Win-win negotiations are where both parties to the negotiation walk away satisfied. They have each gotten something they can live with. They can go back to their bosses, their boards of directors, their stockholders, their union membership, their government, their constituents, and all other stakeholders and report “we were successful.” Win-win negotiations leave each side with a good taste in their mouths and with good opinions of the process and the result. Each side will want to deal with the other party in the future.
Though this article focuses on selling, negotiations can run all the way up to meetings to end or prevent a war.
Other terms for win-win negotiations are “consultative negotiations” (because the sides are, or should be, consulting with each other) and “mutual accommodation” (because each side’s needs are accommodated).
For negotiations to work and not create more problems, each side has to get something. Otherwise, the “losing” side feels cheated and will likely be out for revenge. Winning too much is not necessarily winning when the winner makes an enemy. When the Western Allies forced the defeated Germans to accept the Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I (which began 100 years ago this July), they not only did not get the lasting peace they so desperately needed, they got a Germany out for revenge. With the German effort at revenge, World War II, the 1945 surrender and the 1951 peace settlement formally ended the war and gave at least the western part of Germany protection from the Soviet Union and put it on the road to becoming a strong industrial democracy. The Germans got something.
Negotiations are best defined as two parties getting together to reach their goals. In the overall sales process, they are when the potential seller and the potential buyer get together to come up with terms for the sale. To a great extent, the sale has already been made by the time negotiations begin.
The buyer has already checked out the seller. The buyer knows, or feels strongly, that the seller will provide a satisfactory product and service for the product. What remains for the buyer is to get a satisfactory price, satisfactory payment terms, and a satisfactory schedule for delivery of the product or service. The seller already has determined that the buyer is a good market for the product or service. The seller wants to ensure, bluntly, that they are not losing money on the deal — through bad pricing, bad payment terms, or bad delivery schedules. Both sides want something.
The first thing they want is mutual confidence. If this is not the first deal between the buyer and the seller, the confidence likely already exists. If not, the negotiations are probably not even taking place.
The best way to build confidence, to try and start off on win-win footing, is to show a reasonable approach to the process from the start. You both want something and want the deal to work. You are there to determine how to make it work. If you detect that your counterpart is what we call an “adversarial” negotiator — out for victory at all costs — than you should consider calling off the negotiations, at least for a while. (More in a future column on how to handle this type of negotiator.)
Negotiators should not leave money on the table, but you won’t want to take current money at the expense of future money. As a win-win negotiator, you want to do all you can to avoiding having your counterpart walk away feeling cheated. This is especially important if you might want to do future business with the other person and want to preserve a reputation for fairness — another good way to stand out from the competition.
You do this by understanding what the other guy wants and what he or she brings to the table. You walk a mile in the other man’s, or woman’s, shoes.