What are Professional Negotiators?
While all of us negotiate on a daily basis, professional negotiators can teach us a lot about finding success in unexpected ways.
You’ve mastered the basics of good negotiation techniques: you prepare thoroughly, take time to build rapport, make the first offer when you have a strong sense of the bargaining range, and search for wise tradeoffs across issues to create value. Now, it’s time to absorb lesser-known but similarly effective negotiation skills and techniques from professional negotiators.
One thing professional negotiators remain aware of is the optics. How can professional negotiators reach their goals while also securing broad approval for their deals? It is always wise to consider what would happen if your decisions and behavior in a negotiation became public knowledge. That doesn’t mean your negotiations can’t be private. But top negotiators pause to think about how various proposals and arrangements would affect outsiders. This negotiating skill brings ethical concerns to the forefront and clears the way for a fair and honest negotiation.
Professional negotiators also look beyond the immediate negotiation concerns. Although most of us understand the importance of preparing thoroughly for negotiation, we often focus too narrowly on tactics at the table: how to frame an opening offer, how to be persuasive, and so on.
By contrast, professional negotiators are more likely to grasp the importance of negotiating in three dimensions rather than one. They move beyond the first dimension of “at the table” interpersonal skills and tactics to move on two other dimensions: setup moves (ensure that the right people are at the right table) and deal design (identifying potential tradeoffs).
One important technique that professional negotiators are more likely to follow is simultaneously presenting three offers that you value equally, but that vary across issues. Such “MESOs,” or multiple equivalent simultaneous offers, are likely to draw out your counterpart’s priorities and interests in a way not captured by direct questioning.
Discover how to boost your power at the bargaining table in this free special report, BATNA Basics: Boost Your Power at the Bargaining Table, from Harvard Law School.
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