20 July 2015


Persuasion A La Grecque


International Negotiations have a whole different level of magnitude. The conclusion of the negotiations between Greece and the Eurozone have led to the need for a persuading challenge within Greece as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has been forced to accept fiscal measures for a bailout deal from the European Commission.  He is facing tough opposition from his Parliament and in his discussions with them he stated that "the Greek people can understand the difference between those who fight in an unfair battle and those who just hand in their weapons". Source


Here at NRI we also encourage the use of persuasion methods ‘weapons’. Ways to persuade that are powerful and effective. Even if you think you are in a hopeless position don't give in, use a combination of emotion (telling people how you feel), logic (providing solid arguments), threat (signposting alternative undesirable possibilities), bargaining (trading of variables) and compromise (linear movement).  All of which can be seen in the words spoken by Alexis Tsipras.  If you would like to become a great leader in business if not politics contact NRI to learn about using leading edge persuasion practices in negotiation.

20 July 2015




28 May 2015


Email Negotiations



I’m currently preparing a proposal to work with a large multinational to deliver some tailored negotiation training for a team with various requirements, it will involve all our blended learning tools. Unfortunately my contact is very busy and so some of the discussions/negotiations are taking place via email. Not ideal. Negotiation is a people based activity and therefore face to face will nearly always produce better results.


However with time differences and busy schedules often an element of a negotiation takes place over email so here are some tips:

  • Make sure you use the extra time that email gives you before you type a rushed reply. Think carefully about typing something that gets you closer to your objective.
  • Ensure your email tone reflects the relationship you have, if your tone is consistent across email, telephone and face-face you will come across as more authentic and trustworthy.  
  • Tread Carefully, research suggests email negotiation have a higher probability of failure.
  • Ask someone else to read your email so you make sure they read in the same tone that you wrote it. Take particular care with use of humour!
  • And finally be careful to read the history of the email, if you forward something, you don’t want to accidently share an internal discussion with an external party.

If you can avoid negotiating over email, if you can’t take it slow! Remember delaying a response can be useful and might get the other party offering more help!


6 May 2015


UK Election 2015


This is my last reference to the UK election this year, I PROMISE! But do you believe me? This year we have heard that Trust is at the heart of the election, as with many elections around the world. We have had promises, pledges, guarantees, red lines, promises to make promises legally binding, we even have one party literally casting it in stone! And yet still it has made no difference, to the polls at least, which have been fairly static through the whole campaign.


Trust is also important in negotiations, you are negotiating with another party with a different perspective and different objectives. You aim to make them move to your position or at least very close to it.


Trust is so critical to ensure a successful outcome without deal-creep or contract under-performance. Building trust is a skill in itself and is why we allocate one of our six phases of the negotiation process to building a relationship and setting the scene.


Spending time in the Opening phase of a negotiation will build stronger relationships and increased levels of Trust so that when you make a promise or a commitment later in the negotiation you will get the movement you require because the other party will believe what you are offering.

Just make sure that when you make a promise, you carry it out! We’ll see if the current ranges of electoral commitments will turn out to be any more reliable than in previous elections. Promise.


 21 April 2015


Finding what is hidden.


On the day that Google lends its support to searchers determined to find the Loch Ness Monster by adapting it’s streetview map service, it got me thinking about trying to find out hidden information in a negotiation.


First question to ask yourself is: Why is it hidden? Two reasons that the information might not be readily available to you, first the other party does not want you to know, the second often overlooked is that the other party doesn’t think the information is of interest to you.


How do you get hidden information?


Start by asking broad open questions about the area that you have interest. In the response you may get given the information without asking for it directly.

Use active listening skills, nods, smiles, acknowledgements, summaries, to get more information.


Use probing questions to get closer to the target information, but remember to stay warm. If you ask too directly you can easily provoke protectionist behaviour about the information.


Be prepared to trade, show that you might be willing to share information if the other party can be more open.


If the information might be available from another source, let the other party know thus downplaying any fear the other party might have for divulging ‘a trade secret’.


There will always be information that parties don’t want to share so be patient and listen carefully, sometimes you’ll need to tease the information out, and remember to thank them for providing the information that way more information might be revealed!

