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Gavin Kennedy: Everything is

Negotiable
Gavin Kennedy, Managing Director of Negotiate Limited, an Edinburgh-based
international consultancy, a Professor at Edinburgh Business School, is author of,
amongst others, Everything is Negotiable, one of the worlds best-selling books on
negotiation. [1]

Kennedy believes that in order to learn about negotiation effectively, the process
should be enjoyable, and to that end, he uses classifications for negotiators:

Sheep easily led into choices by other people. Accepts situations at face
value, preferring to submit rather than defend self-interests.
Donkeys react in a knee-jerk manner, often stubborn, sticking to deeply
held principles through ignorance.
Foxes succeed through knowing the situation, and cunning. Experts at
exploiting sheep and donkeys, but risk being too clever for their own good.
Owls are sensitive to longer-term benefits of developing relationships
through negotiating to get well-deserved results. They earn the respect of
others, and are well prepared for threats and seizing opportunities.
Kennedy gives out extremely practical, common sense advice on how to negotiate,
advice which is applicable to everyday negotiations and to high-powered business
negotiations:
Never accept the first offer.
If a grievance exists, dont just complain, negotiate a solution.
Never improve an offer without having received a counter-offer.
Always ask what if? when presented with an offer, until all eventualities are
covered.

Never concede anything to gain goodwill, or to get the ball rolling.


Make the opening offer as low/high as possible, without becoming laughable.
Make decisions concerning the potential boundaries of the deal, and stick to
them in the negotiation. Dont let that resolve weaken.
Dont be afraid to say no to an offer or a deal, but come back with if
Find out who is really doing the buying/selling.
Dont look solely at the price, consider the whole package: delivery, cost of
production, quality, etc.
Dont be fooled by superficial appearances, they are meaningless.
Avoid making threats in a negotiation; they are almost always counterproductive.
However Kennedy also has certain unorthodox beliefs concerning negotiation
technique. Perhaps the most unconventional of his views is that regarding goodwill
concessions.
Goodwill concessions are simply those small, perhaps inconsequential concessions
that negotiators give away in order to gain the goodwill of the other party, and to get
the proceedings moving. These are a quite standard practice, but Kennedy argues
that they are entirely unnecessary and can, in fact, be quite damaging to a
negotiation.
Kennedy maintains that by offering a goodwill concession, a negotiator is not
softening up the other party, s/he is simply teaching them that concessions are
easy to come by, and if they stand their ground, there is every chance that they will
get more concessions for nothing. Goodwill concessions set a dangerous precedent
that it is extremely difficult to reverse.
He argues that there is no such thing as a concession of little consequence. If
something matters very little to the negotiator, it may well matter more to the other
party. Value is relative. There is no point discarding something without knowing
exactly what it means to the other party.
It is quite unlikely that the other partys reaction will be to respond in kind. The
concession is likely to be read as a sign of weakness, and therefore the other party
is simply going to get tougher.
As a tactic for getting negotiation proceedings underway, goodwill concessions fail
because rather than getting negotiations underway, it simply moves the initial
position towards the other partys. In effect, the negotiator is already on the way to
submission. This goes back to the fact that it sets a precedent. If the other party has
concessions offered before they have asked for anything, why should they start to
negotiate? In reality, this could well slow down the start of effective negotiating
proceedings.
Kennedy advocates having a firm resolve in negotiations. Not being tough
necessarily, but simply adopting a position before the start of proceedings, and
sticking to the game plan.
When dealing with difficult, emotional opposite parties, he suggests that matching
their behaviour simply exacerbates the problem, while contrasting it with opposing
behaviour can be seen as a sign of weakness, which leads to an intensification of
their behaviour rather than a modification of it. Kennedy believes that the best way to
deal with a difficult negotiator is not to follow either of these traditional routes, but
rather to step back, and approach the situation in a different manner. He proposes
disconnecting the behaviour from the outcome.

This involves a determination that the other partys behaviour will not affect the
outcome of the negotiation. This can simply be stated to the other party. They may
not believe it, but the case will have been stated, and the final result should prove
the statement correct. The implications are that if the behaviour will have no effect on
the outcome of the negotiation, the behaviour will also not be an issue between the
two parties.
Focusing on the outcome rather than the immediate issue of the behaviour is simply
a neat way of sidestepping that issue entirely, and completely disabling any
intimidation tactics, intended or otherwise. Kennedy believes that to focus on the
outcome means concentrating on the merits of their case and the principles of
trading.
Kennedys experience of negotiation has led him to develop these somewhat
unorthodox views, borne out through years of practical experience.
[1] Gavin Kennedy, Everything Is Negotiable, 3rd Edition (Random House Business
Books, 1997).
Image Credit: Flickr ActiveSteve (accessed 13 November 2014).

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