As the Evil Queen stares at the mirror waiting for the response she so desperately wants to hear, she is greeted instead with what needed to be said, for she is not the fairest of all. By contrast, the heroine, Snow White does not see her own beauty and kindness and stays hidden in the forest for fear of the Evil Queen. I see many negotiators who behave like the Evil Queen or behave like Snow White - which are you?
The Evil Queen Negotiator
The flaw of the Evil Queen Negotiator is hubris - they overestimate their own abilities. This creates blind spots and fatal flaws at the negotiating table. At the negotiating table Evil Queen negotiators tend to be arrogant, boisterous, overbearing, and inflexible.
There’s been a tremendous amount of research on how we tend to overestimate our competencies. (On a side note, it seems this maybe more of a cultural phenomenon where Western cultures are more likely to do this than Eastern cultures.) Overestimating our own abilities might be useful in developing the courage to tackle a formidable obstacle, however it can be detrimental at the negotiating table. Overconfident negotiators tend to get laser focused on a single strategy and have a hard time fathoming that there might be alternatives. Or they fail to do simple things like documenting their preparation and will walk into a negotiation and attempt to do everything off of memory. All which makes them vulnerable to more skilled negotiators.
Avoid being the Evil Queen Negotiator by following a few simple tips:
- Prepare. No matter how confident you are in an upcoming negotiation take the time to prepare and document that preparation. It will force you to think beyond your confidence.
- Develop multiple strategies. Think beyond the one great strategy you developed and think about, “what happens if that strategy doesn’t work?” For instance, you assume buying more volume will lower the price of your purchase, but what if discounts are not based on volume or the supplier doesn’t have volume to give? Then what? Have an alternative strategy available just in case your chosen one doesn’t work.
- Ask questions before making statements. The Evil Queen is quick to “pump their own tires” (meaning, they are quick to tell everyone how “great” they are). Instead of falling into that trap start asking questions about the other party. Get curious about who they are, their priorities, their motivations, and what they want. This will help ground your conversation in not just your own needs but the other party’s as well.
The Snow White Negotiator
The flaw of the Snow White Negotiator is reticence - they underestimate their leverage and power. This means they are giving more away than they need to at the negotiating table. At the negotiating table Snow White negotiators tend to be guarded with information, afraid to challenge, reluctant to defend their position, and very deferential to the other party.
Underestimating our power usually happens when we do not challenge our own fears. Instead, we let the fear consume us and it creates a kind of tunnel vision at the negotiating table that is hard to overcome. An example is when a company is faced with that “must win” deal. The deal means so much to the company that they are willing to win at almost all costs and therefore they compromise any leverage they have because they are so afraid of not winning. Another example is seen when buyers are faced with a single source supplier. They know they have no other alternatives and actually fear making the supplier angry. As such they believe they have no power or leverage. If we can remove the fear from both situations, you would see in reality, there is more leverage and power than you would expect.
Avoid being the Snow White Negotiator by following a few simple tips:
- Assess the power. A simple power balance analysis will help Snow White. Think about all the things the other party can “do for you” (positive) and “do to you” (negative). Now, do the same thing for yourself; think about all the things that you can “do for them” (positive) and “do to them” (negative). Bring others into the conversation who aren’t as emotional attached. This will help you find your true leverage.
- Why are they talking to you? The other party is negotiating with you because they either want something you have or they are afraid of something that you can do to them - find out what it is. I can tell you it’s not just “because they want the business” - it’s always something more. They are engaged with you to further their own cause; find out what that is.
- Challenge your own assumptions. Don’t assume they have all the power, challenge it and test it. For instance, ask the “must win” client or that single source supplier, “what happens if we don’t come to a deal?” It’s highly unlikely they say, “nothing”. There will be some sort of repercussion to their business. Understand that and you can start to understand the power you have.
Evil Queens and Snow Whites exist at the negotiating table - they are not just found in fairy tales. If you are either, use the tips to mitigate your weaknesses, don’t wait for Prince Charming to do it for you.
Be the Hero of Your Negotiations
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