24 March 2015


Election fever


It seems to be Election fever year, the Greek election hit global headlines last month, this month Israel, we are already discussing the next US Presidential election. In the UK we are all talking televised debates! There have been ongoing negotiations since late last year on what the format of these debates might be.


I suppose it was inevitable that there would be no sign of a collaborative negotiation, clearly all the political parties have different views, the four regions of the United Kingdom have their views (although only three are to be represented). The broadcasters have competing objectives.


So what have we got? Well who knows, a selection of discussions, some in the room at the same time, some in the building at the same time but not on air at the same time, some with the two largest parties, some with the two ruling parties excluded, by anyone’s standard it’s a mess!


If you were new to politics you’d wonder how you get to a position when objectives should be aligned (surely all parties want to maximise airtime?) to a point where the format and messages are so fragmented.


We see this a lot in commercial negotiations, you’d expect people from one organisation to have the same objective: Get the best deal for their organisation. Well often different stakeholders have very different ways of achieving this, and therefore no one has signed up to the overall objective, and they all have their own strategy which can often conflict with the agreed plan.


Negotiation objectives are best set out top down, a high level objective that everyone can agree to easily and then work on the plan, but make sure you have agreement from all the stakeholders at each stage and you will have a successful negotiation.


If no one can agree at the outset, then people change their minds and your negotiation becomes a constantly shifting, un-structured, chaotic process, and that’s never a recipe for success.

23 February 2015


Re-negotiating deals.


It’s been a few weeks since the election in Greece, and a few weeks of parties aiming to renegotiate a deal with other Eurozone members, a deal which was itself fraught with difficulties.


This happens in business as well, deals are struck and afterwards through changing circumstances, different understanding, or work-to-rule by one party means that an agreement needs to be revisited.


So what do you do? Here are some thoughts on how to minimise the chance of finding yourself in this position and what to do when you are faced with it. These will help make sure your great deal stays the course!


  1. Make sure you have spent time examining the position from the other party’s perspective
  2. Be warm and approachable, give the other party the opportunity to express concern if they feel it doesn’t work for them.
  3. Understand the power balance, might your level of power be affecting the result such that the other party will say yes to your terms, only later to cut corners to make the agreement work for them.
  4. Listen!
  5. Ask open questions to help gain useful information about how the other party views things.

OK, so you’ve signed the deal, but it goes wrong what about re-negotiation?

  • Know your facts, what has happened, what has gone wrong.
  • Get your persuasion arguments ready and rehearsed, how has the situation made you feel?
  • Don’t lie or pretend to have an issue if you don’t.
  • Look for variables that might make your re-negotiated deal work for the other party.
  • Think ‘outside-the box’, the other party may want to re-negotiate too.


It is never ideal to re-open a concluded deal, but often with business targets and when people are under pressure deals are struck that don’t suit, often lawyers are involved, but if you stay warm and tough, who knows, you may end up with a better deal afterwards! Good luck!

11 February 2015


The beautiful game!


Negotiations often get complicated when the value is difficult to determine. This is rarely as noticeable as in the world of sporting contracts, I am not qualified to comment on Raheem Stirling’s skills on the pitch, or the statistics relating to how much of his future career he is likely to be on the field, on the bench or nursing the proverbial ligament damage.


However I am finding it interesting as these recent negotiations get played out, at least in part, in the media, clearly a lot of the comments are conditioning and game playing, you rarely hear the agent going on record, or interestingly in this case the player. It seems this silence is working and the offers are increasing, from numbers which were already high, even in footballing terms.


If like me you find these negotiations fascinating, you might enjoy a book by Donald Dell, who founded ProServ, a Sports Agency. The book is titled: ‘Never Make the First Offer (Except when you should)’.


It seems that a lot of these sports negotiations revolve around the relationship, personality clashes, and friendships. This is true in commercial negotiations too, build good relationships, and your negotiations will not only be smoother but also more successful. In the end I’m sure this young footballer will end up with the result that keeps the relationships intact and will probably put him on more money per week than the vast majority earn in a year!


I’d wish him luck, but my son is a Tottenham supporter and wouldn’t forgive me!

