Sales: Negotiation, Inside the deal

If you’re involved in sales or marketing, do yourself a favor and check out this article from The Economist.

Essentially, it points out that research done by Adam Galinsky of Kellogg School of Management has found a strikingly simple insight. Empathy can make you sacrifice your own interests. In contrast, simply taking the perspective of the other side and leaving empathy at the door can help you find a solution that maximizes the interests of both sides.

Inside a deal
From The Economist print edition


It pays to get inside your opponents’ heads rather than their hearts

JUDGED by the number of times that negotiations are said to have ended in a “win-win situation”, striking a successful deal might seem easy. There are, after all, shelves full of books offering advice about how to succeed as a negotiator.

The main tip is to gain bargaining power by understanding the person on the other side of the table. But what exactly does a negotiator need to know about his antagonist? In a series of experiments a team of researchers have come up with some intriguing answers in a report just published in Psychological Science.

Adam Galinsky of Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Illinois, and his colleagues looked at two related approaches often used to understand the opponent in negotiations: perspective-taking and empathy. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, they are different. Perspective-taking is the cognitive power to consider the world from someone else’s viewpoint, whereas empathy is the power to connect with them emotionally.

They conducted a series of experiments using more than 150 MBA students who had just enrolled on a ten-week course on negotiations—so they were novices. The students were divided into pairs. One played the part of the seller of a petrol station and the other the buyer. They were told to strike a deal, but this could not be done on price alone, because the maximum the buyer was allowed to pay was lower than the seller’s reserve price. So only a creative deal would work (made possible because the seller needed to finance a sailing trip but would later want a job, and the buyer needed to hire managers to run the petrol station). Just over two-thirds of the pairs managed to reach a deal. Analysis showed that when the buyer in particular had a perspective-taking ability it could predict a successful outcome.

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