The International Entrepreneur – How to Sabotage Your Negotiations

There are actually countless ways that you can doom your own negotiations, so this blog will focus on three ways:

Overemphasize the Legal Contract

Business cultures with a strong legal orientation (ex. US, Switzerland, Canada) often rely too heavily on negotiating and drafting a detailed legal description of all responsibilities and expectations. All future interactions normally take place within the parameters outlined in the contract.

The majority of the world does business very differently. The foundation is the business relationship forged between the key players. Business terms are negotiated and then renegotiated periodically to reflect any changes in the business environment. While documentation has its place, consider building your business relationships as a much stronger and flexible foundation.

Use Good Cop/Bad Cop & Make the Wrong Person the Bad Cop

Good Cop/Bad Cop is a classic North American negotiation technique. For anyone who is unfamiliar with it, it takes two negotiating team members. One is the accommodating team member, wanting to form close relationships and meet the other side’s demands. The other is the “bad cop”, whose role is to remain aloof and say no to the other sides’ offers. The other side forms a bond with the “good cop”, sometimes taking concessions to help the “good cop” since the “bad cop” may be the good cop’s boss.

Internationally, this technique can backfire drastically. First, members of the same negotiating team are generally expected to work together and hold the same general positions. It appears incongruent to disagree openly as a team. Second, it’s a manipulative technique and often the other side can see through the ruse. Your side will lose credibility. And finally, putting a key player in the position of “bad cop” could undermine any current or future ability for that person to form a relationship with the other side’s management. For instance, if your CEO is the “bad cop” he or she may
never have the credibility to work with their counterpart.

Lying to the Other Side

Lying is a common negotiation technique. Think of it like bluffing in a game of poker. But when you negotiate with direct communication cultures such as Americans, Germans, or Israelis, normally your negotiation counterparts will backfire. To them, your morals are now suspect and trust is gone. You can pack up your belongings and head home. Direct communicators: it’s better to put the lie into the context. In negotiations, both sides are trying to find the maximum value they can get from the other side. Lying may trigger something from the other side that may reveal untapped value. On some level, negotiation is a game like poker. When someone tells an obvious lie, the best thing to do is to ignore it like it was never said. If you’re not sure, then do some fact checking before your finalize your deal.

Now that you’ve read about some of international negotiating pitfalls, please feel free to share your own experiences and techniques! I look forward to your comments.