Negotiating for a win-win

By: Michelle Welch, Learning & Development Consultant, 21 July 2016 Categories: Organisational vision & strategy
“In business you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate” Source: Chester L Karass

We all negotiate to some degree every day - it’s something we do all the time at work as well as in our personal lives. All negotiations, be they agreeing on contract terms or settling on your teenager’s curfew end in one of five possible outcomes:




No outcome


We would all agree that, if possible, we would like to strive for a win-win, where both parties win equally. However, because a perfect trade-off is not always attainable, this is very rarely possible. In the words of Shapiro & Jankowski:

“Today, everybody talks about win-win negotiation. Both sides win. Both get what they want. Both are equally happy. How delightful. How unrealistic. If we negotiators were seeking truly equal terms and deals, like King Solomon, we’d simply divide everything in half.”

In reality, we’re out to achieve all (or most) of our goals, to make our most desirable deal. But the best way to do so is to let the other side achieve some of their goals, to make their acceptable deal. Realistically speaking, negotiators would be looking for a WIN-win deal (big win for your side, little win for the other side).

Planning a successful negotiation

Preparation and planning have a significant impact on the outcome of negotiation. Without carefully defining your objectives, preparing your approach/strategy and clarifying the process, the chances of achieving your ideal goal is minimal.

Three key steps to planning a successful negotiation:

Step 1: Set up your GOALS - consider who is attending, their background, the company culture, anything that can give you a better idea of their real intentions and views.

Step 2: Decide on your STRATEGY

  • Competitive strategy: the outcome is more important than the relationship
  • Avoidance strategy: strategy of inaction, both avoid pursuing their goals - sometimes out of fear of damaging the relationship
  • Compromising strategy: both gain some aspects of their outcomes but not one of the parties meets their full objectives (splitting the difference approach)
  • Accommodating strategy: the lose to win approach – sacrifice your objectives for the sake of the relationship – give in to keep the other party happy
  • Persuasive strategy: using "sweet talk", charm in order to reach your objectives
  • Collaborative strategy: both parties pursue their goals with concern for issues and the relationship
  • Analytical strategy: view the negotiation as a problem to be solved in a rational manner, look for alternatives, consider all the facts, or use some external rule/chance factor to decide the outcome, e.g. flipping a coin, policy etc.

Adapted from Lewicki, Hiam & Olander: Think before you speak, a complete guide to strategic negotiation

Step 3: Clarify the PROCESS

Now that you know your goals (what you want to achieve) and have considered your strategy (how you will achieve your goals) you need to plan the process (how will the negotiation unfold).

Typical negotiation phase
Opening PhasePhase 1 - establishing credibility and building rapport
Phase 2 - setting objectives and information gathering
Middle PhasePhase 3 - proposing
Phase 4 - exploring/trading/bartering
Closing PhasePhase 5 - nail it down

Example: Asking for a payrise

Step 1: Set up your GOALS

  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Be clear about why it is important to you to receive the payrise

Step 2: Decide on your STRATEGY

  • Prepare a watertight business case – evidence your skills and record specific work or projects that you have completed
  • Benchmark salaries for your role across similar organisations.

In terms of strategy you may aim for a collaborative or persuasive approach but may also need to consider a compromise. Are there alternative options if a payrise is not viable at this time i.e. Could your work benefits; Bonus’s, commissions, holiday entitlement etc be reviewed?

Step 3: Clarify the PROCESS (how will the negotiation unfold?)

  • Present your case
  • Be ready for discussion and negotiation
  • Be clear with yourself on what your boundaries are (what you are/not willing to accept)
  • Take time to consider the offer, it will show the other person how important it is to you (Thank you, I appreciate your time and offers. Can I come back to you by the end of the day?)

Following your negotiation

If all has gone to plan, you may now be celebrating your success! But remember to take time to reflect on how the negotiation process went. Whatever the outcome, it is important to review, learn and plan for the future. Even if your negotiations achieved the desired outcome, how do you plan to replicate that success in the future?

Please let us know how your negotiations go. Whether you achieved your desired win-win outcome, or are looking for ways to improve your approach, we would love to hear from you.