The Negotiator Magazine

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Dear Barbara,

Wow! These men really put you through the ringer. No wonder you are concerned about dealing with these fellows again. You do not say whether the agreement you reached met your goals, but I assume even if it was less than you hoped for it was still acceptable in fulfilling your company’s plans. You also did not say whether or not it worked out as agreed, but I am going to assume that it met the performance test. Otherwise, there would little, if any, reason to deal with this group again.

Here’s what I would suggest you do.

First, assuming there is still a reason to proceed with this firm, check around your company and try to find out if these men have used this style in other negotiations. It is possible that you encountered these men at a time of crisis and that what you experienced was the product of a point of desperation over some totally unrelated matter.

If you know any other management people in other firms that have dealt with them, check them out also. If that is their usual style, people will not only remember it, they’ll never forget it and they’ll talk about it.

Let’s assume, however, this is their style. You need to be fully prepared to handle some "dirty tricks" artists. If they are not you can celebrate, but if they are you need to be ready.

One of your first steps in preparing for any negotiation has to be to fully explore what is often referred to your BATNA, the Best Alternative To another Negotiated Agreement with this firm. This requires a careful assessment of your options. Without options, of course, you are their mercy. This is critical for whomever you negotiate with for any agreement.

One option might be doing the work in your firm. Is that possible? Is it truly an acceptable option? For instance, does your firm really want to go into this type of business? Here’s where you need to do your homework with all the people who have a stake in achieving such an undertaking. Make certain that the people involved recognize that this is not just an exercise. This is a real option under consideration. You need real numbers, real resources and real buy-in to this possible project before it can be listed as a viable alternative.

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