8 April 2016.
By Will Foulkes.

What do you think your goal is?

Most people when they approach an exercise in commercial negotiation, miss the point of the exercise. Unlike a real negotiation where the objective is to secure the best possible deal for your client, in this context the objective is to impress graduate recruitment. So it is not about being overly tough on the other side.


What are they looking for?

— Your ability to lead as well as your ability to be a team player.
— Your ability to speak up but also to involve others.
— Your ability to quickly digest information and prioritise key points.
— Your ability to get a deal done.


What is the best way to go about this?

First off I would take control of the pen and paper — be the one writing things down. This is great because it enables you to easily do what I suggest next.

As you have the pen and paper you can easily ask the rest of the group what they think the key points are. You will get various answers which you can begin writing down. If you notice that not everyone is speaking be sure to say to whoever has not spoken — “What do you think?” If this person is naturally a bit shy they will really appreciate being asked, and you will look great to graduate recruitment as someone who is tying the team together. This has the double effect of making you appear to be the leader of the group.

After you have done your initial team discussion and the time comes to open the negotiation with the other team, you are the obvious choice to lead as you have all the notes. When you speak and you raise the points that other members of the team have contributed, make sure that you attribute credit appropriately. This will endear you to your teammates and you will look like a strong leader.

If you are chosen to lead the negotiation, make sure that you decide that you are the channel of communication, and that you speak for the group. This avoids one person saying something that not everyone on your team agrees with, and your team then being bound by it. Think University Challenge.


Tips for how to conduct the negotiation.

— Do not approach chronologically / in the order that the document you are negotiating runs. This is the standard approach adopted in negotiations but is a very lengthy and inefficient way to go about it. A better way is to decide the points that you need to discuss and then prioritise these in order of importance.

— So what are the key points that are very important to you? These may be clauses or conditions that you wish to include to guarantee a certain level of performance by the other party, or it could be financial. Decide these before you begin speaking and make sure that everyone on your team is on the same page.

— What do you think you can concede? These points will be your bargaining chips. Regardless of their value to you, treat each as if it is a huge point.

— What are your red-line walk away points. These are the points that if you do not have agreement on you will walk away from the table and no deal will be done.

— Don’t get stuck in the detail. This is another classic problem to really get stuck arguing over the minutiae such that you lose sight of the greater objective. For any negotiations where there is time pressure (arguably this is most), particularly if you are in an interview context, this is very important. Many assessed negotiations do not make it to agreement because the candidates run out of time. If you are unable to agree a point “stick a pin in it” and come back to it.

— Never ever give something without getting something in return even if you don’t care about it.

— Make sure everyone is involved.

— Do not be aggressive or rude. If someone else is then make light of it. Overt aggressiveness is a classic sign of a beginner negotiator.

— When you are ready to agree a point do not start your sentence with what you agree to concede and then confirm what they have agreed to concede. Equally never phrase a question as — “If we agree to give you this, then will you…” If you do this, you risk that they will say “OK thanks” before you have had a chance to finish. Always lead with your condition for giving anything.