15 January 2015


What? No Inflation?!


As the inflation rate in the United Kingdom hits 0.5% for the first time since 2000, it makes me think about price increases generally. If you buy something on a regular basis, you may come to expect that this year it might cost you more than last year, technology being the obvious exception. This means that for regular buyers the following telephone call is often received: ‘Good morning, I’d like to arrange a meeting to discuss this year’s price increase’ Often with a bit more subtlety.


But even in periods of inflation, a price increase, just like a price list, is just conditioning. The seller is just providing information to manage your expectations that prices will go up.


Make sure you don’t take it a face value, dig deep into the reasons behind the price increase and make sure you discuss at length the reasons why prices could go down, economies of scale, lower fuel prices, new developments in the industry, increased automation and increase in outsourcing overseas are some of the reasons why prices can go down (not to mention any marketing pressures such as increased competition). Look for any sign within their business that they are taking steps to reduce costs. Show interest in these initiatives and ask open questions to establish the impact of these on the overall cost base of the business. This will put you in a strong position to make the seller feel unreasonable for asking for yet another price increase!


Remember: products don’t have birthdays, in fact as the product cycle matures, any development costs will have been accounted for, so there is no reason why the price should increase every year, in fact you could argue the opposite quite convincingly particularly when the Consumer Price Index is barely positive. Of course as we know price is not the only variable, and if you are buying over a long period with a strategic supplier, or maybe you are in a situation where you only have the one option and you need the product or service urgently, there will be many other variables that will be just as or indeed more important than price.

5 January 2015


New Year Resolutions


Happy New Year 2015


At the end of our courses we ask each attendee to commit to doing two things differently that will have an immediate impact on their negotiations. I thought it would be useful to share the most popular commitments. You can then include them in your own New Year’s Resolutions and get better deals at work and save money on home purchases.


By far the most popular commitment is to show appreciation for movement by the other party. We call this Thank and Bank. If you show genuine appreciation for things the other party does, even if they are negligible/unhelpful/random then they are more likely to make more movements. The theory is that any move they make, is a move they didn’t have to make, and movement is a behaviour you want to encourage.


The next most popular is more Preparation and Planning. Time spent preparing the information you have and planning how to use it is never wasted. Particularly the planning, who will say what, when and how, where will the meeting be held, what might they say, which tactics (if any) are we going to use etc. etc.


Q.L.S. Often delegates decide to use this technique. in negotiations and  general meetings.  QLS is a good way to control the meeting. Sometimes after you ask a good open question, you lose control as the other party can talk and take the conversation to where they want it to go. QLS is a way to regain and keep control. Once you have asked the Q. Question, and you have L. Listened, then you can stop them by S. Summarising what they have said. You now have control and can ask another question, perhaps a probing, leading, or some other type of question.


Use more Emotion, of all the persuasion methods, emotion is the most powerful and the most difficult to use, particularly for cultures not used to saying how they feel! Many delegates see the power of telling people how you feel, and commit to using it more in negotiations at work, remembering not to become emotional.

Get an observer, in our roleplays we always get some delegates to act as observers, this is a critical role, and it can really help in large negotiations to have someone to pick up signals from the other party, make notes and call a recess if needed.


So there you have it five possible New Year’s Resolutions you could adopt. If you do let us know on our LinkedIn (Negotiation Resource International) page or Twitter @NRInegotiation and may your 2015 be successful and happy.

19 December


Dress Code


Smart or casual?


Christmas is coming and the festive jumpers are out! This has made me think about the best dress code for a negotiation. The main rule is that it should be consistent with your objectives.


If you have a collaborative relationship and this negotiation is likely to be participative in nature then you should dress in a way which is compatible with the other party, if it is dress down Friday, then offer that to the other party, if they normally wear business smart, then it will help the negotiation if you do too.


If you have a competitive relationship, it is helpful if you are smarter than the other party, you’ll want to look in control and send signals about where the power is. It is possible to send these signals remaining casual, but you may be missing an opportunity for more powerful signals.


That said the key rule, for me, is that your dress code should not be distracting - unless you are negotiating with a clothes designer! This often is a judgement call, an outfit that works for one person is distracting on another.


