Structuring Expectations: Part One
The pre-negotiation phase: The negotiation has begun already!
Many people make the mistake of thinking that in the period running up to the formal start of a negotiation the parties are not negotiating. They could not be more wrong. The reality is that once one becomes aware that someone wants something, then the opportunity to make a deal means that the negotiation is off and running. From the moment this reality begins expectations are being structured. Every action, statement, move, meeting, event sends out messages as to the aspirations of the parties; how they intend to behave towards each other and indications as to the priorities they are working to. What they want and (often more importantly) what they want to avoid.
The unguarded are giving information away all the time and not realising it. Discipline and coordination in this phase are all important.
If the negotiating landscape has a considerable number of interested parties trying to influence objectives and strategy, discipline can become very problematic. An experienced negotiator can read much from watching from the other side. It provides useful information about how well prepared the other side is, what problems they are having within their team, who the key influencers may be, where the real power is and who the key decision maker is.
In this phase the internal conversations within one side maybe the real negotiation. It can be very difficult to get the clarity of objectives and priorities when there are too many fingers in the pie. But it gives away a lack of togetherness, conflicting objectives and strategies and possible lack of real negotiating knowledge and ability.
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