Be Thankful for Skill Across the Table

December 24, 2015 I have been blessed over the years with many negotiation counterparts who have exhibited tremendous skills. While some sat across the table as adversaries, some at the table as potential partners, and some behind the table working through agents, the best brought to the table certain common qualities.

So, shortly after Thanksgiving, here are those qualities I am thankful to have experienced in many counterparts. Look for these in your counterparts. If you find them, you will achieve better results.

1. Ethics and professionalism

I will never forget sitting in a small conference room at a large law firm while a senior partner at that firm swore at me and called me names. Talk about unprofessional and unethical. I suppose he thought he could intimidate a young lawyer into rolling over and conceding. It didn’t work. In fact, just the opposite. We dug in.

Contrast that with a current negotiation in which our counterpart has an incredible reputation for always operating with the highest ethics and professionalism. I am much more willing to concede and give him the benefit of the doubt on almost any issue. Ethics and professionalism have a significant bottom line value.

2. Perseverance

How many late nights have you spent trying to close deals or work through difficult issues that appear impossible to resolve? And yet you and your counterparts still somehow managed to find common interests and get the deal done.

Perseverance – what a colleague calls “stick-to-itiveness” – is an undervalued trait in many successful negotiators and counterparts. I sometimes have a hard time letting go and recognizing when a deal just won’t happen. The reason? Many deals successfully close that once appeared destined to fail.

Find counterparts committed to working long and hard to find that common ground.

3. Prepared on facts and process

My training program participants sometimes ask me “what should I do if I end up across the table from a counterpart who also attended your program?” My response: be thankful.

It’s much easier to negotiate with someone who has prepared strategically for the process and done their homework than with someone winging it.

While practicing law, my most challenging counterparts often were individuals who represented themselves, without a lawyer. Why? They were unfamiliar with the legal process, the norms of that negotiation environment, and were often afraid to do or say almost anything. Professional negotiators like investment bankers, lawyers, and top executives almost always prefer relatively experienced counterparts across the table from them.

4. Recognition of relationship value I continue to be amazed at the small world in which we live - and the internet and social media have made it even smaller.

I recently spoke with an entrepreneur in the tech world who previously worked with an individual with whom I had discussed a business partnership years ago.

Fortunately, all three of us appear to be relationship-oriented individuals who recognize the inherent and strategic value in good relationships with others. This has value in most negotiations.

Of course, some negotiations continue to be highly adversarial zero-sum environments, where relationships have little strategic value. But more and more business-oriented negotiations involve significant relational elements.

You never know when that counterpart could recommend you to someone or return to the table with a new opportunity.

Relationships matter now more than ever.

Latz’s Lesson: Look out for counterparts with these effective negotiation qualities – your results are dependent on your and their skills.

* Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator Software, web-based software that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com.