How to negotiate amazingly using win/win agreements

I talk continually with clients about ‘win/win’ and the power of using this principle in plans, meetings and negotiations.

Those people who know me, will know how passionate I am about this principle, and how I teach people: ‘The only outcomes to negotiations I’ll accept is ‘win/win’ or ‘no deal today’’.

Win/win is a phrase that everyone knows, but very few people fully understand.

In my last blog, I explained briefly how to prepare for a win/win meeting … in this blog I’m going to briefly explain the structure of a win/win session and how to conduct one.

But first: Why is this approach so powerful? Why have I been teaching it for over 30 years? Why is it, in all that time, it’s never let me down … no matter how tough the negotiation, or how complex the subject?

The key is this: You’re standing by some key principles of common sense: as follows:

  1. We are intelligent beings capable of cooperating with strangers or even people who vigorously disagree with us, as long as we set up the situation intelligently.
  2. If we agree on what we’re trying to achieve at a high level, before getting into the nitty gritty, we’re more likely to want to work together and be more flexible with the details.
  3. If we keep focusing on the ‘higher level’ wins, it’s much easier to avoid petty conflict and keep the discussion constructive.
  4. If we genuinely value and listen to the other person first, it builds trust and willingness to cooperate.
  5. Deep down, we all want happier, more constructive lives – so when someone practises these principles with us, it’s a great relief and we want to find ways to make it work.
  6. If we genuinely can’t find a way to agree constructively, we can avoid conflict and stress by accepting that we both have different points of view at the moment, agreeing to disagree agreeably, agreeing what, if anything, we’re going to go away and think about, and leaving the door open, or even setting another date, to get together and try again.

So, assuming that this all makes sense, let’s briefly look at the structure of the win/win agreement, and how to use it.

Firstly: prepare properly, as outlined in last week’s blog.

Second: when you get together, the first thing to do is to repeat the ‘Intent’, ‘Desired Results’ and possibly ‘Consequences’ – depending on what’s right for the situation.

Then, the key is to shut up, ask open questions, listen, ‘peel the onion’ and seek to understand the other person … as fully as possible. I strongly suggest that you take good notes here, using a 4-colour pen, so you can really listen, find questions to peel the onion further and further, and mark up areas you’d like to come back to as needed.

Use these questions to fill in your understanding of the other elements of the win/win agreement: as we teach … start anywhere (wherever THEY want to start), but be sure to go everywhere, by using good open questions and ‘peeling the onion’.

  • Desired Results: is this list complete? Is there anything else?
  • Guidelines: what are their suggestions as to what could be done?
  • Resources: what resources do they think will be needed? What do they have? Who else do they think could help? What’s the time criteria? What’s the geography? What other resources will be needed?
  • Accountability: how will we measure progress and hold each other accountable? When will we next review? What other accountability will be needed?
  • Consequences: is this right? What other consequences could there be if we can make this work well? What if it fails, or one of us doesn’t do what we agreed?

This can take some time to do well: don’t rush! Slow down: this is ‘Slow Selling’!

Keep very alert for things that don’t seem quite right, or body language that’s telling you there’s something hidden: use open questions and onion peeling to open everything up and make sure that no important stone is left unturned.

There’s a very good reason for the sayings:

  • Act in haste, repent at leisure.
  • A stich in time saves nine

When you’ve done this well, you then need to reflect back what you’ve heard, including all nuances, in your language, but using key words that they used.

After this, you can start to also add your ideas and opinions … but be ready to go back to listening and ‘onion peeling’ at any time. You’re running this session, and your role is to get the best performance out of the other person, so you can gently add to this and, by doing this well and fully, you can together come to a win/win outcome.

Or, if you REALLY can’t agree, you can agree to go for ‘no deal today’ or ‘no deal yet’: you agree to disagree agreeably, go away and think further and hopefully get together again to keep negotiating in the future.

(Which I always teach is a form of win/win: you’ve negotiated well, you’ve discovered what you can and can’t agree on … for now … you’ve stayed positive and committed to finding a way forward that both of you are happy with, when the time is right, or other things have changed … and this can be done by you, no matter what stance the other person takes!)

Done properly it always works.

In next week’s blog, we’ll outline what to do after you’ve had a win/win meeting, whether you’ve got to a ‘win/win’ outcome or a ‘no deal yet’ outcome.

Keep watching!

Slow Selling is a UK based not for profit organisation for leaders and managers in independent businesses.

Our systems deliver peace of mind and confidence to caring leaders and managers of start-ups and small businesses who have limited time and resources, and want to grow their business … without sacrificing principles or profits.

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