Negotiation Team – 5 Powerful Tips for a Great Deal

Are you considering setting up a negotiation team? Exciting! Team negotiations can be powerful but involve some risks as well.

This article will discuss 5 tips to get the best out of your negotiation team. We will also discuss which situations call for a team negotiation – and which ones definitely don’t!

Read the entire article, or jump straight to the chapter of your interest:

When to negotiate with a team

It makes sense that a deal with a significant size requires input from more people than just yourself. That being said, negotiating with a team isn’t always the right decision. But we’ll get to that. First, let’s sum up situations that demand a team negotiation:

  • Complex negotiations that require knowledge on several levels
  • Negotiations with a lot of room for creativity
  • Negotiations with multiple departments will all each the impact of the outcome
  • International negotiations which have team discussions embedded in its culture

Benefits of negotiating with a team

Working with a negotiation team can bring multiple benefits:

  • In general, two heads know more than one
  • Teams are better at making accurate judgments
  • Teams feel less pressured and more powerful

In many scenarios, a team will outperform a solo negotiator. This can be attributed to several factors:

  • High ambitions that teams set for themselves
  • A heightened sense of competition
  • The tendency to challenge the view of the team members

These benefits aside, there are certain tendencies that a negotiation team needs to watch out for. For example, a negotiation team may be especially susceptible to “groupthink,” or the tendency for groups of people to adhere to the same viewpoint and disregard information that contradicts that view. Effective negotiation can also be hampered by destructive coalitions and factions. For these reasons, openly encourage members of your negotiation team to share opposing views, perhaps even assigning a “devil’s advocate” to fill that role.

In addition, strive for consensus building on important decisions rather than voting.

When to negotiate alone

So yes, there are quite a few serious benefits of negotiating with a team. However, there are definitely times you should try to act solo:

  • Team communications make the process more complex than necessary
  • Team communications make the process more expensive than necessary
  • A negotiation team may suffer from group thinking. Especially if a team has the tendency to agree with each other easily.
  • Some group members have the unhealthy dynamic to always try to outperform their peers. This leads to internal competition and will make a successful negotiation even harder.
  • If your colleagues have different incentives than you, they could harm your position.
  • If you’re negotiating side by side with an inexperienced team member, this could lead to a weak position

The last one could be disastrous. For example:

You’re negotiating with a potential customer. The first 15 minutes consist of friendly chit-chatting when your inexperienced says: “So, tell us, what do we need to do to get more of your business?”

Auch. Your position of power got destroyed by 15 words of an inexperienced colleague.

See, even though team members are on the same side, they pretty much always have different incentives. This leads to different priorities with different desired outcomes:

Legal: “I don’t care about the costs. As long as we keep the patent safe.”

Sales: “I need this deal to happen. It will be good for my career”

Finance: “Let’s be cautious with this deal, we’re trying to close the books with a profit this year”

See what I mean?

Editor’s note:

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Which players do you need in a great negotiation team?

1. Team leader

Let’s start off with the obvious one, the team leader. From the beginning on it’s important to establish the leader of the negotiation team. The leader should be prepared to talk with the stakeholders to discover the interests of both parties.

Job title: Contracting officer, contracting specialist.

2. Technical experts

Having a technical expert on your team is almost just as important as having a team leader. Without having the technical knowledge about the topic, you’re negotiating in the dark.

Job title: Engineer, technical specialist, project manager, commodity specialist, inventory manager, property manager, logistics manager, or simply the end-user.

3. Financial analyst

The financial analyst should protect the financial goals your team is aiming to achieve. The financial analyst usually works closely together with the team leader to determine the BATNA and the minimum requirements for a deal.

Job title: Auditor, financial analyst.

4. Legal analyst

When the negotiations are reaching the final phase it’s time to include the legal analyst to cover all legal aspects of the deal. That being said, in many negotiations the legal terms have a significant impact on the deal. In that situation, it’s best to include the legal analyst from the start.

Job title: Legal counsel, administrative contracting officer, administration specialist.

5. Bridge-builders

In theory, your negotiation team should be fine with the 4 key roles mentioned above. However, in some scenarios, you might want to add a fifth player to the game. A bridge-builder is a person who has an established – positive – relationship with the opposing party. Throughout the conversations, this person should be tasked with listening carefully to the other side’s perspectives and interests. Knowing what’s important to the opposing party is an important asset. Their insights could be of great value when proceeding with an offer or counter offer.

Job title: Depends. Mainly relies on the relationship with the opposing party.

5 tips when working with a negotiation team

Once your team is installed, it’s time to discuss your strategy. Here are 8 tips for a successful team negotiation.

#1 Prevent internal conflicts when working with constituents

Many negotiations suffer from internal conflicts, simply because different team members pursue different goals. I’ll repeat:

Legal: “I don’t care about the costs. As long as we keep the patent safe.”

Sales: “I need this deal to happen. It will be good for my career”

Finance: “Let’s be cautious with this deal, we’re trying to close the books with a profit this year”

Because people don’t want to let their department down, they go all-in on their own goals which bottom line actually hurt the company. If constituents are presented with all the facts, however, they might be willing to concede more ground because they’ll also see the bigger picture. Therefore it might actually be wise to put together a team of individuals who are good at forming relationships across constituents.

#2 Implement a mutual strategy

If your negotiation team displays disagreement during a negotiation, you can be sure it won’t have a positive impact on your deal.  Such breakdowns are a great source of inspiration for exploitation by the opposing party. Therefore, before you take a seat at the bargaining table, make sure to have one strategy.

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#3 Simulate your negotiation

When preparing for negotiation there’s only so much you can predict. Opposing parties can pull unexpected tricks which mess up your strategy. Although some of these tricks are hard to predict, your team has to be prepared for each scenario. You can do this by simulating your negotiation. By roleplaying, you’re better able to put yourself in the shoes of your negotiating partner. This will help you to be better prepared for unexpected tricks.

#4 Use individual powers of your team

It’s important your team feels comfortable during the negotiation. You can help them by giving each a specific role.

For example, you could give your team clear instructions to protect the member who is responsible for the long-term client relationship by keeping him away from intense discussions. Don’t let him be the one to directly confront the other party about the pricing.

#5 Simulate internal conflicts

We’ve mentioned this a lot. Internal conflicts can have a disastrous impact on your negotiation. By simulating potential internal conflicts you’re able to prevent expensive mistakes at the bargaining table.

We like to do this by having each team member plotting down their own priority and position on each item of discussion. By discussing this upfront, you’ll make sure the team is on the same page when it matters.

Concluding thoughts on team negotiations

Working with a negotiation team has the potential of outperforming solo negotiations significantly. That being said, doing team negotiations with poor preparation could cause horrible results. Make sure your team is well prepared by implementing the tips mentioned in this article, and you’ll be set up for the perfect deal. 

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