How to Get in Your Negotiation counterpart’s mind

The more rigorous you are in preparing a detailed, specific understanding of your negotiation counterpart and their perspective, the better your negotiated results will be.

Focusing on your counterpart during the preparation of your negotiation will help you develop as complete a picture as possible of how the other side views the negotiation and then reap the benefits that come with that understanding. Utilizing the tips & techniques described below will make you an even better negotiator.

You could always start by posing questions to yourself like “What would I care about if I were them?” or “What if I had their interests and their information?” These types of questions are a fundamental way of beginning to think about things from the other perspective. However, it often isn’t enough to just ask yourself questions.

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To get into the other party’s mind, you should use all of the tools and resources available to you, starting with these 4 important tips:

1. Pre-inform

Reach out to your colleagues who have negotiated or worked with your counterpart, your counterpart’s company, and their competitors and ask them what they learned during those past interactions.

2. Imitate 

Call people in your organization who have the same role as the person with whom you are negotiating. For example, if you are a procurement professional negotiating with an account representative from a supplier, call some account representatives in your organization and ask them about their experiences when negotiating with customers.

3. Use Marketing

Ask your marketing department for any industry research, reports or competitive intelligence it has gathered.

4.  Prepare

Conduct your own research on the other side’s company, and its industry, and competitors by reading trade journals and news articles, visiting its website (press releases and news interviews can be great sources of information on an organization’s interests), and talking to friends and relatives who work (or used to work) in your counterpart’s position or industry.

How much time you spend and to what lengths you go during preparation to understand the other side’s interests should depend upon considerations like how complex you think the negotiation will be, how comfortable you are with your own knowledge of them and their situation, and how confident you are in your ability to explore and understand their viewpoint during negotiating sessions.

Of course, there are limits to how much you can learn and how effectively you can assess your counterpart’s situation through thorough preparatory consultation and research. That’s why it becomes critical to prepare important questions and statements for the negotiating sessions and to role-play (with a colleague, your boss or a friend) parts of the sessions themselves.

While you cannot control everything that will happen in the negotiation, you can control portions of it – and there is no reason not to be well-prepared for those portions.

Finally, preparing in this manner takes time and effort, and getting in the other party’s shoes will be challenging the first few times you try it. However, in the experience of our team of Procurement Tactics, the benefits far outweigh the costs. The more rigorous you are in preparing a detailed, specific understanding of the other party and their perspective, the better your negotiated results are likely to be.

"Very useful course, many actionable strategies"

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