I was speaking with a friend recently and she shared a quote from her father with me. She said that one of the business-related lessons he taught her was that when comes to dealing with other people, “There are two sides to every person – the person who they really are, and the person they think they are.” This bit of wisdom creates several important considerations for executives. When you prepare for any negotiation you need to prepare to negotiate with both who your counterparts really are, and who your counterparts think they are.
Interestingly enough, both perceptions are correct. You perceive you counterpart for who they really are based on their title, experience, and anything your due diligence uncovered. Your perception might not be 100% correct, but assuming your research is accurate, it should be quite close. In your counterparts’ mind, their perception of who they think they are is accurate as well. Perception is reality and if they believe it, it must be true. The key is to prepare for who they really are, and speak to who they think they are.
It is very important to have an accurate understanding of who your counterparts really are to determine how they can help us reach a desirable agreement. Who our they really are involves their actual role in the business including the decisions they’re authorized to make, deals they have clearance to close, connections they have, and their ability influence others. Clearly developing this picture will help you maximize their capabilities avoid potential pitfalls on the path to reaching an agreement.
You must speak to the people your counterparts’ think they are. The people they think they are control their ego. If you accidently offend their ego you can seriously impact your ability to reach an agreement. This isn’t always easy. You may need to build someone up who you don’t believe has the corresponding ability. You may have to allow your counterpart to take credit for the deal even though you did all the work. You may even have to agree to a bad idea, so they can learn the hard way that it won’t work. By understanding who they think they are you can speak to them on the level they expect and use their intrinsic motivations to help achieve your goals.
Preparing for who your counterparts really are, and who they think they are, helps create game plans that will resonate with them. These plans typically create less resistance, increase rapport and lead to quicker agreements. This preparation approach also serves as a guide during the meeting, reminding you to use your counterparts’ egos to your advantage.