Negotiating: Speak With One Voice
When you are engaged in business (or other) negotiations on behalf of your company or team, be certain that you are always negotiating with one voice. Negotiating as an entire team (or as a fragmented group) will almost always work against you and your team in arriving at agreements, settlements or arrangements with vendors, investors or any other outside third party.
Amateurs in the art and science of negotiating often speak with multiple voices when dealing with their counterparts on the other side of the bargaining table, and this usually yields poor results for the team. If your counterpart can divide you, or sees that you are of different minds, he or she will take advantage of that state by putting you in the awkward position of arguing with your own team mates, or of choosing the weakest member of the team to be his or her double agent (or emissary) to the entire group.
If you are entering into negotiations, have your team discussions in private and 1) do not allow your counterpart to either bypass the spokesperson/negotiator for your group, or 2) allow any members of your team to open up a separate channel to the other side.
Of course there are exceptions to this general rule where governments or very large entities are concerned in either intelligence-gathering operations or ambassadorial talks about major treaties and other types of multilevel arrangements. In these situations, there might be some "back-door" or covert secondary discussions behind the scenes or through the ranks for numerous reasons -- but in each of these cases, the team makes its ultimate decisions internally, in private.
In sum, if you must speak in multiple voices (on the rare occasions where this is done by deliberate design), make sure that you are privately sharing information and reaching your own internal agreements about each of the simultaneous or parallel negotiations. So if you are not speaking with one voice, speak with just one mind.
Douglas E. Castle for Taking Command! and for The Douglas E. Castle Consultancy.
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