The more you know about the person you are negotiating with, the better. And the sooner you find out, the better. As you cannot believe everything your negotiating partner says, you should get all the necessary information through other channels. Thus, the question is: What can you do to obtain all the desired information?
Professional negotiators prepare intensively for a negotiation. Knowledge is power. Knowledge about negotiating partners is also a sign of valuing them. Only somebody who is really interested will take the time and energy to prepare thoroughly. There are good opportunities for obtaining information even before starting to negotiate:
1. The Internet
The Internet allows you to find out what is really important to the company. For example, if a high level of customer satisfaction or excellent business recommendations are shown, these are already handy arguments for the negotiation. Company newsletters, publications and press reports will allow you to recognize the positioning communicated to the outside world. You will also receive information about the latest changes in human resources management. There may have been a change in the staff that may be important to know for your negotiation.
Regardless of the source, what is important for you is to get as much information as possible about the company or the negotiating partner.
2. Ask their employees
Maybe you already know some employees of your new negotiating partner? If so, just call them and ask for the information you need. Experience shows that this information will be provided gladly if sincere and honest interest is shown, because after all you are not asking about confidential documents but requesting information that you need for a professional negotiation. If you do not know anyone in the company, you can call anyway. Talk to the secretary of your negotiating partner and explain the situation. You will be amazed how positively your request for information will be received in most circumstances. Also, try to forge relationships with informants inside the other company.
3. Observe your negotiating partner
It is also possible to have your negotiating partner observed to gain information.
Rockefeller came up with a good way of observing his negotiating partners in New York. After a negotiation, he would accompany his guests to the elevator, saying goodbye to them and returning to his office. A young man in worker’s overalls would “accidentally” appear and go down in the elevator together with the guests. The young man would then walk some distance to the street, where the guests would take a taxi. Afterwards he would tell his boss about the conversation between the guests, who had felt completely unobserved.
This method of obtaining information is very popular with the police. Nowadays, with the profusion of television police dramas, everybody knows how undercover agents work. They get a completely new identity, a new name, new ID cards, a different home and a new job. This pretended life, known in technical jargon as “legend”, is so complete and believable that it is impossible to tell that you are dealing with an undercover agent. However, it should be noted at this point that observation by undercover agents can only be ordered by a judge.
If you want to obtain information, please obey the law. Your negotiating partner must agree to being filmed or sound-recorded. Otherwise you will be liable to prosecution!