|The Ideal Location for Negotiation: an Alternative View|
|Learn how you can strengthen your behaviour and style and win your negotiations on your opponents place or territory.|
The question as to where a negotiation should ideally take place is a critical one and gives rise to both well-thought advice and knee-jerk reactions. The most widely held belief is that negotiators are at an advantage holding the proceedings on their own territory.
I would like to offer some alternative food for thought.
Negotiation text books often make analogies with sports events where, true enough, home teams tend to have an advantage over visiting teams, mainly because they know the arena and have thousands of supporters encouraging them on. In negotiations we don't have those supporters, although we do know the territory. Unfortunately, our own territories can work against us.
I do acknowledge that the overriding advantage of home negotiations is that of saving time, energy and expense. Modern-day buyers, for example, frequently have to fit a dozen meetings into a day.
There is much to be said as well for holding the negotiation on neutral territory such as a hotel (no, a lawyer's office is not neutral territory!) particularly if both sides need to cool things down or the choice of territories has become an ego issue. There again, however, matters such as who gets there first, who pays the room hire or who pays the entertainment tab can become a bone of contention.
On balance, nonetheless, I believe that negotiating on one's opposite number's premises affords some significant advantages
We are less likely to prepare adequately for negotiations on our own premises. We may promise ourselves to get the file out at nine o'clock and be thoroughly prepared for the 9.30 meeting. But with all the day-to-day demands on our time, the reality is that their arrival in reception has been announced before we've begun to open the filing cabinet! At least they've had a car ride to discuss the meeting.
The question as to where a negotiation should ideally occur is an important one and gives rise to both well-thought advice and knee-jerk reactions. The most widely held view is that negotiators are at an advantage holding the proceedings on their own turf.
We are more likely to be interrupted in our own business place. Your counterpart can simply switch off the cell phone, but even when we request to be left alone, our very presence on the premises invites interruption by phone calls, secretaries and colleagues. Buyers at one of my clients report that their bosses feel free to wander into negotiations and sit uninvited in the corner, and observe the proceedings.
Conventions of the Host.
These include welcoming politeness, the "WE WELCOME TODAY" signs, arranging coffee, beverages and Danish, showing off your town in the evening and so forth. These conventions are not on the shoulders of the visitor.
It is more difficult to walk out of your own office, should negotiations break down. Asking the other side to leave is pretty final.
The other side may well communicate with people you'd rather they didn't: gossiping office juniors, indiscreet bosses, technical managers who reveal that you really need that supplier. Visitors have the chance to observe idle factory machines; who's seeing whom from the visitors' book, and new product development plans on flipcharts. One client, who leases the most sumptuous premises in central London, finds it exceedingly difficult to plead poverty when he wants prices reduced.
It is often to your advantage to claim ignorance of a certain document or some other piece of information. This is easier if you've just happen to have your briefcase with you. Much harder if the filing cabinet is behind you.
The Ego Element
If they think that making you appear before them is a victory, and then let them win a cheap victory. You're there to win what's on the table, not win ego points.
In conclusion, when the question comes up as to where a negotiation should take place, don't automatically say "let them come to us." Ask yourself if you're making a business decision or an ego decision.
Jonathan Sims, is Principal of the Human Development Centre
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