Your chosen dress code should also suit you and match your personal brand, so how do you want to come across, what do you want people to think of you? Organised? Friendly? Efficient? Funny? Decisive? All these can be reflected in your personal ‘uniform’.


The worst thing that people do with the way they dress for important negotiations, is not think about it at all, it should be part of your preparation and planning. Just like choosing a Christmas jumper, it says a lot about you!!

15 December


Big Issues


Question of the week? When should you cover the major issues of a negotiation?


What are your options?

  1. Leave the big issues until the end, deal with easier items first, perhaps to get the negotiation off to a good start
  2. Sandwich big items between smaller issues where agreement is easier to obtain, perhaps to improve relationship building at the beginning and end of a negotiation.
  3. Deal with the major issues early in a negotiation, perhaps to signal that these are the most important.


NRI advise that you should deal with them early, and certainly not leave them to the very end, you don’t want to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, as the saying goes.


We’d love to hear which option you’d choose.


Our view on each option is as follows:

  • Option a) It is potentially tactical and manipulative, and for me holds some risks around confidence, credibility, trustworthiness and game playing.
  • Option b) This seems straight out of a managing difficult people handbook, have a clear strategy and goals, be clear and precise with your concerns, sandwiching them could send out misleading signals.
  • Option c) Focus on your major variables first and use minor variable as a give and take list to create movement and therefore secure the best deal for both parties.    

There is little point investing time into a Negotiation with a supplier, for example, and when you close advising the supplier that payment terms of 30 days are not acceptable and you require an agreement on 120 days.    This major issue should have been discussed or indeed ‘ring fenced’ right at the beginning of the conversation.


FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  If I was buying a car and started to discuss metallic paint, panoramic roof, dab radio, tank of fuel and alloy wheels and then at the last stage prior to signing the order I mention that Price is a major issue for me, I undermine my skills as a Negotiator and my leverage is reduced as the sales person is very aware by this point that I have my heart sold on that car. It appears from the other side that price is a minor issue otherwise it would have been raised earlier. I could of course walk away at this point but there are more professional tactics and strategies to get me what I want from the dealer.

4 December


Martians will be human after all!


This week NASA are testing a space craft that will eventually take humans to Mars, In the future when we talk about Martians we will be talking about Humans who live on Mars.


At NRI we spend most of our time talking Negotiation to Buyers and Sellers, often the behaviour of these individuals can be very different, it can seem that the other party is from a completely different planet. Their terms of reference can be as different as moon dust and Martian gas.


But remember negotiation is a people based activity and the other party is human, we may have very different perspectives, experience, and targets but the skilled negotiator will identify areas of common interest to build rapport and spend time to build bridges to ensure that any differences can be overcome, enabling the other party to move more easily towards our objectives.

26th November


Winning is everything!


Last weekend Lewis Hamilton won the 2014 Formula 1 Championship and was awarded this splendid trophy, he has shown determination not uncommon in top sportsmen and women. He is also at the top of a sport where you have to take huge risks in order to succeed.


I often hear that the objective of a good negotiation is win/win, both parties come out feeling that the deal meets their objectives. Other people believe that the objective is win/lose, that by being successful in a negotiation (or a race) means that the other party is, by definition, in second place; ‘There can only be one Winner!’.


We believe something different. Our view is that you will never know, even in the most collaborative situations, whether the other party has met or exceeded their objectives. Good negotiators won’t celebrate (or open the champagne) in front of the other party/ies!


At NRI we believe the objective in most negotiations should be Win/Perceived Win. This means that you should aim to get all your objectives by using one-way persuasion methods, but you should not aim for the other party to lose! Spend time in a negotiation making the other party feel that they have come out with a deal that they can live with. If you fail to do this, the contract will suffer and the lifetime value of the deal will be eroded.


If you do this well, who knows you may even be able to maintain a good relationship!

24th November


Mad Hatter?


Preparation and Planning is a critical part of a successful negotiation, one of the key elements is putting a value on your variables, sometimes this is difficult. This week saw the sale of one of Napoleon’s hats at an auction near Paris, the guide price was €300,000-€400,000.


