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Are You Preconditioning Your Negotiation’s?
The Weekly Walkaway highlights negotiation in its ‘good’, ‘bad’ and sometimes ‘downright ugly’ forms. Newsletter Issue No. 39 (7th July 2023)
What to expect?
Thought of the Week - Are You Preconditioning Your Negotiation’s?
Remember: You are a negotiator!
You are always managing some form of conflict, a difference of opinion or interest.
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THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Are You Preconditioning Your Negotiation’s?
The art of preconditioning. The art of setting the stage, of sowing the seed.
Hey, welcome back Walkawayer’s,
This weeks Weekly Walkaway takes a closer look at the concept of preconditioning, its significance in negotiation, and how preconditioning creates better negotiated outcomes.
Preconditioning is a powerful technique used to proactively influence your negotiation’s environment before, during and after a negotiation to achieve your strategic objectives.
Preconditioning is the act of shaping the conditions, perceptions, and expectations surrounding a negotiation.
It's all about creating the most appropriate environment to achieve success. It involves;
influencing the mindset and attitudes of the parties involved;
taking control of the negotiation environment;
establishing favourable conditions that increase the likelihood of achieving your desired outcomes.
Preconditioning sets the tone, establishes boundaries, moulds expectations and enhances the overall dynamics of the negotiation process.
Examples of Preconditioning Techniques
Anchoring and Framing: setting red lines, boundaries and your starting point through anchoring and framing is the most common form of preconditioning. Your goal is to shape, or change, their perception and their expectations;
Stakeholder Matrix: connecting with all key stakeholders, internally and externally, all the decision-makers involved in the negotiation process. Creating the appropriate level of relationship required for the negotiation by engaging in social activities, attending industry events, or meeting informally. By strengthening relationships before negotiations you can begin shaping a more favourable environment;
Alliances: exploring alternative options, cultivating potential partners, identifying and creating false or real alliances with different parties with shared interests. All of these actions precondition the negotiation and the parties involved that you have alternatives, choices, options. This is also known as developing your BATNA, ‘Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement’;
Press Statements: before formal negotiations, you might release a statement in the press or hold informal public meetings to shape opinion and perception of the negotiation. You would aim to establish a positive image or in some cases de-value ‘their’ image, build support, and frame the issues in a manner that favours your position. You would be preconditioning your counterparts expectations and be using public opinion as a tool to create a more favourable environment for your needs;
Off The Record or Backchannel Communications: these are ‘informal’ discussions to set the tone, manage expectations or establish / re-establish a relationship or rebuild trust. These discussions are also opportunities to stroke egos and / or downplay your strengths. You could make them feel overly confident or underestimate your position. To lull them into a false sense of superiority. Your aim is to create the appropriate level of relationship you need;
Collaborating on non-sensitive projects or showing good faith: showing good faith upfront establishes a sense of shared goals, mutual trust and collaboration. This preconditioning helps to align the interests of both parties, it lays the groundwork for smoother negotiations when it comes to ‘The Big One’;
Interviews, blogs, newsletters, speeches and public statements: publicly shaping and framing issues, priorities and expected changes in your favour. You get a chance to precondition and highlight the benefits and downplay the negatives of a ‘future’ negotiated agreement.
Real world examples of preconditioning
Recently… A well known pharmaceutical company, wink wink.. engaged in negotiations with a government regarding a newly developed drug for a ‘life-threatening’ condition. Wink wink..
Before the negotiations, this company strategically preconditioned the market by conducting a massive, in fact gigantic, in-country public relations campaign, focusing on the benefits and the significant research and development costs involved in developing this wonder drug.
Of course the company also highlighted the positive impact the drug could have on the country's people… but by preconditioning like this they generated huge public support and created a more favourable environment for negotiating the price with the government. With their own people behind the drug company how could they refuse.. It would have been political suicide.
Obviously the Brexit negotiations, gives us a great observation of multiple techniques of preconditioning.
Both the EU and the UK engaged in extensive preconditioning.
Prior to formal negotiations, the UK set out its red lines, signalling its desired outcomes and priorities for the negotiations. This preconditioning established its position and created expectations for the negotiation process.
