We try our best to be prepared before a negotiation: gathering information from suppliers, internal departments, potential alternatives, public resources are just among the few. Unfortunately, there still will be question marks and unknowns that need to be addressed to get into the agreement or rejection phase.

 

Here are a number of top questions I frequently receive from participants in my workshops with CABL when it comes to extracting precious information from the other party during a negotiation:

 

How can I create a positive climate in the negotiation that encourages the other party to share information?

 

The best way would be to signal collaboration by being the first to share information. Encouraging reciprocity of information sharing at the early stages of discussions can go a long way to set up the foundation to get the valuable information you seek. Obviously, when your counterpart does not reciprocate, it gives a strategic advantage to them and may hinder your ability to claim value. Choosing which information to share and which to withhold is crucial. In addition, we want to proceed incrementally with the information exchange and make it reciprocal. If the counterpart does not reciprocate, we can then stop the information sharing.

 

The other party does not give me any information on the key interests they have, I’m going around in circles, what can I do to change this dynamic?

 

Use Multiple Equivalent Simultaneous Offers.

It is not uncommon to find yourself in a situation where your counterpart is not willing to communicate their needs or desires. An effective way to ‘steer the ship’ in the right direction is by giving options on packaged offers where each offer has slightly different components. It gives you the flexibility to construct creative combinations of issues that both meet your underlying interests and shed light on what interests are more valuable to your counterpart.

 

In the early stages of a negotiation, I get into a position where the other party just listens, how can I best engage them to participate and share information?

Explore your options and probe them with “What If” questions. A fantastic way to get the other party to participate is by leading them down a path that you choose until you reach a roadblock (or agreement!). If you walk through a hypothetical proposal, it is likely they will interrupt or correct your assumptions, this way you get valuable intel on their interests or key specifications. Try asking a “What if we agree to your terms on X and in turn you agree to B? It would mean that in 2 years we may have to relocate our plant to Africa. How do you see it?”

 

These answers were collected by Giuseppe Conti, Founder and Managing Partner of Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a consulting firm that specialises in negotiation & influencing.