Identifying your opponent’s interests, and prioritising your own, are the main pieces of advice given by Jeff Weiss’ Guide to Negotiation. Weiss identifies three common failings that negotiators make, some of which will come as a surprise even to seasoned veterans. They are:
Failing 1: Failing to listen
You’d think this one would be obvious, but it can disproportionally affect brokers who’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty when preparing for those big meetings. All that time spent crafting your argument, and explaining where you stand, however articulate, can leave you sounding like someone who likes the sound of their own voice. More problematically, you may forget to ask those crucial questions of the other people in the room - and really listen to the answers. In fact Weiss’ guide suggests you try and spend at least as much time asking your counterpart questions as you do presenting your own case.
Failing 2: Sacrificing your interests to preserve the relationship
Relationships are commonly cited by successful brokers, aggregators and lenders as the biggest factor in success. So Weiss’ second point may be hard to bear; your specific interests in each negotiation – whether it be changing rates, conditions or approaches – should come before appeasing the person you’re negotiating with. He suggests that you keep your relationship separate from the main negotiations, and deal with trust issues long before you move to the more sensitive stuff.
Failing 3: Focusing on positions, not interests
This is an important distinction to make. In the context of negotiations, your position is what you want; ‘a person’s particular point of view or attitude towards something’, according to the Oxford Dictionary – that ‘something’ being persuading your client to accept a deal you’re offering, for example. But the dictionary defines interest as ‘the advantage or benefit of a person of group’ –the reason why your client keeps saying no. They may be under some sort of obligation or set of conditions which drives them to oppose you. It’s vital to understand these underlying driving factors.