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  • Chairman’s Circle

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  • Reading Between the Lines: Uncovering Hidden Information During Negotiation

    It's never wise to lay out your entire strategy to your counterparty. If your counterparty knows all your options, goals, limitations, and costs, they're unlikely to offer more than the bare minimum they need to secure your business. Having hidden interests is important when negotiating an optimal deal.

    The inverse of this is, of course, that your counterparty will be hiding things from you as well. It's difficult to negotiate efficiently when you don't have all the relevant information, but there are tactics you can use to weigh the information you receive and make sure you come out with the best deal possible. 

    Take Information With a Grain of Salt

    Asking questions during a negotiation is a good tactic. Keep in mind, however, that your counterparty may not be completely transparent with you. They may try to convince you that their position is more advantageous than it actually is. Sometimes a counterparty will leave out important information or present experts who aren't really any more qualified than yourself. They want you to think their position is better than it is so you offer them a better deal.

    As you gain negotiation experience, you may notice patterns in how people phrase objections and craft statements. It's important that you clarify what's said at the table until you understand completely. Your counterparty is unlikely to tell you how eager they are to make a deal or how much they need your business, but if you ask probing questions and consider their offers and body language carefully, you may get a better idea of what their position is and change your counteroffers accordingly. 

    Don't Settle

    When an agreement is made it's tempting to kick back and celebrate, but nothing is settled until the final contract is signed. You can take time to sit with the information you received and did not receive during the negotiation. Explore any new insights you can glean after the fact, and don't be afraid to ask for a better deal if you feel that one is possible. 

    You also want to carefully consider the contract. Ambiguous language and denials may be used at the bargaining table, but they are potentially disastrous in a written contract. Convert the potential contract from JPG to PDF and go through it line by line. Make sure that any vague or ambiguous phrasing is fixed before you sign. Always present the best-looking contract possible to your counterparty. A clear, well-formatted contract is easier to read and makes a favorable impression. 

    Know the Value of Information

    Before a negotiation, you should decide what you want your counterparty to know and work out the clearest way to communicate only that information. Bear in mind that your counterparty is doing the same thing to you. They will likely tell you many impressive and positive things to promote their position, but you should not take their word at face value. Notice what they aren't telling you, ask probing questions to improve your understanding, and make sure that the final contract is as clear and beneficial as possible.

    Joining your local chamber of commerce can connect you with top negotiators in your area. Join today for advice that's tailored to your business community. 


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