The four most important negotiation strategies

Choosing the right strategy plays an important role in a successful negotiation. No, even more: the strategy is decisive.

How do I find the best strategy for my negotiation? In professional negotiation, there are four different negotiation strategies: pressure, partnership, avoidance and acceptance. These strategies provide the direction for proceeding in a negotiation. They are then implemented using individual tactics. Let’s take a closer look at the four most important negotiation strategies.

The negotiation strategy pressure

Specifically, it looks like this: Pressure as a negotiation strategy can be implemented with the tactic “threaten,” for example. I threaten the other side with consequences. If you don’t give me… then…! Or competition: as soon as you mention a potential competitor, that is pressure on your opponent. How many times do you think I’ve received a discount in the electronics trade just because I carried a competitor ad with me. It’s faster and easier than you think.

In terms of behavior, the pressure strategy makes you aggressive. A louder tone, clear words, and appropriate body language signal to the other person that you are not to be trifled with. If you have your hand up in the restaurant for the umpteenth time, but the waiter still deliberately overlooks you, then a loud “Do I get the opportunity to order a second beer today?” helps and the long-awaited beer is in front of me in no time at all. The change then to “partnership” and a friendly “thank you” or “OK, why not from the beginning?” will surely let the waiter keep an eye on your table more attentively.

Pressure is a method that we use frequently and in a wide variety of situations. A small example from my private life: I went shopping in the supermarket with my daughter Paula. We had everything we needed in the car and I was already standing at the cash register, while Paula was still dashing around in the aisles.
When she came back, she had four things with her: a surprise egg, chewing gum, a creeping horse, and a booklet. And of course she wanted all four things. I, on the other hand, didn’t want to buy her any of it.
Now it was time to negotiate. And Paula can be very persistent. So she chose the pressure strategy and said: “I want all of that.” On the other hand, I – it was Friday noon – was a bit tired. Who has the power (and the wallet)? I. So what did I answer her? “No.” Thereupon Paula increased the pressure and started to cry.
Now I could have picked her up and carried her out with her screaming. No problem. But I didn’t. There were so many people around us who might know me and see the “negotiating expert” lose a negotiation in public. Or act clumsily.
So what were my alternatives? I give up. Paula wins. Or I evade and say: “Next time.” Paula doesn’t believe me. Even the compromise, if I say, “You get two instead of …” I teach her to come the next time with eight things and get four. She would win, as well.
In other words, the best option is to cooperate and say: “Hey, let’s talk to each other.” Now we come to the basic problem of this negotiation. Paula had a demand of four and my counteroffer was zero. If the counteroffer is zero, a negotiation cannot be successful for both. That means, in order to even start the negotiation, I also had to counteroffer four items. That meant: I had to counter her demand with additional items, like clearing the dinner table, tidying up the room, going for a walk with the dog, and watering flowers. Paula said on her own that she really didn’t need all four things, because walking and watering the dog, she wouldn’t do that. And so I offered: “Hey, if you clean up your room, you will get the surprise egg.” That way she got something and I got something.

Time pressure is also an effective tool for applying pressure. And especially in combination with mentioning a competitor.
Emotional pressure also works quite often. Many smart negotiators rely on this taktic and try to achieve their goals with the emotions triggered by the negotiation.

As you can see, tactics of the negotiation strategy “pressure” usually try to get something against the will of the other side.

The negotiation strategy partnership

The basis for the negotiation strategy “partnership” is the will to achieve something together. It helps a lot if you first know where the other person stands and what his or her wishes are. Asking questions and – ATTENTION – listening are helpful tools: Working out points of contact, highlighting a common successful past or the relationship.
A nice cup of cappuccino already helps me to feel good, a smile, a friendly word. Give the other side enough time, and take your time. “Just a moment, I’ll switch my cell phone to silent mode so we can talk in peace”, signals to the other side that you are completely there for them.
One of the secret magic words I always respond to is appreciation. A friendly “please” followed by a “thank you” often makes it difficult for me to say “no”.

The negotiation strategy avoidance

When do I choose the strategy “avoidance”?

There are different reasons for this. One reason could be that someone wants to force me into a negotiation, but I don’t want to. An experienced negotiator will also avoid if he or she is poorly prepared for the negotiation at the moment, but in three weeks, he or she will be much better. It’s a bit like being asked to run 3.5 miles, but you have not yet trained for a 100 yards. In three months, with a little preparation, you will certainly be much better equipped to get a good result than you are today.
Another reason for the “avoidance” strategy is the following situation: I am in a bad starting position for a negotiation and cannot gain anything from it. Here it is advisable to avoid as long as possible in order to avoid the damage that may then arise for as long as possible.

Verona Pooth, former Feldbusch, used this strategy for her television duel with Alice Schwarzer at Johannes B. Kerner’s talkshow a few years ago. The nation’s dummy against the monopolist in the field of women’s emancipation and women’s rights. Verona had no chance in a pervious verbal duel with Alice Schwarzer, who is the publisher of the emancipation magazine EMMA and is skilled at using words with virtuosity. In an exchange of factual arguments, Alice Schwarzer certainly had all the advantages.
Verona therefore initially chose the strategy “avoidance” and became “sick.” The scheduled debate was postponed three weeks. Verona used this time to prepare intensively with her team. She analyzed all the arguments of Alice Schwarzer and selected a counter-argument for each.

In the course of the 60-minute discussion, Verona used her preparation and implemented it extremely skillfully using the negotiation strategy pressure. Figuratively speaking, she had prepared a quiver with hundreds of arrows and linked it with the corresponding keywords in Alice Schwarzer’s typical arguments. Sometimes she was aggressive, sometimes unfair, and at other times loud, and yet other times she cornered Alice Schwarzer with confusing puns. Whenever the cue came, Verona’s arrows hit the mark. The strategy of avoidance and postponing gave her the chance to prepare very well and then she knew exactly how to build up pressure. And the dummy of the nation managed to win – against one of the most brilliant minds of Germany.

The negotiation strategy acceptance

Finally, there is the strategy of “acceptance”. There is not much to say about this because its implementation is clear. When should you accept? When the consequences of standing firm are worse than accepting. Or when you’ve achieved everything. Then you can relax and be generous.