Beware Last Minute Nibbles.

During the end game, there were some public declarations that a deal was close and that there were just a few minor details to sort out. I suspect that these declarations of being nearly there were made more out of habit and in hope than in all seriousness. It is common for many negotiators and hagglers to try to push for concessions in the end game by bringing up small demands whilst dangling the prospect of a deal. The hope is that the incentive of reaching the deal, especially after long and protracted sessions, may be so inviting that unconditional  concessions will be easy to secure. Most often it is Buyers who use this successfully when dealing with Sellers who just want to secure a deal. Trades Union negotiators use it when they know a Management team is under pressure to get the deal and get back to work.

The tactic may have worked in previous rounds of these Greek Debt negotiations, but this time, after all that has passed, this was not going to happen. As Trust has been lost, it has been important to make sure that all the required conditionality was in place and was going to be “honoured” if an agreement was to be reached and to work.

The German position, as reported by Paul Carrel of Reuters, was made clear by Ralph Brinkhaus, deputy parliamentary floor leader for Merkel’s conservatives:

“The more money is handed out in one stroke, the less leverage one has to stop payments if the reform process in Greece does not pan out as planned and as promised.

“A lot of trust has been lost in recent months,” he said, adding that aid should only be provided in return for Greece delivering reforms.

Read more:

The lesson in the end game is to make sure that all concessions are traded against the agreement of specific conditions. That if a last minute concession is being sought it is traded on agreeing the deal and bringing it to a close. The concession being traded should be small and conditional that the deal is now done. And if trust is a problem, it should be agreed on the basis of everything being clearly understood and how it will all be implemented and what the penalties will be incurred for failing to honour the accord.

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Negotiating Lessons from Greece #6 – Mapping

A lesson in Analysing the Negotiating Environment:

A significant number of the trainers I have trained in negotiating techniques had no idea about several key areas that should (must) be considered as part of the preparation discipline and when considering the face to face phases of a negotiation. Two are of particular interest here, as they play a significant part in any professional Negotiator’s thinking – Environment and Complexity; and by complexity I mean the negotiator’s use of the term. (My next blog).

The “Negotiating Environment”:

Many negotiating trainers are sellers and presenters. The reality is that most are not negotiators, do not think as negotiators and see the world from a different perspective. There are not very many negotiating trainers who one can say are negotiators.

Negotiator’s are thinking, contemplative quiet individuals weighing up situations, information, opportunities, possibilities and probabilities who can take a step back and really understand the terrain, the players, the influences, relationships, etc., and these insights gives them the cool, confident courage that is the sign of a top negotiator.

Mapping the environment of a negotiation is always an interesting exercise. There are various ways one can approach this. I  select a method which helps me visualise the whole picture in a quick but efficient  glance. Quite often the “picture” will sit alongside my objectives, strategic options other planning tools – Venn Diagramming helps or Mind Mapping – you will develop your own preferred method based on what you are comfortable with.

This is the first phase of mapping which tries to identify the influences in the Greek / Europe negotiations.

Greek Negotiating Environment
Each Node is an influence in the negotiation, some are direct (parties involved directly in the negotiations); others are influencing the parties (backroom / have an interest or will suffer consequences / will react to outcomes ).

As each influence is identified, it sets up a secondary analysis in which the interests, needs, priorities are noted together with the concerns, problems, threats and must avoids. Not easy, but often fascinating and always important part of one’s preparation.

Our client Sharppractitioners see this as a very important element to learn and develop as they become more expert as negotiators.

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Negotiating in Europe #4 – Greece, Britain et al.

When Negotiating You Get What You Deserve.

    1. If you are at the receiving end of an unrealistic proposal and wondering to yourself: “How on earth could anyone expect us to consider that?”, ask yourself: “What have I done / failed to do /  that allows the other side to make that proposal?”.Why does this happen? Well there may be many reasons, but most common are that you have most likely failed to make it clear earlier what was possible and what was not – what is negotiable and what is not – what would be the consequences of unrealistic positions – what range of sanctions were available – what would be possible.

      After all, negotiating is the art of the possible! (Even though so many spend all their time arguing about what is impossible).

    2. If you do not define what you want ahead of a negotiation you are preparing to receive what others will let you have. You are planning to be Reactive not Proactive – Passive rather than Active – Defensive as opposed to Assertive.

      Touring round the parties of a multilateral negotiation to find out what others think can easily fall into this trap. It then leads to your objectives being defined by what others will offer rather than what you want.

    3. If you make it obvious that you do not have any real threats, or intentions to carry out a threat (eg. the threat to walk away / leave.), then the other parties will take full advantage of the opportunity to reject your ideas, propose tougher terms and take the “high ground”.

If you go into the negotiation with just a list of demands, you give the others the opportunity to set a high price against each demand. If the other side are irritated, then the price can be very high; BUT you only have yourself to blame!

