counterpart sees its problem such that it chooses what you want

Therefore, never try to act as a tough negotiator and think that "It's their problem and their issue. Let them handle it. We have our own problem to look after."This mindset and attitude will undercut your ability to influence the end result to go towards your way.

From the case above, if this were the mindset of the negotiation team. They will think of it is Moffett Studio's own problem that the owner didn't get enough recognition and are financially hard up and then based the negotiation on the price that the campaign will have to pay for the photo usage authorization. Instead, the negotiation team looked at how Moffett will view its potential issue as by letting the campaign use its photo in the pamphlet. As result, being able to manipulate the negotiation to its favor.

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