Disruptive Negotiation


The world is being disrupted – in every area. From Airbnb, to Uber and Grab to Bitcoin, established industries are being turned upside-down. Old-style operators are losing market share at a terrifying rate. Innovative organisations have recognised that this is not an aberration, it is a trend; and smart businesses will use this wave of disruption to surf past the competition and leave them in their wake.

So, it just makes sense for clever negotiators to use disruption to increase their success. There are many opportunities for disruptive behaviour in a negotiation. Here are some you can use immediately.

Disrupt the Opening

Traditional negotiators enter a negotiation seeking to assert their power and authority. They aim to intimidate the other party, dominate them from the outset so they will moderate their demands and be willing to accept less.

Disruptive negotiators leave their desire to dominate at the door. Instead, they start softly and gently, aiming to understand the other party’s interests, priorities and concerns. This way, they can assess which parts of their offering to emphasise when it comes to putting their proposal.

Disrupt the Sharing

Negotiation used to be like playing poker – wearing your ‘poker-face’ to conceal your feelings and using bluff as one of your main tools. Disruptive negotiators use unexpected disclosure to shock and disarm their opponents. They will share some information the other side does not expect. They will explain the interests that formed the basis of their proposal, rather than just putting their offer and ‘hard-selling’ it. They will share their feelings and invite the other party to do the same.

Disrupt the Process

Old-style negotiators got ‘down to business’ straight away. They slapped their offer on the table, invited the other side to do the same so they could start bargaining. Disruptive negotiators hold their offer back until some sharing of interests and feelings have occurred. They start a non-binding dialogue where they are able to probe each other’s priorities before putting any formal offers. Once bargaining starts, information sharing stops. Smart negotiators recognise that the more information is shared, the better the chance of identifying the ways each side can offer the other the maximum value in the deal.

Disrupt your Attitude

Negotiation used to be like a sporting contest where the aim was to win by focussing relentlessly on pursuing your needs. Smart modern negotiators disrupt this by aiming to create the deal that is most likely to have their opponents say ‘yes’. It’s not a contest, it is a joint problem-solving exercise. The decision is easy because they make the other side’s satisfaction paramount. They know that a negotiation is the start of a working relationship and if it causes resentment on either side (because they feel they were out-negotiated) then making this deal work will be difficult if not impossible.

Disrupt the Close

It used to be all about getting the signature, the handshake, the commitment; and applying whatever pressure was necessary to get it. Disruptive negotiators might put the final decision aside and move on to discussing implementation problems – knowing that when solutions to these problems are clear saying ‘yes’ is much easier. A negotiation that fails in implementation (and research has shown that between 75% and 97% do) is a waste of time and resources for both sides and can ruin a potentially profitable relationship.

Disruption in negotiation is about finding smarter ways to deal with others. Using these techniques will surprise your opponents. They will think “there’s something different about this person”. They may even recognise you as an innovative disrupter with the potential to great massively successful agreements.

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