A sales director was playing a game of golf with the procurement director from his largest and most prestigious client. During the round the course ran adjacent to a small road. As the pair drove off on the 8th a hearse started to slowly make its way along the lane and would eventually pass the men.
The procurement director realized this and despite the fact that he was about to play a shot he put down his club, removed his hat, bowed his head and stood silent and to attention as the car passed.
The sales director was amazed and choked to see this open display of respect and empathy from a man who hitherto had seemed distant aggressive and hard nosed.
Empathy is an area that can be critical during the process of negotiation, how can you effectively express empathy in a negotiation, step into your counterpart's shoes and use this to help gain a better deal?
A couple of thoughts.
Ask lots of questions. Try to understand their issues and concerns. Gain an understanding of their priorities and KPI's. Toggle the switch to receive. Get them to describe and explain the issues they face.
Listen carefully to the answers you get. So many times people are so keen to start speaking again that they do not listen attentively to the answers. Look out for signals of flexibility and reward them.
Understand the detail by digging deep into the issues. Don't just scratch the surface or assume you get it. Check and double check, summarise what they have said.
Make it clear in a non threatening way that you have issues to resolve too, remember negotiation is another word for trading. If you are to help them there needs to be a degree of reciprocity. State that early and openly.
Fully appreciating how difficult it is for your counterpart to make a serious concession and maybe trading some value into the mix helps them make that move.
Back to the story.
The sales director, touched, put his hand on the procurement directors shoulder and said how impressed he was that he should show such respect.
"Well we had been married for 30 years" came the reply.