The Five P’s of Effective Negotiating

I have researched, written about, taught and used various negotiating skills and techniques over the last 38 years as a practicing attorney and mediator of civil lawsuits and  claims. I have outlined below several practical pointers to help you become a more effective negotiator.

  1. Professionalism.

    The most effective negotiations generally take place in person. The initial impression you make is important and lasting. Arrive on time. Look in the mirror before you begin. Are you appropriately dressed? Are your clothes pressed, shoes shined and hair combed? If so, it creates an aura of competence and you are off to a good start when you enter the room. Throughout your discussions be sure to choose your words carefully. The language you use reflects on you, your client and your firm. Avoid the use of slang and profanity. Use proper grammar and speak in commonly understood words. Follow through with any promises you make. This will likely not be your last negotiation with this person or in this community and you want to leave a positive impression.

  2. Personal Relationships Engender Trust.

    There is an old sales saying “like buys from like.” This is another way of saying people like doing deals with people they like and/or respect. Find common interests you may share with the other persons involved in the negotiations. It may be children, sports, educational background, life experiences or hobbies. Be sincere in these inquiries and show a keen interest in the other persons. You should treat everyone in the room with respect. And, encourage everyone to participate. Remember, everyone has inclusionary needs. They want to feel as if they had input into the decision and participated in the process. Be a good listener. Ask follow up questions. Rude comments, bullying, nasty emails, hostile telephone conversations and condescending letters do not engender trust.

  3. Preparation.

    This is the most important of the five P’s. Know the facts, the law, your goals and objectives, and your opponent’s goals and objectives. Identify your strengths and your weaknesses. Developing a hierarchical list of negotiating points in advance of the negotiation allows you to plan multiple steps ahead of your opponent. Do not get caught off guard. If your opponent calls and wants to discuss resolution, tell him/her you will call back if you are not prepared to participate in a substantive conversation. Then outline your negotiating approach and return the call at a pre-arranged time. Make sure you are dealing with the appropriate decision maker. Do not assume your opponent has full authority to enter into an agreement. Research the witnesses, the judge, the jurisdiction, the mediator and the other parties. It is important to know how they approach settlement negotiations. Do they cut to the chase? Do they employ an anchoring technique? Are they willing to try the case? Know the costs involved of going forward for all participants. Importantly, establish a game plan of offers and concessions and the justifications for each position you take. I like to call these your “becauses.” A proposal without a justification is not persuasive. Finally, do not delay the preparation and do not take your client to a negotiation without fully preparing him/her in advance.

  4. Predict/Anticipate.

    Be prepared to rebut positions asserted by your opponent. Surprises are not good, but forethought and preparation will minimize the damage. Pay attention to the words, the numbers and the body language being used in the room. Verbal and nonverbal cues are important predictors on where the negotiation is headed. It is uncanny how accurately you can predict ultimate positions if you pay attention.

  5. Persevere.

    Finally, be patient, do not get discouraged, keep plugging away. You may have to step back, step sideways, take a break, or find a creative solution. There is no need to be in a hurry. I have concluded many deals long after most of the other people in the room had thought we were at impasse. If you have adequately covered the first four P’s you will know when to pull the trigger and close your deal.

Good luck. I hope you find the above useful. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

K. Roger Schoeni
(513) 381-0656