Friday, March 11, 2016

Negotiation Process: 10 Lessons towards a successful win-win long term deal

By Virginia Mburu

Mwakazi, the Passionate Entrepreneur and CEO Makao interiors is stressed....
 A big contract is coming up...worth millions of shillings. He has  to negotiate successfully  to win this particular contract plus a long term relationship with this  famous property developer.  

He appreciates that any improvement in the negotiation process will go a long way in helping him through  clinch this deal. He will also improve his conflict resolution prowess!

Reading through an article on, he remembers that at one time there was a major disagreement recorded in Acts 15 and he decides to borrow a few tips on how the resolution was negotiated. 

Lesson 1.... Is there a reason to negotiate?
Verse 1-2- “Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them......”.

Let it be triple clear what is under negotiation...contract terms, price, features, delivery, service etc.

 Lesson 2.....How to   prepare for the negotiations
Verse 2-4 –“....So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them."

Paul and Barnabas were appointed and equipped to lead the  negotiations and as they traveled, they made sure they added  more arsenal into their negotiation kitty. Get more evidence of  more and more gentiles converted and be sure the report gets to the right people! 

It is advisable to prepare for your party and visualize what the other party wants. The effort and time spent on preparation will depend on the interest under negotiation. Is it simple product price, a buy out   or a Collective Bargaining Agreement? What about preparing a T diagram and placing the concerns of both parties side by side? 

What result do I want? Paul and Barnabas had an opposing position. This Jewish tradition was not to be imposed on the converted gentiles.

What are your concerns? What are you afraid of losing?

 What do you need? What can you give up? What is important and what is the worth to you as a person or to the business. Separate the needs, the wants and the likes as this will assist you develop a concession strategy.
What can you exchange for what? How will you trade off time and money? Visualize the various case scenarios and your response to the same.

What will be the negotiation method? -Who are the other parties and what relationship do you have/maintain? This will determine the negotiation method whether competitive or collaborative or in between.

What will be your opening offer? This will be pegged on what you expect to be the possible agreement deal.

What resources at your disposal can you leverage on- financial, time, people, information, partners etc. to assist in the negotiations. How quickly can you increase what is at your disposal?

What if you do not reach an agreement? What other alternative exist and how satisfied are you with it. A good alternative will prevent you from negotiating from a position of fear. But again, it should not be used to precipitate a breakdown in negotiations

What is the meeting time and location? Set up the meeting, time and location that best suits you and the negotiations. Be prepared emotionally and physically and groom for the occasion---First impressions matter!

Lesson 3.....How do you open the negotiations?
The Pharisees party opened the negotiation in verse 5 -“Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

That set the tone for a competitive bargaining process. And in verse 6  “The apostles and elders met to consider this question”

The body language and statements said in the first few seconds determine the direction the negotiations take- whether competitive or collaborative.  Whether you state your case first or second depends on what’s best for you. Should you know the other parties position, you may state your position first and how you expect the negotiations to proceed. 

You may also decide to let the other party to state their position first which allows you the advantage of adjusting your position. You then justify your position keeping in mind the result and other outcomes you want from this negotiation whilst taking into consideration the time you have.

Actively listen to the other party present their case too. Show that you seek to understand and respect the other party through your words and body language.

No distractions/interruptions other than showing interest, questions/ paraphrasing to seek understanding/ clarification. You want to understand what they really are stating as needs, wants and likes as well as unearth the hidden wants for their business as well as personal wants of individuals in play. 

What are the interest and goals underlying the positions taken? This will guide you on how to satisfy the needs.

Lesson 4.... How do you strengthen your case and weaken their case?
 In verse 7-11 Peter presents his case. “After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

Poke holes into the other parties arguments highlighting limitations, falsehoods or irrelevancies. Take emphasis off people or parties involved and keep it on facts. Test the basis of the other party’s arguments while minimising the benefits that accrue to you.  

Be forthright on the needs you cannot meet. For those needs you can meet, maximize their importance and what they need to do in your favour to satisfy them. Now you can show them how your offer satisfies their needs and get them to visualize how things will be different when working with you. 

