Accurately Assessing the Negotiation Counterpart by Profiling

If you intend to open your neighbor’s door, you should use your neighbor’s key – rather than your own key. The same applies to negotiations: you need to prepare for your negotiation counterpart. Most of the preparation time is spent on the factual level, on the product or the service you are going to negotiate about. Notwithstanding, it is at least as important to tune in on your counterpart’s wavelength. Try to find out how your counterpart ticks, what he or she likes and dislikes. Is your counterpart the kind of person that gets directly down to business in a negotiation, or is the personal level a priority as well?

The so-called preference models are a very important tool to understand the kind of person you are dealing with. By use of preference models, you can assess your negotiation counterpart quite accurately. But beware – the point is not to pigeonhole a person, but rather to find out about that person’s preferences (as in the model’s name).

If you are able to combine the information obtained about your negotiation counterpart with one of these preference models, you gain access to a scope of new options in the negotiation. There are several known models such as MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), the DISC assessment, the bio-structure analysis and the HDI model. These models allow us to connect facts about a person with his or her preferences, and therefore most probable behavior patterns.

The following story shows us the effectiveness of profiling:

Once, I was hired by a 60 year old head of a sales department of an automotive supplier to assist him in a negotiation with a 34 year old procurement employee of a carmaker. Clearly, there was no common ground among them on an emotional level, but only differences. So, my client and I prepared for the upcoming meeting. After it had taken place, my client told me: “Mr. Gamm, everything went as planned. I did not allow him to provoke me and I did not bat an eyelash whenever he tried shin-kicking. The best part for me was that, at the end, we even had one laugh together.” I was alarmed by his last sentence. The fact, that my client considered laughing to be an emotional experience worthwhile mentioning, was totally unexpected for me. To me, laughing is just part of communicating. We were not making any progress at all.

So, we proceeded to profile the procurement employee and considered, among other pieces of information available, how he presented himself in social media. There was a picture of him with a sexy smile, gelled hair style and a partially unbuttoned shirt. Half of his main contacts were stewardesses, models and other attractive young women. It was clear, that the 60 year old head of sales was not really interesting to him.

Given our findings, we looked through my client’s company for an attractive and intelligent lady to take over my client’s part in the negotiation. After hearing the report on her first encounter with the procurement guy, we had the feeling she had been negotiating with a completely different person. The procurement guy was no longer dominant and fact-oriented. All of a sudden, he was totally relationship-oriented. The nice young lady was even looking forward to further negotiations with that nice gentleman.


Profiling should become an integral part of your preparation for a negotiation. By doing so, you are able to find out how your counterpart ticks, which are his or her strengths and weaknesses and, finally, which strategy will work best


Bildquelle Titelbild: © Fotolia 2015 / Light Impression

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