It sold to a South Korean bidder for €1.9Million five times more than the estimate. ( Sometimes the other party places huge value on something you have at your disposal. This may be brand synergy, access to new markets, or many other variables.


Make sure that when you put your Give and Take list together that you value each item in your terms and in the other party’s terms also. Ideally, items that you can give should have a low cost to you but a significant value to the other party, and similarly you should make a list of items you can take from the other party that they can afford and that are of significant value to you.


But how do you make sure you are getting the best value and your assumptions are correct? This is where negotiators have an advantage over auction bidders, you ask questions and test the other party before you make any movement. You may have thought that the other party can’t move on price, but actually with good open questions you might find that cash flow is the driver and payment terms become more important that monetary amounts.


Remember also when you start moving, keep grounded and don’t ‘lose your head’ even if you do have a 19th Century hat to put on it!

10th November.




In negotiations we always urge people to consider the situation from the other person’s perspective, what might their objectives be, do they like working with us?, how do they see our relationship? Etc..


One key aspect which we covered in an advanced course last week in Copenhagen was what might that individual person’s motivational framework be? There were also some cultural observations, perhaps for another blog!

It is important with any people based activity (of which negotiation is definitely one) to remind yourself that just because you feel good when everybody gets on well, it may be that the other party is much more motivated by getting the job completed quickly or alternatively is motivated by just making sure all the ‘t’s are crossed and the ‘I’s dotted.


We work with Personal Strengths UK Ltd using their SDI models and it is always interesting to remind ourselves that just because something is important to us and makes us feel motivated, it is not necessarily having the same impact for the other party.


It makes the testing phase of a negotiation all the more important to ask broad open questions to explore what makes the other party ‘tick’.


What do you think? Let us know your experience of a motivation clash between two parties and how that manifested itself within the Negotiation. 

22nd October.


Performance is Everything!


It is the season of reality shows and talent shows! It seems you either love them or hate them! The celebrity ones seem to rely on getting a famous person and taking them outside their comfort zone, the further outside their comfort zone the more votes they get from the public, assuming the person is likeable.


Negotiation can be very similar, for most of us, negotiating is outside our comfort zone, it requires some careful monitoring of body-language and putting someone else under some pressure to move their position towards your own. It is sometimes uncomfortable and stressful. It requires dedication and a lot of practice and the best negotiators will also rehearse how the negotiation might unfold.


It is also true that increasingly reality shows are LIVE, as are negotiations! It is difficult to get back on track after a slip of the tongue or poor choice of tone.

It seems to me that the recipe for good negotiators is in some ways similar to what makes a successful reality show contestant, you need lots of preparation and planning, you need to be likeable and respected, and you need to make sure you don’t put a foot wrong.


So whether you’re watching dancing or singing, have a think about how you can improve your performance at the negotiating table! You too can be a Star Negotiator!

2nd October.


Silence is Golden.


This week sees another step towards a noisier world as The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) says electronic devices such as mobile phones can be left switched on during flights. It seems that our desire to communicate, is greater than our need for silence! I’m glad to see that some airlines are considering allowing data connections but based on passenger feedback are unlikely to allow voice calls through Skype and other internet voice options. Phew maybe reason will prevail!


We talk about the use of Silence when we discuss negotiations.  Use of Silence is one of the most powerful tactics you can use. It gives you time to think, it ensures that you each take turns in the conversation, and can build pressure without aggression.


Here are three ways to use silence:


  1. If you are negotiating over email or telephone take longer to respond. I was negotiating the rent on a house a few years ago. I had put in my offer and had received a counter offer which was not quite half way between our positions. The agent called me for a counter offer. I asked the agent to report back that they had told me the latest offer, and to say no more. Three days passed and the other party made a further offer that was much better, we accepted.
  2. My second suggestion is if you make a really powerful statement, sometimes there will be a pause in the conversation while the impact of what you have said is digested by the other party. There may be some eye-contact and some poker-face expressions. Don’t interrupt the silence, the other party is still thinking and anything you say will help them more than it helps you, be patient, smile, let them come back with a response, which is likely to be to your advantage.
  3. The third way to use silence, needs great care as it can be passive-aggressive, if someone makes a proposal to you, which you need them to improve, say nothing, keep your poker face on so they can’t read it, stay calm, don’t let your facial expressions give you away, often the other party will make a further proposal, assuming you are not happy with the first. Make sure you thank warmly the second movement. I was once in a negotiation and this happened, the other party asked an excellent question, for which I had no reply, I didn’t want to lose credibility so was choosing my words carefully, before I answered, they added: ‘Is it because …..’ their answer suited me fine, I just smiled and moved on! Phew!

