One of my earliest and most important lessons about negotiations came a number of years ago when I was on a tour of a foreign affairs office. Our tour guide, who was himself a negotiating diplomat described the department strategy for trade negotiations. While I didn’t appreciate it at the time, my experience in business has led me to see how wise it really was:
He suggested that the most effective trade negotiations occurred when they sought out allies in foreign countries instead of opposing them directly.
As an example: If a foreign country creates difficulty for importing beef, the trade department should approach interests in that country that benefit from US beef. Those allies want the restrictions lifted as much as the beef industry.
This is a lesson that I’ve applied successfully to many of my business and personal negotiations. Negotiations aren’t always conducted between individuals. If one person is negotiating for a company, than there are other individuals in that company as well, and they might prove to be good allies.
So, whenever you approach a negotiation, make sure that you’ve determined who will benefit from what you have to offer, and try to enlist them to help you get what you want in return.