Negotiating Skills: Working the Negotiation Table

Negotiating the size of the tableHow to negotiate in a formal situation

Deals can be made or loss at the negotiation table.  Get these few pointers right and you are likely to land that contract on your terms. Get them wrong and you’ll be severally disadvantaged.

Provided you negotiate for a good table!

Seating during negotiations

Firstly you need to get the best position at the negotiation table.  You want to be able to see everything and control the discussion.  Being stuck in a corner doesn’t help you.  At a large meeting, a good place is in the middle of the long side of a rectangular table.  Preferably any windows should be behind you so the light is not in your face.

At a small meeting sitting opposite someone literally puts on on different sides of the table.  So to build rapport, sit on the edge to one side of the other person.  Choose the side that feel most comfortable to you.  I personally prefer my customer to be to my left.

If, when you get in to the meeting room the other side are already there and seated and the sun is going to be in your face, take action. Simply say, with the sun in my eyes I will find it difficult to pay your offer full attention, shall we close the blinds on the window?  If the window has no blinds you could suggest moving the table or even moving to another room.

By objecting, and forcing the other sides hand, you have taken control of the meeting from the outset.

Meet and greet the other side

 It is a common courtesy, when the other side enter the room, to stand and meet and greet them.  In many cases, moving from behind the table will build or reinforce rapport before you start formal negotiations.

By shaking hands you also get to size your opponent up.  You can read their body language, look int their eyes and see if they are literally sweating .. note sweaty hands, beads of sweat on the brow, and the way they behave.  A sweaty hand might be due to a hot day; but could be an indicator of stress.

During negotiations observe their body language.  By mirroring or matching their body language you can influence them.  When mirrored people tend to find us in agreement with them and easier to work with.  This can smooth the way forward.

When you want to register disagreement change your body language to match how you feel.

You might find this all a bit contrived.  But you are probably doing it subconsciously anyway!

It is far easier to influence the other side by body language than by thumping the desk!

During the Cuban missile crisis  Nikita Khrushchev apparently made his point by thumping the table with his shoe.  The story goes that the situation was contrived and an aide had surreptitiously passed him a shoe a few minutes before!

The Builder’s Flinch

 It is parodied on TV, the deep intake of breathe by the builder when he sees the work needed.  Like all parody and comedy it is firmly based on the way people really react in certain situations.

So when proposals are put on the table – flinch.   A sharp intake of breath, head scratching and frowning helps.  Of course don’t parody the builder; but let you body give the other side some clues to how you feel.

And don’t dance f the offer is better than you expected.  Let them know you want better terms and NEVER accept the first offer

More on Body Language during Negotiations

 In formal negotiations the other side may well field several people. So you can too.  The rest of your team don’t need to say much.  In fact their role should be to watch for body language.  Have them sit in a good position to spot the other sides body language.   Arrange for them to indicate if they think the other side is hiding something, will change the offer in your favour or whatever.

Most people find it difficult to lie convincingly.  They are likely squirm in their seats and , or,  keep looking away more than previously. Good liars do the opposite they look you in the eye more, sit much stiller and will tend to slow their speech.

You may be too busy to spot all this; but you team can.

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