In most negotiations, you will find the parties involved are not on the same footing when compared with each other; they have a difference in status. Understanding this element of negotiation is an important part of learning successful negotiation skills.
So what is status and what does it mean to a negotiation? In short, status means position. It defines where one party stands in relation to the other party. And really, it has nothing to do with economic or social standing at all. The status of a negotiator is solely determined only by his position in relation to the negotiator on the other side.
In almost every negotiation, professional or personal, one party is higher and one party is lower. This is because the parties engaging in negotiation have differing needs, and those needs determine where they stand. For example, if there is a home seller who wants to sell but is willing to take her time because she owns two other homes and a home buyer who must buy before the end of the month or he will have to rent a hotel room, who has the more powerful status? Obviously, the deadline of the parties here would determine their standing; the one who has a pressing deadline is less powerful, the one who has no deadline is more powerful. A deadlock means little to the seller, but it may mean a major inconvenience to the buyer. The needs of the parties (when they must make the sale/purchase), determine their status.
Another example might be a situation where a buyer is intending on buying a new tires for his car. He knows there are four places in his town where he can buy the tires he wants. When he goes to one of the sellers to negotiate a price, he tells them a price he’ll pay and if they can’t acquiesce, there is a dealer three miles away who might. Who has the higher status here? Clearly, the buyer has the higher status because he has choices; he can buy or walk. But the seller must sell.
Knowing and understanding your status in a negotiation can have a strong influence on how you negotiate. There are a few things you can do to maximize your position, even if you are starting out weak. You can:
- minimize negotiation if you know it will only weaken your position further. Sometimes cutting straight to the chase in a deal is an effective way of getting around the other party’s making increased demands.
- attempt to make sincere friends with the other party. If a buyer or seller views the other party as a genuine and positive person whom they like, there is less of a chance he will harden his position in a deal.
- gather as much information as possible. The more a buyer knows about the seller, or vice versa, the more power he or she has in bartering for a deal.
- have a structured system in place to influence the negotiations in your favor. This may include having a planned approach, an exit strategy, or a backup option when things go bad.
- have a preplanned objectivity about the deal. Removing emotion and personal likes or dislikes from the negotiation gives a party advantage even if they start out on the weaker end.
Status means less to Americans than our European or Asian cousins. America is the melting pot, and we are not inhibited from advancing because of our surname or genealogy. But status is extremely important in a negotiation, and one who has refined negotiation skills knows where she stands in a negotiation, and how to use it to her benefit.