Negotiating – the ‘win – win’

Business people and professional parityEvery project manager has to negotiate. Whether it is for resources, with resources, the myriad of suppliers or your stakeholders, nothing is a ‘given’.

Let’s start with a definition:

“A discussion between two or more parties who may disagree, but intend to come to some form of agreement”.

If one side feels they have ‘lost’, given much more than they have gained, feel they were held to ransom, then on-going relations will be damaged. Trust will be destroyed. If, however, both sides are prepared to move from their stated opening positions, then both can feel they have gained as well as given. If both can achieve their objectives while doing this, we have a ‘win – win’ situation. Trust is established and an on-going relationship created.

How you go about negotiating, and more importantly, preparing for the negotiation, will be key to whether you are successful in meeting your objectives from the negotiation. The best way to prepare, is to start with the end in mind, and not just the end of this negotiation. Even if you think this is a ‘one-off’ now, you may come across the other party again some time in the future. If you create that ‘win -win’ situation you’ll have that relationship, that trust pre-established, making the negotiation easier. So my first objective for the end is to create that trust relationship.

Now to what you need from the negotiation. Think of it as your W.I.N.

What you ideally want

Intend to get if at all possible

Need to get at all costs


This way you know what and where you can compromise, and what your red line is.

Now think about the other party. What is of value to them. If this is something you can be flexible on you have aground for negotiation. For example, let’s consider some building renovation work. Builders are in a business with good cash flow, so up front payment is not a prime value to them. However, the may be keen on getting regular business, say a maintenance contract, so this might be worth considering. Think about their position.

Now for the negotiation itself. First and foremost, you must listen intently and understand what is being communicated. If you are solely focussed on your needs you’ll miss key signals from the other party. Seek to establish mutual interests and any common ground. Look for early signs of flexibility – “I’d ideally like….”.

You need to be self confident and assertive. You’ll need to give and take concessions, but not before you evaluate their worth. Use the “if I give you this, then will you give that”, not forgetting maybe or “I might”. There will be difficulties which you need to find ways round. Be creative and strive towards common ground. Avoid emotional outbursts – they’re not good for relationship building. And avoid deadlocks – they’re no good to either side.

So to be an ACE negotiator:ace

  • Be Assertive
  • Stay Calm
  • And be Empathetic – show you understand the other side’s position, pressures and concerns
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  1. […] Every project manager has to negotiate. Whether it is for resources, with resources, the myriad of suppliers or your stakeholders, nothing is a 'given'. Let's start with a definition: "A discussion…  […]

  2. […] Allen Ruddock prompts us to prepare for negotiations, by determining what we ideally want, what we intend to actually get, and what we must have. […]

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