Negotiation Tips

5 Negotiating Styles to Consider when Closing a Deal

by Erich Rifenburgh

So you’re preparing to negotiate. Have you thought about your style? How about the style of your counter party? The hard truth is that style is often left off our preparation list. Many negotiators fall into the trap of unwittingly charging forward with their own natural style and don't consider what impact it plays in the outcome.

Don’t let this happen to you. Tilt the balance in your favor by carefully considering what negotiation style will reward you with the lion’s share of the profits. Below is a list of five styles to consider while preparing for your next negotiation.

Compete (I Win- You Lose): Competitive negotiators pursue their own needs and give little to others.

When to use: When you have an overwhelming clear advantage, need to get a deal done quickly or are involved in a one off transaction like buying a car.

Pitfalls: A high compete style is easy for the other party to prepare for and can often lead to deadlock. Unchecked competition can also ruin relationships.

Defense: Don’t cave in! Appeasing a competitive negotiator creates an expectation that your concessions are a sign of things to come.

Accommodate (I lose – You Win): Accommodating negotiators believe that part of winning people over is to give them what they want. This not only includes products and services but also valuable information. If you’re going to roll over have a good reason.

When to Use: When you find yourself in a weak position and the only option is to give in gracefully. Sometimes, it’s better to lose the battle and live to fight the war.

Pitfalls: Giving away value too early in the negotiation can give you little to offer later when you may need a strong card to play. It can also signal that you have deep pockets and much more to give.

Defense: Beware of gifts as they may have strings attached. Ensure that your counter party is not giving something away with the intent to enjoy reciprocity later on.

Avoid (I Lose – You Lose): High avoidance negotiators dislike conflict and can sometimes be passive aggressive.

When to Use: When the benefit of not negotiating outweighs the value of investing time. Another great time to avoid a negotiation is when emotions run high and a cool down period is required.

Pitfalls: Avoiding negotiations may signal to the other party that you are not interested.  

Defense: If your negotiating partner is avoiding you, set clear expectations on timing up front and consider escalating to a higher level of authority.

Compromise (I Lose / Win Some – You Lose / Win Some): Often thought of as splitting the difference. Compromise often results in both negotiators settling for less than what they want or need.

When to Use: When pushed for time and have a trusting relationship. Be careful that you win and lose the right things.

Pitfalls: This style is often used when you’re not prepared and just winging it. The party who starts with the most ambitious opening position often ends up gaining the most. Beware of competitive negotiators, they love negotiators who want to compromise and go straight to an extreme opening position. If you end up splitting the difference, they win by virtue of their anchoring position.

Defense: If you counter party starts with an extreme opening position, be sure to counter with an offer that brings them back to reality. If you do retreat from a position be sure to do so with solid rational.

Collaborate (I Win- You Win): Often referred to as expanding the pie negotiation style. Collaborators are willing to invest the time to expand value through uncovering interests.

When to use: When the value in the negotiation is substantial, the relationship is long term and there is high risk for both parties.

Pitfalls: It's dangerous to collaborate with a party who is not reciprocal in the sharing of information. Make sure to share information at the same level of detail as your counter party.

Defense: Defend yourself against a collaborative negotiator if you determine that it is not in your best interest to collaborate. Your time is short, so be careful who you collaborate with.

Take control of your negotiation by understanding the power of selecting the appropriate negotiating style. Above all don’t be afraid to change course. An experienced negotiator isn’t married to one approach and moves between styles as needed. The key is to make the switch at the right time.

Now that negotiation style is on your preparation check list, you are one step closer to realizing the deal you want.

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