18th September.


18th September 2014 may well go into the History books as Scotland Decides. Like many across the world, from Catalonia, in Spain and the second largest Bagpipe producing country, Pakistan, many people have taken views.


The result will be known by the time this goes to print.  What I wonder is how big an impact the natural human fear of change will have when people are alone in their ballot box.


Change is happening faster than ever before, drones, self-driving cars, trips to space. In business negotiations we see this fear all the time, you have a supplier who is an average performer, you get approached by a supplier you have never worked with before, do you make the jump?


Clearly there are costs of change that can be quantified, and risks/fears that can be mitigated. The best negotiators are open about their concerns, discuss them freely with colleagues and raise them with suppliers.


Often we talk to suppliers and don’t mention the uncertainty that we face, our body language is sending out mixed messages, tell them how you feel. Using an emotion based argument in this way without becoming emotional can be very powerful.

Emotion is the most powerful persuasion method, and there has certainly been no lack of Emotion based arguments over the last few weeks in Scotland.


We are watching!

10th September 2014


I was discussing food with a colleague this week, and being negotiators the conversation quickly revolved around whether taking someone out to dinner would improve the negotiation, it certainly works at home! I was reminded of a study by the Harvard Business School in 2013 where they ran a negotiation simulation to examine the effect of negotiating over a meal.


There were four groups, the first in a typical conference style room, with no food, the second group had food provided in the form of a typical lunch buffet, the third group had to negotiate over lunch in a restaurant, the final group were given a separate puzzle to complete while negotiating.


So one group with a pure negotiation meeting and three groups with an extra activity to perform (eating and puzzle solving) It was expected that these three groups would show improved results given the shared nature of the extra activity, which you might expect to foster more collaborative working.

Interestingly the two groups eating dinner produced significantly higher results than the other two groups. For the full article see


The conclusion of the author is that there is something about eating together which allows greater effectiveness, speculation about whether it was a biological effect of increased glucose levels, or perhaps a behavioural effect from the fact that eating together involves a lot of mirrored behaviour. More research would be interesting.


However we do see repeatedly in the consultancy work that we do, the advantages of building relationships with people to generate better deals, and what better way than over a nice meal!

5th September 2014


This week saw the closure of the UK Premier Football League Transfer window. Players being bought and sold with all the fervour of a stock exchange dealing room. And although it is a UK League the movements and transactions were global. A huge amount of activity took place on Monday 1st September at the end of record breaking Buying and Selling frenzy worth £835 Million.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of negotiating deals in a (sometimes artificially) tight window.


The advantages are clear, it should lead to quicker decision making so ‘we can all get on with the day job’ this can be of benefit to both sides, important business deals that are protracted can cost both sides in terms of wastage of goods, or lost revenue. New developments take longer and other parts of the process can be delayed, particularly if the particular part or service being negotiated is a critical step in the production/supply chain.


However all too often these deadlines are simply used to put pressure on the other party to secure a deal which they would not agree to in other circumstances.  The strongest persuasion methods are Emotion, Logic and Threat. Using a deadline to get agreement is in fact a combination of all three. There is the feelings associated with the passion and desire to get a deal, there is the fact that the deadline exists, and the fear that if you don’t do the deal the opportunity will be lost forever, or in the case of Football, until well into the season when your options may be fewer.


There is a continuous debate on how football agents manage to negotiate fees and wages which are far removed from the wage of an average fan, although maybe not the average football club owner! One thing is for sure as the rules of the transfer window game have become more sophisticated and  using the deadline as a negotiation tactic has become more and more prevalent.

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