Similarly, the EU emphasised its own boundaries, its four EU freedoms (goods, services, capital, and people) and its needs for the continued integrity of the single market.
Throughout the negotiation, both employed media campaigns and public statements to continue to precondition their domestic and international audiences to shape public opinion and influence the negotiators, their teams and the negotiations.
Isn’t Preconditioning Just Marketing?
We are influenced, manipulated even, daily and sometimes hourly, by preconditioning techniques!
It is going on all around us all of the time but it is accepted.
Marketing and Advertising
Companies often employ various tactics to condition or shape our behaviour and perceptions in order to increase sales and brand loyalty. Consider this…
There is a highly anticipated ‘something’…
Prior to its launch, the company may strategically create buzz and anticipation through teasers, trailers, sneak peeks, and social media campaigns.
They’ll showcase the ‘somethings’ innovative features, emphasise exclusivity, and highlight endorsements from influencers, maybe portraying the existing ‘something’ as outdated or inferior, instilling a perception that the new ‘something’ is, well, new.. and a must-have item.
They sow the seed of desire, of need, and excitement among us.
They are preconditioning us.
We ended up with an air fryer when we didn't need one! The air fryer was being preconditioned (advertised) so much on my son's social media, alongside influencer endorsements, that he then convinced us to buy one. We’ve used it three times. We still don't need it.
Anyone want an air fryer?
So, yes, I’m afraid to have to tell you that you are being manipulated all the time.
Preconditioning plays a significant role in shaping your opinion and therefore the negotiation dynamics and outcomes.
If you are happy that they are doing it to you in your personal lives why are you not considering doing it in your business lives?
Preconditioning needs to be part of your planning and preparation phase.
Make it so, dummy!
Here are a few considerations for your next negotiation planning meeting.
As you all know, trust is a vital element in cooperative, collaborative negotiations. If you don't have trust you will forever be on the Eastern Side of the Negotiation Compass. Cold and Arrogant, Dismissive and Hard. It is a fact.
If you need trust. If you are negotiating any level of complexity, or where a level of dependence or interdependence exists then preconditioning can create an atmosphere of trust.
You can use preconditioning techniques to set the stage for open communication and collaborative problem-solving.
By initiating pre-negotiation interactions, sharing relevant information, and demonstrating goodwill, you can establish a foundation of trust.
Social Influencing and Influencers
By engaging the right person with the right message at the right time you can influence a target audience or group of stakeholders involved in the negotiation.
This could include blog posts, videos, social media campaigns, or thought leadership pieces.
Leverage influencers platforms and networks to amplify your messaging to generate interest, support, and shape public opinion.
Even create your own ‘influencers’, key executives from your company who you mould into thought leaders where they are seen as credible contributors in the press, in publications, at conferences, or at events.
Shape Perceptions and Define Objectives
Preconditioning allows you to influence how your your internal stakeholders and counterpart perceives the negotiation.
It enables you to define your objectives and establish a framework for the negotiation process.
Frame your issues, take control of the principles of the relationship, own the agenda and you will shape their impressions.
You need to strategically control the flow of information.
Information is power.
By choosing what information to give, what not to give, when to give and HOW to give it you influence ‘their’ perception of the negotiation landscape.
Setting the Agenda
Simples. You get to shape the negotiation by using the agenda.
It is a simple and often forgotten element of preconditioning.
Get ahead of them. Be proactively. Take control of the topics to be discussed and their order.
This strategic control over the agenda empowers you to set the direction of the negotiation and steer it in your desired direction.
Never fall in love once!
Preconditioning also involves considering and developing alternative options.
By creating attractive alternatives, you will be able to control events more effectively. The BATNA serves to influence and increase the opportunity for success.
Preconditioning is a powerful technique that will enable and empower you.
Precondition and you will be able to create more favourable conditions.
From building trust and shaping perceptions to controlling information and setting the agenda, the effective implementation of preconditioning techniques greatly influences your negotiation outcomes.
ARE YOU THE ONE THAT IS IN FACT BEING PRE-CONDITIONED?
We’d love to read your comments or thoughts.
Discuss or request more about this or other topics that interest you. (email@example.com)
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