Collaboration – Know your Negotiation Approach

By: Arlene Johnson

Even with the best of negotiation strategies, often overlooked is the importance of assessing our negotiation approach. Deals have been won by doing this mental check and lost by not doing it. To improve the odds on achieving a negotiation objective, it’s worth the time to evaluate what we think of the situation, the people involved and not let that affect our approach or negotiation outcomes.

Prior to any negotiation, know the answers to these questions: "What do I think about this meeting and the individual? How does this impact my communication and negotiation approach? And how might this affect the negotiation outcome?" Without asking ourselves these questions, our "first-response" negotiation approaches often can, and sometimes unknowingly, dictate the outcome of important conversations.

Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate with the University of Texas at Dallas School of Management Executive Education team to customize for their corporate client our negotiation program, Value Based Negotiations. This work included changing the program format from two days to one. As we discussed altering program case studies and negotiation concepts, we knew that using the Negotiation Planner to plan and conduct a collaborative negotiation was critical and not to be short changed. And, we all agreed that using the knowledge of the negotiation approach assessment was a high value negotiation practice. For UTD's client, their managers learned the impact of their first-response approaches, and how to when needed adapt to the situation or negotiation approach of others, especially with sensitive and sometimes complex negotiations.

The Negotiation Approach graphic shows five approaches that can be used, depending on the situation or preferred approach of others when planning or conducting a negotiation or managing conflict. The common language of compete, collaborate, compromise, accommodate and avoid helps everyone easily see what degree of assertiveness and/or cooperation that in practice impacts the achievement of their negotiation objective; potential tangible (profits, product mix, etc.) and intangible outcomes (relationships, long term commitments, etc).

Planning and conducting a negotiation with a collaborative approach improves the chances for gaining agreement on the negotiation objective. Collaborative outcomes require the same degree of assertiveness and cooperation to understand and address our and their needs in order to identify new interests, options and agreements. The old adage of… if the pie is too small for everyone to get their fair share, then make a bigger pie… is exactly what it takes. Unnecessary compromise can leave money on the table and affect relationships.

Deciding on the most effective negotiating approach for a meeting is dictated by the negotiation objective. As an example, if the negotiation objective is to collect past due payables from a client, it may call for a more assertive negotiation approach. Or, if the negotiation objective is to resolve issues with an important client, accommodation may be the preferred negotiation approach. Before any important negotiation, think about your first-response negotiation approach. Based on the situation or another’s negotiation approach, you’ll then be able to adapt to either a more assertive or cooperative approach in order to achieve your negotiation objective.

Regardless of the type of negotiation, whether asking for a salary increase, support from a colleague or improving profit margins with a client, what we do know is how we feel when we walk away from the meeting. Did we each leave the meeting feeling that we gained value from the conversation and the negotiated agreements? And, did the negotiation approach we employed help protect profits and strengthen the business relationship?

Ask any skilled negotiator why they are consistently successful and their answer will be: planning. Preparation, preparation, preparation. The more we question our assumptions along with what we don't know about the negotiation situation, the better positioned we are to gain the critical knowledge needed to increase the tangible and intangible value of the negotiation outcome. If it’s worth negotiating, it’s worth planning.


Book Arlene to speak at your next conference

The Value Based Negotiations workshop improves negotiation outcomes with a systematic collaborative approach for planning and conducting negotiations. Participants learn how to structure interest based versus positional negotiation conversations. This collaborative framework helps identify needs to create negotiable variables other than pricing, protect critical relationships, and manage hard bargainers. The result is an intuitive and repeatable process for protecting profit margins and relationships in sometimes complex negotiating situations.

Email us at for information or Contact Arlene to discuss how she can work with your organization to help your key talent have consultative conversations, improve profits with collaborative negotiations, win important sales opportunities and map best decisions and actions to your company’s critical business objectives.


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