How to Negotiate in a Team

Published: 25th March 2010
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Do you ever find yourself negotiating as part of a team?

Have you ever wondered about the best way to approach negotiations in a team format?

The complexity within which businesses operate often creates the need for organisations to engage in negotiations in a team based format.This often adds a dimension to negotiations for which you can easily be under prepared.

There are three key elements that you need to be aware of and prepare for before engaging in team based negotiations:

1. Role definition

It is critical that you never take anyone into a negotiation without having given them a clear role to play within the negotiation. We know that your role in life is closely tied to your feeling of security.

This means that if you are in a negotiation and you have not been given a clear role then it may feel to you that you need to make a contribution in any way possible so as to justify you being a part of the team.

This contribution can often be out of sync with the planned strategy & could compromise your positions & interests.

Futhermore, experienced negotiators may be able to unduly influence members of your team by creating a role for those members to whom you have not assigned clear roles.

You can further optimise the team structure by separating the focus on the Task (the technical, financial & legal aspects) and the Relationship (long term, people focus) elements of the negotiation.

2. Cover the Four Pillars of negotiation.

When composing a negotiation team it is important that you think about the contributions that can be made by potential team members on three different levels:


We all have different preferences when it comes to negotiations. We tend to focus on the elements within the Four Pillars of negotiation (Vision, Value, Process, Relationships) that coincide with our personal preferences. It is therefore important that you select team members in such a way as to ensure that you are adequately addressing each of the Four Pillars.


Just like you have preferences for different elements of the negotiation lifecycle, you will also have varying competencies when it comes to addressing the Four Pillars. Ensure that team members have the necessary competence to cover the role that has been assigned to them.


We know that knowledge does not provide us with any power on its own - it is only when combined with action that knowledge will deliver results. (Think about it - if knowledge delivered results then nobody would be smoking anymore as we all know smoking is detrimental to our health!). It is key to include members in your team that have demonstrated the behaviours required to add value.

3. Team size

Generally speaking, it is better to have a small team rather than a large team. The larger the team, the more complexity associated with managing the team and the longer it will take you to reach agreement.

Use the minimum amount of team members and try to structure the team in such a way that a leader is present (preferably assuming the role of focusing on the Relationship) supported by an individual focusing on the Task elements of the negotiation.

It is often useful for you to have an individual play the role of an observer. In my experience, an observer almost always will share information with you at the end of the negotiations that most team members would have missed purely because they are focused & engaged in the negotiation.

It is good to prepare in a team format where all your stakeholders are included and where you are able to harvest the inputs of all present.

Conversely, it is better to engage in negotiations with as few team members as possible so as to ease the management burden & to ensure a smoother interaction with your counterparties.

It is also interesting to be aware of the impact of team negotiations on time....the more people involved, the longer it will take you to reach agreement & vice versa.

So if you want to reach agreement quickly, restrict the size of your team. If you would like to extend the negotiation time, add some members to your team & invite the other team to follow suit.


Jan Potgieter is the Founder & CEO of Business Negotiation Solutions Limited. To learn how to negotiate, sign up for a FREE 5 day negotiation skills training eCourse by going to

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