Four Books on Negotiating

Negotiation is one of those puzzles: we all do it regularly- with family, with colleagues, with bosses, with customer service agents  –  but few of us think we are experts at it or have thought much about its structure or any theoretical underpinning it might have.

Well, if you sell or market for an early stage company, negotiation is something you need to understand and get reasonably good at.

Getting to Yes

When I was in business school many years ago, the classic book on negotiation was Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher and William Ury.  Written by the the Harvard Negotiation Project,  this book laid out a construct with which to approach negotiating.  While it pumped up this business student’s ego thinking about major geopolitical negotiations or the mergers of mega companies, upon which it seemed to dwell, it did strike me at the time as being a little other worldly.

To be fair, it was one of the first books of its kind and, rather than tell one anecdote after another, it develops a framework for understanding negotation.

  1. Separate the people from the problem
  2. Focus on interests not positions
  3. Invent options for mutual gain
  4. Insist on using objective criteria

All good stuff.  Anyone who has negotiated with their children would know that these are all good principles to keep in mind while negotiating but not necessary sufficient to get the deal done (Have you tried asking a 3 year old, or a 13 year old for that matter, to separate the people from the problem?)

Secrets of Power Negotiating

Secrets of Power Negotiating is all anecdotes all the time, with “rules” drawn from these.  Good, hard knuckle story telling, it feels more like the domain of used car salesmen and subprime mortgage brokers but is nonetheless a good read.  How can you not love a book that offers negotiating gambits like:

  1. The Decoy
  2. The Red Herring
  3. Nibbling
  4. The Hot Potato
  5. The Vise

Two More

Bargaining For Advantage and Negotiation Genius strike a happy balance between high level theory and anecdotes.  The former looks at
  1. Bargaining Style
  2. Your Goals and Expectations
  3. Authoritative and Norms
  4. Relationships
  5. The Other Party’s Interests
  6. Leverage
in the negotiation process.  The latter addresses how the negotiation process is affected by perception of value, the negotiators’ psychology, “Anchoring”, the Zone of Potential Agreement (ZOPA) and Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA), now all common terms.  Both address negotiating with someone with slippery or non existent ethics and negotiating from a position of weakness.
Unsurprisingly, all four books stress preparation as the key to a successful negotiation and that, will “Win win” isn’t always possible, it is a noble goal.

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