Guest post by Mary Powell, Marketing and Sales Executive
As you may recall, in my last article I discussed leverage and its value in a bargaining situation. As promised, I am following that with more on negotiating, this time focusing on information.
The ability to gather information from your counterpart, and protect details about yourself, plays a critical role in any negotiation.
There are many ways to gather information about your counterpart: consulting public records, consulting with knowledgeable third parties, and simply eliciting information from the other side both before and during the negotiating. I will focus on the later: eliciting information.
Gain as much information as possible before the negotiating begins.
You are looking for any information that will give you, or the other side, leverage. Say you are negotiating a fabric run from a mill. Of course, you need to know what you want and exactly how much you need. To gain leverage, however, you need to know if other mills offer the same or similar products, at what price, and what kind of production minimums they require. Beyond this, you want to know who some of their other customers are and how satisfied they have been. These things will give you leverage at the negotiating table.
One way to get information from your counterpart is to ask. If they are not skilled in negotiating, they will probably answer you. Be careful, though. A savvy negotiator will know that a direct question can put the other side in a quandary. A truthful reply might give away too much information.
On the other hand, a lie is unethical and can get them into deep trouble. This could force them to find a way to answer that may give you what you want. Then again, it might not.
A disadvantage of this direct approach is that it highlights the information you are looking for. Sometimes it is better to try to go after the information indirectly. Starting a conversation on a related subject might allow you to get the information you want, without the other side realizing it.
Frequently, small talk before and during a negotiating session will reveal information. Let the other side talk, and listen closely.
Knowing how to elicit information can prepare you to guard information you don’t want to reveal. Think ahead of time about how you will answer questions.
Answering a question with a question will allow you to reply without giving up any useful details. Another tactic is to simply say, “I don’t want to get into that”, and proceed to change the subject. You can also answer specific queries with general answers. For example: If you are asked, “How much are you willing to pay?” you might reply with, “Obviously I am looking for the best deal I can get.”
Gather as much information as possible before you go to the table. Understand the leverage of both sides. You will soon realize that while leverage and information are separate topics, they hang together closely.
In my next article, I will talk about credibility. This involves your ability to be believable, as well as your ability to spot a bluff.