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Working Toward a Successful ‘Yes’ Agreement

In last month’s article, I discussed how you can assert a Positive No, which is the ability to express your values while declining some part of an agreement or request. As a follow on to reflections from the William Ury book, “The Power of a Positive No,” here are some thoughts on concluding your negotiation to achieve a mutually satisfactory agreement.

The No you expressed will probably be construed as a rejection so you don’t want to terminate the discussions there, assuming you prefer to continue the relationship. As you may be closing one door, you want to be sure to open a second door. At this juncture, you can assert real value and make progress that may not have been possible before.

After hearing the No, frustration will probably occur to the other party which may result in anger and diminish your chances for an agreeable conclusion. What can you do with that negative energy? Make a positive proposal. Express a common Yes that will show respect for the interests of the other party. Your ability to recognize and satisfy the other’s interests will facilitate a mutually acceptable agreement assuming your interests will be met as well. You will be successfully persuading the other to accept your offering because you will be meeting his needs. After the suggested agreement, the other party will now have the opportunity to express a No to you. This is certainly a risk that the negotiation may break down. But unless there is a ‘win-win’ outcome, the agreement will be short-lived anyhow. You can feel comfortable that you expressed your No and you fairly gave the other the same chance. If he feels he was persuaded unfairly, negative feelings may persist and ruin the possibility of a joint agreement. There is an old adage that says ‘a man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.’ Manipulation by talking someone into something if they really don’t accept the value and agree is not a successful long term strategy.

At the point both parties have expressed their No’s and established what will not be done, the opportunity is ripe for developing creative options for mutual gains. Try brainstorming at this point to determine mutually acceptable alternatives. What could you suggest that may not cost more money? For example, you may agree to change the timing and agree on a later delivery. Or possibly you can change the venue by making a conference call now instead of waiting for a personal visit. There are many possibilities if you have agreed that you want to agree. Your trust level should increase since have mutually expressed acceptable limits or values.

Think about how much more can be accomplished with a friend where confidence in the other’s ability to perform is not an issue. You may want to reach accommodation by stipulating some conditions required, such as an ‘if-then’ agreement. You would state the conditions under which you can agree and say Yes. This can be as simple as a price reduction based on volume offered. Possibly you could suggest a time out or cooling off period to re-group your thoughts. Emotions will play a part in the negotiations and you don’t want to make decisions that will be regrettable later on. Ury suggests ‘going to the balcony,” described as a mental place of perspective, calm and self-control. How often have we arrived at more appropriate solutions when given some time to reflect?

A client recently informed me that he had an over-inventory position and needed to immediately suspend planned production. We had raw materials on hand to support the expected orders and further we had supplies ready to be shipped that were covered by a blanket purchase order where items were to be shipped upon request. Our long time supplier for this item, thread in this case, visited with me and our purchasing manager yesterday. I explained the situation whereby we would not need, at this time, the previously ordered items. And unfortunately, I could give an exact date as to when the supply would be needed. I also used the opportunity to ask why we used a blanket purchase order as there was no price discount and lead time was not an issue. My purchasing manager, who took the position after the blanket order was issued also did not know the reason.

But this put the thread vendor at risk as he prepared to ship upon our release, which we did not give. I didn’t want to abuse the relationship but technically there was no requirement for specific performance on our part as the purchaser. If we didn’t call for the release, the vendor could be holding the inventory. We agreed that since there was no lead time issue that we would not issue blanket purchase orders for this product in the future. By discussing our parameters, of what would be our No and Yes in addressing our business needs, we were able to agree and avoid the same problem in the future.

In your negotiations, you have the ability to remain in control and respect your interests and values and those of the other party. By learning to access and utilize tools invented and tried by others you have the opportunity to add to your own arsenal of talents. You will enhance your ability to fashion long-lasting and successful solutions that will benefit your company and assure the valuable support of clients and vendors in pursuit of mutual goals.

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