How To Avoid Traps In Negotiations

Industry experts expect 2022 to be another year of enthusiastic deal-making. Make sure you're coming to the table armed for success.

Victoria Medvec is an impresario of high-stakes negotiations and a management professor at Northwestern University. At Chief Executive‘s recent Leadership Summit, she shared four big traps that senior leaders should avoid. “People who negotiate all the time run into these traps specifically because they do [negotiations] all the time,” she said.

• Don’t negotiate the wrong deal: Put the right issues on the table, Medvec said, based on the objectives of your negotiation, both short and long term. “For each one, have at least one negotiable issue.” Don’t negotiate a single issue because “it will be contentious and damage the relationship.” 

• Don’t sell yourself short: Experts often “don’t set ambitious goals,” she said, because they expect “what people normally get.” So aim for more based on the weakness of the other side’s positions, not on deal averages.

• Tell the right story: “How can your differentiators address the other side’s pressing business needs?” is how Medvec put it. And make certain your story “isn’t about the benefits of buying your business” but about “how to solve their problems.”

• Make multiple offers: Come to the table with not one but perhaps three different but essentially equivalent offers. “That sparks conversation and gives them choice,” she said. “People love choice. They feel they’re in control, but who’s really in control? You are, because you’ve designed the choices they have.”