CFO Negotiation Strategies

On Wednesday, February 12, 2014, The CFO RoundTable Boston hosted Managing Relationships As We Negotiate,” where we discussed different approaches to negotiation and conflict resolution that focused on collaboration and open discourse that lead to mutually beneficial conclusions for both parties.

Our speaker was Michael J. O’Halloran, Professor of Management, Bentley University. To download a PDF copy of Michael’s slides, please click here.

What Did We Learn?

Choose Your Negotiation Approach Wisely

Some people play it close to the vest. Other people lay everything out on the table. And of course, let’s not forget those who love to haggle.

Because negotiation is a highly complex form of communication that can be emotionally charged, choosing the way you approach your negotiation will dictate the success of your outcome. After all, while the negotiation process can be competitive, being too competitive can damage your relationship and escalate conflict with the other party.

Therefore, think critically about the way you approach the other party in your negotiation. Is this a party that you need to maintain a positive and productive relationship with after the outcome? If the answer is yes (and 9 times out of 10, it is,) get out of your defensive mode and open up to a collaborative approach.

Seek First To Understand, Then Be Understood

There is a classic negotiation story that goes like this:

Two girls are fighting over one orange. To quickly resolve the conflict, their mother cuts the orange in half, and gives each girl one half of the orange. Later, she sees one daughter throw her rind away as she wanted to make juice. She sees her other daughter throw the fruit away, as she wanted to bake with the orange rind.

Besides keeping more fruit in the house, the lesson is clear – if the mother had first asked “Why do you want the orange?” of each of the girls, both would have gotten exactly what they wanted without having to disadvantage the other.

This example illustrates the collaborative approach to negotiation which addresses the needs and commonalities of each party involved, and invites a full exchange of ideas. This approach requires each party to understand the other’s position by asking ‘why,’ and to come up with options that provide mutual gain.

Pay Attention To The Intangible Factors

We’ve all learned that our body language can betray or support the words that we say, which directly effects how our negotiation proceeds. But did you know that intangible factors, such as the timing of your meetings, the lighting in the room, even how the seats are arranged, can play an important part in the success or failure of negotiations?

Successful negotiations are won not just through their approach, but through the careful management of intangible factors that can either act as catalysts or roadblocks for your conversation. For example, if it’s a one-on-one negotiation, sit side by side with the other party, or at least off to the side, rather than directly across from them. This way, you communicate that you are working alongside the other party to solve the problem together, rather than going to battle with them.

Further, choose your communication channel wisely. Face to face is always best, but, if you must negotiate over phone or email, be sure it’s only after you have established a level of rapport with the other party before your meeting. This way, you’ll be able to better understand the tone and inflection of the conversation, how to set the other party at ease and avoid trigger points if necessary.

Disrupt The Disruptors

We all have a story about a negotiation that went sour. Someone was chronically late to appointments, others could be counted on to always come back with unrealistic rebuttals, or even some were just plain out of line.

Whatever the case is, while these disruptors might just be trying to play hardball, they are disrupting the negotiation with their behavior and potentially damaging the outcome for both sides.

The easiest way to disrupt these disruptors is simply to say ‘no’ to their bad behavior. Call them out on their disruptive tendencies, and explain how it’s affecting your relationship.

Talk Back

Have another question about negotiation that our speaker didn’t answer? Do you have advice that you’d like to share with your colleagues? Share with us in the comments today!

Photos and More Information

For more information on this or any of the upcoming events The CFO RoundTable has planned, please click here.

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