I’m framing this advice around a major commercial negotiation between two reasonable parties.
- Always clarify the up to date position. e.g. you mentioned that a new sales order was imminent the last time we met, tell me more.
- Try to establish the housekeeping of the meeting; prospective agenda, time allowed, anyone joining via conference call. (this has the subtle advantage of establishing you as de-facto chairperson
- It is essential that your team stay relaxed and focused. Think of it as gears in a car. If you start the meeting in fifth gear and you get stressed, excited, over zealous – you have very little emotional capacity to go upwards and you will explode! Stay in first gear and seamlessly move up the gears to make a critical point but remember to come back down again. (see here)
- Your team leader dictates the pace. Never speak unless invited to do so by the team leader. Don’t interrupt a silence. A professional team can make this look very natural
- Use questions to understand a specific stance, assumptions can be dangerous.
- On the other hand if you are relying on key assumptions in making a point e.g. the price of a company, please state clearly the main facts you believe to be true including forecasts to allow yourself an escape route if circumstances change.
- Be yourself which in my case means never bluffing.
- Don’t try to be smart e.g. with respect it is clear from your spreadsheets presented that there is a flaw in your numbers.
- Watch body language very carefully especially of the people not talking.
- Difficult issues should be put to one side to keep the momentum moving forward.
- Use time outs sparingly but effectively to gather your thoughts and garner input from the team.
- On big points please believe in what you say. It will show.
- If advisers are involved it is highly recommended that on really big points you deploy the “Principals Only” tactic. e.g. the acquirer and the seller excuse themselves to retreat to a separate room to agree a deal on that key point.
- The word “help” is underutilized. As in, perhaps you could help me understand how you win the majority of your business.
- Rudeness and sarcasm don’t work even if you’re British.
- Document agreements along the way and make great theatre of the volume of points agreed.
- Close on clear next steps with a timetable and agree action for non-compliance.