The Negotiator Magazine
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Ask The Negotiator
John Baker
John Baker has well over thirty years of active negotiating experience in educational, (USA) Fortune 100 corporations and small business companies. He has negotiated collective bargaining agreements both for unions and for management. Dr. Baker’s experience includes agreements across a broad range of negotiation areas, including marketing alliances, purchase and sales contracts, acquisitions, joint ventures, non-profit and government services agreements and even the peaceful conclusion of student protest sit-ins on more than one occasion. He holds a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University (USA).

And now, this month’s letter

In-House Negotiations Training ... Books and More

From: Tim (USA)

Dear Negotiator:

If you were aiming to strengthen the negotiation skills of management personnel, what books would you recommend as essential?

Thank you.

Dear Tim,

An increasing body of evidence points out that you are certainly addressing one of the most important and readily enhanced areas of skills. Short of inventing a new widget, there is no other management action that can deliver more to bottom line results than improving negotiation skills. Cut input costs by 5%, increase sales margins by 5%, create a strategic partner relationship, retain a major customer, slash post-contract “special” costs. Negotiation skills produce a winner or a lost opportunity in every deal, every sale and every purchase.

Certainly, we are not breaking new ground in this assessment. The array of negotiation skills development professionals in the field is a daily testament to this reality. There are coaches, consultants, trainers, university courses, law school courses, management courses, negotiation games, computer-based training programs, articles, negotiation magazines as you know and, of course books galore.

Before I address your question specifically, however, let me make some general observations about improving negotiating skills. Although it is true, in the main, that everyone negotiates everyday and therefore in theory we are all experienced negotiators, some of us have no idea of why we succeed or fail in those daily encounters. In fact, without a benchmark to measure our performance, we really do not know. Others seek to avoid negotiations, often at significant personal cost in achieving many of their goals or realizing their opportunities. Still another group “participates” in negotiations, but does not bargain to their advantage or at all. This last group comprises those who merely lend credence to agreements as co-opted representatives of groups theoretically represented at the table.

As you plan your in-house program, it is vital that you begin with this reality. You will need, therefore, to include a work that addresses this critical issue.

Secondly, you need to prepare your personnel to handle the major styles of negotiation. No matter what your preference is in negotiating approaches, your team is going to encounter a gambit of styles and will only succeed if they can shift easily from one style to another. I would suggest you select three differing books for this part of your training. One, of course, would present the most popular approach, collaborative negotiations. The second would be a counter that advocates competitive bargaining as a style. Lastly, I would recommend a book centered on positional bargaining since many negotiating arenas, for example, traditional labor negotiations, still use that approach as standard operating practice.

Finally, to really prepare your team you will need to select a basic skills book that will give them more on the fundamentals of the process, definitions of terms and some structure for planning for each of the steps, tactics and strategies they will encounter and learn to employ themselves. To round this program out, I would select a book focused on your team’s special area. Add a book on gender negotiations as insightful and truly useful to both men and women. If your group is involved in global negotiations or even if it is not, something dealing with cross-cultural negotiating would be of great value.

I am confident you will find what you need in the new book review section of the Subject Index. We have selected only top works for review.

At some point, you might wish to consider three last suggestions to strengthen your program. A good solid “generalist” in negotiations, operating as a facilitator, could pay significant dividends in refining your personnel’s thoughts in a day or so at the end of your reading program. You should consider getting your people to negotiate something, no matter how small, every week and report back on the experience throughout the program. Negotiations is truly one of those areas that one learns best by doing.

Lastly, of course, get your people regularly reading the best of current thinking on negotiations in this magazine and other resources on the web or the newsstand.

Good luck,
John Baker


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