Lesson 5.....Show us the proof!
Paul and Barnabas were at hand to provide proof/ evidence whereas James provided more evidence from the Old Testament prophetic writings to solidify their case.  They had prepared their case thoroughly.  

 Verse 12- 19- “The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:  “After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild,   and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,    even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’     things known from long ago. “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

Develop trust by providing facts/research undertaken / case studies showing proof of efficacy as well as bringing to light what possible obvious limitations there are in your position.

The other party will also try to poke holes into your case but show them that you are confident of yourself and are aware of their intention.  When negotiating, do not take the arguments personally- though the negotiations are hinged on you/ your ideas, products, service or value.

 Lesson 6.....Where do you agree and differ and how do we come to a compromise?
James continues pointing out areas  they  were in total agreement as  seen in verse 20-  Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

Look for common interests and negotiate around mutual interest. While doing so, you are more likely to succeed when using the inclusive “we” rather than “I” statements.  You may already have noticed that Peter Paul and Barnabas were addressing the believers as 'Brothers' and 'we'

Seek connection by looking for similarities which can be related to negotiation or personal likes (sport, association etc.). What are both parties in agreement on? This helps reduce the difference gap. At the very least both parties want a successful outcome. What are the points of departure and what do they mean? 

Allow the other person the right to disagree. Agree on a fair process to reach an agreement keeping in sight how a successful negotiation looks like. What can each party trade off? Only give relevant information and trade-off what is least costly and does not affect delivery of expected result. 

Lesson 7.....What if you need to change position?
Watch the body language in verse 12 “......The whole assembly became silent as they listened...” 

Show that you are ready to change position through qualifying the opening statement, asking whether there is a way an agreement can be reached or through changes in body language from aggressive to a relaxed friendly position or mirroring their movements. 

Let your body language depict interest and openness....sit leaning in, keep eye contacts and ensure facial expression/other body  movements are engaging the other party. Look out whether the other party is responding to the changes in body language/ verbal/tone.

If no reciprocation, repeat process or just ask whether they are ready to trade off but do not give a concession. It could be their strategy to stay firm and if you concede on one issue, they will dig in for more! If they do respond, employ a joint problem resolution process. 

Consider all possibilities, trade-offs that are easy to give away but valuable to the other party. Note that they will also be playing a similar game. Always start by stating what you want them to trade off and then what you are conceding--- not vice versa.

In case you are not agreeable to a suggestion, appreciate the proposal and point out the limitations while offering an alternative that suits you. Place all concerns on the table and address them objectively. Look for long term rather than short term gains.

 Lesson 8.....Close the deal
A decision was reached by the whole church- this included those whose initial position was different!
Verse 22- 23 - “Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.” They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers.  

The assembly sent a delegation with a letter stating their position regarding the dispute.

You ask for the signature. You may get a yes or the often expected though disliked objection! Handle the objection and close again. 

Make sure you have all agreed details documented and approved. Watch out for any changes in body language, point it out asking for what concern they have and immediately addressing them.

Lesson 9.....Move to execution
Verse 30-35- So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers.  After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them.  But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord”.

Move to immediately action the agreements made. Keep the commitments on both sides active by involving them in the execution, making progressive reports, celebrating/rewarding milestone achievements together etc. Under-promise but over-deliver.

Lesson 10.....What if situations change and the agreement cannot be executed as is?
Things are not as simple as they seem. circumstances change or you may have overlooked  some details. You may prevent  painfully disruptive legal battles by immediately involving the other party in renegotiation and go through the above process again.

Over to you Passionate Entrepreneur;
  • What steps do you follow when negotiating?
  • What do you do when you realize you cannot fulfill a contract/agreement?

Share your experiences, suggestions or questions in the comments section below. Who knows- You could probably be the one to benefit from the   successful deal!

Whatever you do, make sure it results in less work, more money and positive impact.


Virginia Mburu
Passionate Entrepreneurs Coach
Virginia empowers and motivates Passionate Entrepreneurs to realize their purpose and pursue it. She then assists the entrepreneurs to clarify, prioritise and focus on management and marketing strategies and action plans that will get them to work less, make more money and positively impact within one year.  Download some of her gifts- absolutely free lessons on

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