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Disciplines > Negotiation > The eight-stage negotiation process > Package

Identify agreeable trades | Make conditional proposals | Build complete packages | See also

The process stages: Prepare - Open - Argue - Explore - Signal - Package - Close - Sustain


In this stage, the goal is to build potential solutions. The final agreement is not yet being hammered out and you are still dealing in possibilities. By sustaining an atmosphere of openness, you make it possible for both you and them to consider alternatives exchanges without feeling obliged to complete the exchange.

Identify agreeable trades

In putting together potential agreements, start by looking for things that you can exchange and where they might concede to you.

Trade in variables

When looking for things to exchange, find the variables of the things in which you are dealing. If you are talking about action, consider when and where it will occur. If you are talking about money, consider who pays what to who, when and how often. If you are dealing in physical items, consider size, quantity, weight and other attributes.

Use other Kipling questions to find more variables. When the negotiation gets stuck, ask questions to discover variables, which are almost invariably there. Variables can also include additional features and items, such as the optional extras that a car salesperson might add to the package.

Use elegant negotiables

Your elegant negotiables are those things that you have that you do not value very highly, but the other person finds particularly attractive. They are easy for you to give away but are valued by the other person.

They, too have things that they will give away easily but which you value. Do not assume that just because you want something that they will not give it away without demanding something significant in return.

Help them think

Use the Columbo technique and Socratic questioning to draw them out. Help them understand variables and elegant negotiables.

Support them in problem-solving, clarifying the problem on which you are working together, identifying causes and why things have happened, finding focus for resolution and creatively identifying possible solutions.

Make conditional proposals

When discussing alternatives and offering concessions, always link what you are offering to something that you want. You are thus dealing not in concessions but in exchanges.

If you...then I...

Note the difference in effect between asking 'If I...will you..?' and saying 'If you...then I...'.

When you say 'If I...', you put the thought of you giving something into the other person's head, on which they may gain some form of closure and expectation even before you reach the 'will you'. Saying 'will you' also invites a negative response.

If I give you more money, will you work harder?

Saying 'If you...' puts the thought of the action into the person's head. The 'If' moderates this with a promise of something in return. The whole sentence is a statement, rather than a question, which does not offer the chance of refusal. Overall, it is much stronger.

If you work harder then I will give you more money.

Keep things open

You are not yet at the point of final agreement, so remember that nothing is certain until the ink is dry. Beware of the personal-closure trap, whereby your assumption that an agreement has been made can lead you into later problems.

Know what you really want, keeping your eye on your interests. Be consistently firm about these, whilst being open to alternative ways of achieving them.

Keep the trading open, which may include discussing multiple contradictory exchanges as options that may be taken up. If you have many such options, then you will be able to build more interlinked exchange packages.

If the other side suggests something, do not reject it out of hand. Discuss it and point out shortcomings. Then find ways, if you can, of using this idea in an actual trade. Generally seek to avoid outright refusals, keeping things open and loose until you start to converge on specific packages.

Build complete packages

Packages are complete sets of trades, put together into a coherent packages that may be agreed as a whole.

Build more complex trades

After you have identified several smaller trades, you can start building up towards more complex exchanges. These may include addition of further depth to the existing trade or may add additional elements.

In an industrial relations negotiation, the basic trade of increase in working hours in exchange for higher pay is augmented with detail of what work will be done and rest periods to be included.

In a domestic situation, the basic agreement of paying a child for doing housework is elaborated with specific amounts being paid for specific jobs.

Assemble trades into packages

Trades can be subsequently built into larger packages that satisfy the interests of both sides in as equitable a way as possible. This can be done incrementally, by adding smaller trades into an increasingly large package. It can also be done as a jigsaw, assembling already-complex trades that are quite substantial in their own right.

In the industrial relations negotiation, different agreements are made for people in different jobs and then assembled into a larger package.

In the domestic situation, the parent asks for additional jobs to be done, linking them to other rewards such as staying up late.

In building packages, see these from their viewpoint as well as yours. See how they form a complete solution to their situation, addressing their interests and appearing as a fair exchange.

Move steadily towards closure, tweaking what appears to be the final package with a few last exchanges and sweeteners as appropriate.

See also

Finding variables, Questioning techniques, Negotiation styles

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