When we believe we’ve identified a potential collaboration partner, our initial thoughts tend to be about strategizing to gain an early advantage in the negotiations. It’s known as a Power Play. I beg to differ however, because any successful collaboration between companies has to be based on the average win-win for both parties. My own initial concerns about working with another company are based on three early questions I want answers to:
- I’ve got to learn as much as possible about the person with whom I’ll be working and/or negotiating with
- I’ve got to learn as much about that person’s company
- I’ve got to learn about the company’s circumstances, vis-à-vis their needs and desires that have brought them to the negotiating table
Who am I dealing with? I want to get a feel for the person I’ll be negotiating with – I want to know things like how long they’ve been in our industry, how long have they been in their present job, is this person the final decision maker or a rung on the ladder, is the project we’re discussing within his or her scope of work?
Similarly, I want to know about how their company is prepared to move forward. Do they do projects like we’re discussing, what kind of organization do they run, how will this collaboration define their market share or market penetration, what in fact is their current position in the marketplace?
And finally, why are they discussing a collaboration project or hiring my company? What has led them to want to undertake this collaborative project, what are they hoping to gain, what are their expectations? And how will they measure success?
I try to keep my initial questions more general in nature. I don’t like to come across as aggressive, especially when you are more likely to build resistance instead of collaborating to find a win-win situation. As I get to know the company and individuals better, and as I get a better understanding of their needs and desires, I’m in a better position to stake some negotiating points that are equally beneficial from my perspective.
In closing, my advice is to treat the unknown (the early stages of exploring a collaborative process or business arrangement) as a potential opportunity, not a threatening encounter. Do your due diligence and figure out who you’re dealing with, what they are as a company, and what is motivating them to want to partner with you. Don’t spend your initial preparation time determining how to sell a deal. Spend that time identifying exactly who your potential partner is.