Phase of Negotiation

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It’s More Than Just a Phase
Negotiation is not always a simple process, and it is an integral part of the service that you provide. Negotiating well means that the result leaves people feeling respected, even if it does not give everyone what they want.
In this lesson, you’ll explore the phases of negotiation, as well as different approaches to negotiating.
Phases of Negotiation
Knowing the phases of negotiation is a great asset to a sales and customer service provider. Although people often think that negotiating is the same as bargaining, that is not the case. Negotiating is a process, and bargaining is one stage of that process. There are three other stages of negotiating, and those are tempered by timing, intuition, and flexibility to the process. Although your particular call center agent’s job may not include hard sales, the exchange of information for services, adding on additional products (up-selling), and even looking for a raise, can be enriched by understanding how to effectively negotiate.
When the negotiating formula works as it is intended, the parties are more likely to work together with trust and respect in the agreement.

Phase One: Preparation
Preparation is extremely important in negotiating. An inexperienced negotiator who is well prepared can successfully make their argument and win their case against a seasoned negotiator. In the preparation phase, negotiators need to review previous examples or other incidents that might have bearing on this situation. In this phase, parties will decide to negotiate rather than pursue court ordered settlements as a way to control their costs or the amount of time spent in court. When the cost of not negotiating a resolution is higher than the cost of negotiating one, negotiation can be the most desirable result.
Phase Two: Exchanging Information
This is not a step that many negotiators consider consciously, except perhaps in legal situations (where it is referred to as disclosure). But it plays a role even in negotiations at home, and certainly in the workplace. Exchanging information is really an extension of preparation and allows both parties the opportunity to consider all of the available information before a bargaining meeting takes place.
For example, say that you are the new supervisor of a twenty-person team at work. Your sense is that production could be improved if the tasks were divided differently among members of the team. You mention this in passing to your boss. He shares that a couple of team members tried something like this before, but it never got off the ground because some members became territorial and felt their jobs were being threatened.
How can you use this knowledge to help you negotiate the changes for your team? Potential answers:

  • Do some additional preparation by speaking with the team.
  • Ask them for input on changes, such as assigning tasks according to strengths, or altering task order to provide better workflow.
  • Speak to people who tried to initiate improvements previously; determine the barriers that forced them to abandon the project, and what they think could be done now to initiate positive change.

The strength of these answers could put you in a much stronger bargaining position when you present your ideas to the boss.
Phase Three: Bargaining
This is the meat and potatoes part of negotiation. Bargaining is where interested parties go over their agreements and negotiate changes, sometimes one term at a time. This is the stage where hostility and anger can become evident as the parties work on the fine details of an agreement. It is important that negotiators remain calm, professional, and relaxed during this phase. If negotiators lose their tempers or argue belligerently, the negotiations may fall apart; no progress is made if people are not speaking to one another.
There are times when an agreement in principle can lead to a long and protracted quest for agreement on smaller details. Those smaller details are worked out in bargaining, the phase where actual sacrifices and concessions are made.
Working out the finer details is common in divorce proceedings, for example. The divorcing couple may agree in principle that they will share custody of their children equally. The details, however, of deciding how to share the children during special occasions like birthdays, school holidays, or Christmas can become extremely difficult to work out, much more so than deciding other details, such as who is responsible for which amounts of debt or who gets the photo albums, CDs, or casserole dish.
Phase Four: Commitment and Closing
Once the parties have completed bargaining, made all the adjustments, and agreed upon the least uncomfortable result, the negotiation is ready for commitment and closure. This would be the time, for example, when you write a check as a deposit on a new car. It is also the time when a bargaining committee in a workplace would return to their membership with a new deal to be voted on.
Commitments can be made public (through a press release or some other media) as a way to share the conclusion of a process with the public. By this time, any hostility should be long over with, since the parties have moved to this stage following the conclusion of bargaining. At times, though, resentment can be close beneath the surface, so any positive steps that can continue to support relationship building are important at this time.
One final, important note in the process is to make absolutely sure that you have a commitment to carry out the agreement that has been negotiated.
Negotiation Made Easier
The essence of negotiating is that in order to get what we want, sometimes we have to give something up. We can negotiate on price (you give me more value and I will give you more money), or principles.
Argue Based on Principle instead of Positions
You’ve probably heard that expression that someone is arguing and “digs their heels in,” meaning that they are so focused on what they want (and their position) that they have lost sight of the topic being argued, and the principle.
If you are arguing – or negotiating – try not to defend a position; otherwise you simply become more attached to it and will defend it even harder. You’ll try to save face, and lose your commitment to the real problem.
Arguing Chips Away at Relationships
Since a negotiation is a form of conversation, the idea is to have successful negotiations that contribute to more conversations. Be careful that your approach to negotiating does not lead to a battle of wills. Each of you can clearly state what you are willing to do or not do, and then work through the problem, rather than deteriorating to personal attacks and bravado.
The Softer Side
Sometimes people who resist conflict, or who understand the high price that can be exacted for hard bargaining, try to soften the edge by being friendlier in approach. They get focused on the relationship and on reaching an agreement rather than simply pushing their own agenda. This is an example of soft negotiation where we extend trust to the other side, make offers and concessions, and do what we can to avoid confrontation.
Principled Negotiation Works
Instead of having to choose whether to stick to your position, or to use a soft or hard positional approach, we recommend that you apply Principled Negotiation.  This approach is neither soft nor hard, and works in almost any negotiation by applying four simple strategies, as described in Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. Each point deals with a basic element of negotiation and suggests what you should do about it.

  • People: Focus on the problem, not the people.
  • Interests: Be concerned with interests of both parties, rather than digging in your heels.
  • Options: Think of different solutions and possibilities instead of starting out from where you want to end up.
  • Standard: Make sure that results are based on an actual standard, instead of something subjective.

Focus on the Problem, Not the People
We often make the comment that we have to focus on behaviors, not people. Don’t get angry: get clear about behaviors that need to change.
Negotiators are People First
When it comes to negotiations, we are dealing with human beings. And when people get passionate about something, it is a good reminder for us to see that they have emotions, convictions, different paradigms, and they can be unpredictable.
When things get heated, which they will at times, remember that your emotions and hot buttons are also involved. Ask yourself if you are paying attention to the people, or are getting distracted by positions.