📅 4th December 2018 | Selling
Lessons on negotiation
Reaching a deal is what much of sales is about. This comes down to negotiation, a subject that Richard Harroch, MD of a large M&A firm in the US, has lots to say about. What is more, with Theresa May branding a Brexit deal as being in the national interest when it is viewed by Brexiters and Remainers alike as taking a sledgehammer to Britain’s sovereignty, there is much that can be learned from the PM’s attempts at negotiation. After all, as Otto von Bismarck said, ‘Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others’ experience’.
So, with this in mind, let us look at many of Harroch’s points in the light of what many people perceive to be the failure of Brexit negotiations. If you want a complete list of his points you can find them in his Forbes article at https://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2016/09/16/15-tactics-for-successful-business-negotiations/#2b46b0422528
Six Key Lessons In Negotiation
A good place to start is with the importance of listening and understanding the other person’s point of view. If we apply this to Theresa May and Michel Barnier, the European Chief negotiator on Brexit, then boundless examples come into view. Barnier, for example, after the conclusion of the Brexit deal, referred to Brexit as a ‘loose-loose’ situation without value added. How much listening can have gone on before he reached that conclusion? Then, Theresa May, faces Ministerial walk-outs and plows the same furrow, not reflecting the views of the 17.4m British who voted for Brexit.
The evidence that she has not been listening? The Brexit deal stops all of the things that the Brexit vote and the Conservative Party manifesto promised namely taking back control of our laws; ending the jurisdiction of the ECJ in Britain; strengthening the Union between the 4 parts of the UK; controlling immigration; permitting free trade agreement with the EU and trade agreements with other countries.
A variant on the first point follows with advice to understand the real dynamics. The fact that Barnier associates Brexit with exclusively negative outcomes suggests that he was never going to make Britain’s unilateral withdrawal from the EU easy. In fact, the small print of the deal does not permit unilateral withdrawal until the end of the century, more than 80 years distant.
A further piece of wisdom comes with the advice to avoid the strategy of negotiating by continually conceding. This is an interesting one where Brexit is concerned since in January 2017, the PM, in her Lancaster House speech, spoke of ‘leaving the European Union but …..not leaving Europe’. In April 2017, in a meeting with Donald Tusk, she stated that there would be no negotiations on the sovereignty of Gibraltar. However, since June 2017 when the first round of European negotiations began, multiple concessions have eroded the value of these statements. Jo Johnson revealed that he had recommended a time-limit on the Backstop and even that was allowed to go by the PM.
A further injunction comes with the advice to remember that time is the enemy in many deals. Negotiations began in earnest in June 2017 and were not completed until November 2018, 18 months later. The strength of what Harroch says speaks for itself.
Another piece of advice comes with the caution not to fixate on the deal in front of you and ignore alternatives. As of 1 December 2018, there is no evidence that an exit strategy based on following WTO rules has been prepared either by Downing Street or by the EU. This is at a time when many commentators are predicting the defeat of the Brexit deal in Parliament on 11 December.
Perhaps the most interesting of Harroch’s counsels is to Be ready to walk away. Only time will tell whether the strength of public and political opinion forces this approach.
So, an application of Harroch’s points to the Brexit negotiations suggests that they have much to commend them. Maybe remembering the failure to apply them in these critical negotiations will make them all the more memorable in your next set of negotiations. With any luck, they will bear fruit while Britain’s negotiators lick their wounds.
Cartoon created by Simon Ellinas