Technical understanding of a business concept, its revenue model and cost structure are not enough on their own to ensure business success. Money and people are also required, but especially people. Relationships make the world of business function.  As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know but who you know that counts.”

But just knowing other people isn’t enough. The history of commerce and politics is littered with well-known failures. The single most valuable skill in business is the ability to negotiate with people to persuade them to share our vision and help make that vision a reality.

What even some experienced managers and entrepreneurs don’t realize is that negotiation isn’t something that just happens. At least, it doesn’t “just happen” well. The best negotiators view negotiation as a structured dance that can be choreographed to suit specific situations.

While cultural norms and standards vary nationally and regionally, the basic building blocks and process of negotiation are the same across all negotiation settings. Those who know how the system works are more likely to find negotiation tolerable or even enjoyable than those who are unfamiliar with negotiation’s moving parts. More importantly, those who know the parts and effectively harness them are more likely than others to enjoy consistent negotiating success.

The accompanying presentation, Negotiation in Brief,* hits the high points of negotiation and influence principles examined in more detail by G. Richard Shell, Robert Cialdini and Michael Watkins in their books and articles. This Primer serves as the introduction to a semester-long MBA negotiation course that I teach at the Coles College of Business two or three times each year.

Some transactions — and nearly all business enterprises — involve significant negotiation that can become more productive and rewarding through focused, strategic evaluation and planning.  This is particularly true of multilateral negotiations involving controversial or hotly contested subject matter.

It is always helpful to get the perspective of others on a topic as important as negotiation.  Some of my favorite works on negotiation are identified in the attached document, Negotiation Readings.

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*La presentación sobre negociación tambien se encuentra aquí en español.