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Responding to demands in a negotiation when one is unsure

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We see increasing leverage of drones across many real-life situations – post disaster search and rescue, field inspections, traffic monitoring and so on. Essentially, they offer a safe way to understand the landscape better; once the analysis is thorough, appropriate actions can be planned that deliver impact!

What if there is a drone equivalent for negotiators? Ankit – a seasoned sales leader with a large Indian FMCG company – has been negotiating the joint business plan (JBP) with his client for the past hour. Being the first conversation, both parties have just outlined their priorities.   Just as Ankit is collecting his thoughts on how to move the negotiation forward, he gets a demand from the client when expected it the least. “We need you to invest in a store salesman during the Diwali season” – the demand from Ramesh – the client procurement manager- could not be clearer. However, Ankit is unsure how to respond. While the demand is not something he wants to reject right away, he is nervous about agreeing to it immediately without understanding the consequences!

How can Ankit respond when neither ‘no’ nor ‘yes’ are particularly preferred options? He still needs to keep the dialogue flowing and understand where Ramesh is coming from. In this situation, one option is for Ankit to ask exploratory questions, like for instance, - “Just suppose, we consider your requirement for additional investment through a store salesman, what does this mean to the business plan? Can you take me through it?” This is particularly helpful in situations where you want to explore/peek into other party’s issues/priorities without committing to demands made, while also keeping the relationships intact. Not a bad deal I suppose!  Are you leveraging 'drones' enough in your negotiations?

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