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The Negotiating Gifts from Greece – 3# – Be Sharp but Beware Clever Clever

Experienced Negotiators Know how to use a Weak Position to Advantage

    1. If you are in a Lose / Win situation your options provide plenty of scope to be proactive by making proposals or pursue varied strategies. After all, you have nothing to lose. Proposals can be realistic or unrealistic depending on whether you wish to move forward or just buy time. Strategies can be outrageous in a multilateral negotiation with many parties, as the complexity  of the situation and the needs for a level of unity protects (and hampers) all.
    2. Following the old negotiator’s adage “one is always in a stronger position than one thinks”, and taking courage; being proactive and making a proposal can bring surprising results:
      1. It can steal the agenda,
      2. Give uncommitted parties something to work with,
      3. Force a response,
      4. Seize the high ground,
      5. Control the deadlock.
    3. Pursuing varied strategies and tactics can lock the parties in a dangerous and escalating competition in which each tries to prove their ideas are better (more clever) than everyone else’s. This is a modern day negotiating curse – being too clever in developing smart games, gambits and tactics – brings in high risk as strategy becomes more important than the original objective.
    4. Beware that being sharp is not confused with being clever, and being clever may be no better than being stupid.
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The Negotiating Gifts from Greece – #2 – Kicking The Can Down The Road – Deadlocking


      1. Argue and keep arguing – whilst arguing you are not making concessions or even proposals. In fact you are not negotiating (attempting to secure an agreement). You keep the position in stasis by playing the argument game. Negotiations appear to be ongoing, but the reality is deadlock. This is used for many reasons – for example: to buy time – encourage concessions as the other parties surrender through frustration – allow deadlines to be overrun – appear to be fully engaged in the negotiation when not – grandstand to the audience (audience as in noise to listen to)

      2. Unrealistic Proposals – making proposals that one knows to be unacceptable are designed to create argument – deadlock. It allows one to push the onus to the other side and make them responsible for lack of progress. It is high risk, but often tried. If the other side sees it for what it is it is matched by an equally unrealistic response. There are elements of this behaviour operating between the Greeks and Germans as I write.

      3. Appeal to higher authority – referendum – seek the view of the electorate and use their answer to deadlock further.The danger is two can play at this game. Another matching game to deadlock the process or bring people to their senses.

      4. Making an agreement but then take it away for approval / ratification and then finding all sorts of problems with it. Kicks can down the road, but attempts to set up opportunities to amend the agreement. Lots of this going on.

These techniques are used often by parties who:

  • May not know what they want.

  • Do not know what is likely to happen if they go through with threats or agree to something they do not fully understand.

  • Have nothing to lose.

  • Know it costs less to deadlock than to negotiate / make concessions.

  • Find that by using frustration tactics they get rewarded – especially if some parties are keen to “get a deal”.

  • Want to appear to be negotiating by being at the meeting, but have no intention of allowing progress.

  • Think that winning the argument is negotiating – it is not.

    How to Deadlock the Negotiation –
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Trust in Negotiations – Beware

Trust should not be confused with Making Assumptions.

In reading quite a few articles and blogs on the meat supply crisis over the past days, it is clear that many who should know better have been making a lot of assumptions about the performance of contracts and subcontracts. They appear to be trusting their systems because they seem to have been working safely and efficiently. Managers prefer not to go looking for trouble, especially when the numbers are looking good. And of course they are able to say that they have an audit system in place, and all sources are subject to regular checking. But all of this is based on assumption and not trust. This problem applies to retailers, banks, broadcasters, in fact just about all organisations.

All of us are guilty of making similar assumptions when buying. We assume our favourite suppliers are selling us safe food and we assume our favourite brands contain exactly what it says on the label. But now we know different.

Assumptions are dangerous. Making decisions based on assumptions is taking unnecessary and sometimes very high risks. Most weeks I will observe and analyse many negotiations. On most occasions I witness negotiators assuming their counter party to be making honest and truthful statements, even when they themselves are lying through their teeth! Strange but common behaviour.

Quite often assumptions are not challenged because the individuals do not know how to. They are not able to phrase questions properly; they are uncomfortable challenging statements and are fearful to upset the other side and so “lose” the deal; they know something is not quite right but not sure what, so they let it go; once the deal has been done it is for others to implement – if it goes wrong, or does not work out they can avoid the blame and pass it on down the line.


  • Trust is built up over time between parties. It becomes established as agreements are honoured exactly as agreed – not just once, but every time.
  • Trust is a major part of a relationship, a corner stone.
  • Trust allows each side to “know” how the other party will act, not just an expectation but a promise that will be fulfilled.
  • One can expect (and be right) that secrets and confidences will be kept. The parties know if the trust is ever broken it can never be repaired.
  • Deals will be delivered to the letter – exactly as agreed, not distorted, misinterpreted, reneged upon or ignored and forgotten.
  • If changes have to be made they will be discussed and agreed in advance.
  • The parties know the value of trust (and the cost of losing it).

In Business:

Trust is very difficult to maintain because:

Employees are for ever changing.

Market and economic pressures do not remain constant.

Greed for profit, commission or bonus have a negative impact – relationships are expendable when there is a quick profit to be made.

When an individual does not understand complexity, consequence, sustainability and the long term, they do not understand trust, relationships, integrity and partnership.

As a negotiator I do not trust anyone. Assumptions have to be tested.

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Welcome to Advanced Negotiating

Hello and welcome again to  all of you who are interested in professional negotiating.
The intention of this site is to offer a place to exchange views and ideas amongst our growing community of negotiators. It is also a good medium through which to update members about developments and events at ScottRoberts Negotiating
As a group of interested practitioners, we like to comment about some of the more significant negotiations on-going in the world; negotiations which will or might impact on us all.
Feel free to use this site, and to build it into your own personal development schedule.
Best Wishes and Good Negotiating
Mike Roberts
Founder & Partner – ScottRoberts & Associates
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