Long-Term Relationships, Collaborative Negotiation and Sales Contracts
For a long time, the story of negotiation in the business world has been the story of competitiveness and domination. Each negotiation told the tale of a zero-sum transaction with one winner and one loser: the winner, the more dominant party at the table, would extract the most valuable deal they could. This paradigm, called competitive negotiation, sometimes goes far enough to demand that negotiators speak and act and pose in certain ways to increase their apparent dominance. It's been synonymous with simple negotiation for long enough that, understandably, many negotiators can't conceive of any other way.
Competitive negotiation has one serious drawback, however: it's about short-term deals, not long-term relationships. Modern businesses increasingly need strong external partners in the long term to survive, and that means opening up to the benefits of an alternate approach called collaborative negotiation.
What Is Collaborative Negotiation?
Instead of aiming for short-term victory in terms of, for example, extracting a sales contract from a vendor at the lowest possible price, collaborative negotiation aims at bringing the parties together to solve the problem of drawing up a mutually beneficial contract.
There are several keys to the collaborative approach:
Transparency about your interests, instead of trying to withhold your needs behind a "position"
Fairness of procedure, ensuring that everyone at the table is working as much as possible toward a win-win solution
Attention to detail, revisiting priorities as the negotiation proceeds, and ensuring that the contract terms really deliver mutual benefit
On the last front, contract presentation is particularly important. The contract should lay out a fair deal and sell its overall benefits to the counterparty in a convincing fashion, and everything from the broad strokes to the fine print should meet with the approval of both parties. It's best to convert the PDF to Word for high-quality electronic documents wherever they're needed.
The Benefits of Collaboration
The reality of modern business is that the digital-transformed marketplace requires a great deal of investment in innovation and agility for companies to keep up. There are very few companies that can do this alone, which means that external partnerships are more important than ever: It's collaborative negotiation that helps to build those kinds of relationships and the trust that makes them work.
Collaborative negotiation also satisfies human instincts that value fairness and reduces the hostility and resentment that can come from the overuse or overemphasis of dominance-driven competitive techniques. This in turn makes it easier for the parties involved to be truly creative in finding terms that deliver on the win-win proposition.
Keeping It Real
The benefits of collaboration shouldn't tempt you to idealize it in the abstract. Sometimes, an objective is important enough that it's worth enduring a counterparty's haggling or ultimatums to achieve it, and it's important to know your needs well enough — and the difference between needs and wants — to be realistic about it. By the same token, collaborative negotiation isn't about altruism and includes strategies for holding firm in the face of bad-faith counterparties.
Your local business community can be an important resource for this kind of detailed knowledge about negotiation, and can provide networking opportunities that can help you put it into practice.
Joining your local chamber of commerce is a good first step.