The Blue Star Strategic Negotiating Framework


A. The Seven Step Strategy, a Placard

1)  Prepare -understand their position, concerns and options

2)  Listen - attentively

3)  Ask many questions - patiently

4)  Cautiously deliberate before making any first move or offer

5)  Allocate concessions by measured trading (not unilaterally)

6)  Risk & Reality check - on satisfaction (for all parties)

7)  Doable deal or Decisively walk away (to your considered alternative)


Seven Step Placard Notes


1) Preparation – an acronym approach to preparation and planning is presented below in B. The Framework.

The negotiating style needs to be adapted to the circumstances and the culture. Good-hearted, open, cooperative “win/win” facing a cutthroat shyster litigator from New York may be suicidal. Hard-nosed, obdurate “win/lose” tactics facing highly ethical and extremely conscientious Saudi Arabian or Japanese officials is an equally unlikely prescription for success.


2) Listening - especially active listening is hard to do when one is also thinking of how to couch one’s answer. More common in Asia than in the U.S. and Europe is to have in team negotiations a “designated listener.” This is often the elderly gentleman in the back who takes notes, so quietly that he fades away into the background and is hardly noticed at all. He hardly ever speaks, never interrupts during negotiations. Frequently he is a senior decision maker.


3) Asking – From experience in over thirty countries, asking questions is a negotiating imperative overriding cultural differences. Lack of knowledge may help win a battle (“fools rush in where angels fear to tread”), but is unlikely to win a war – let alone lead to building a solid business relationship. Yet “asking questions” – the right ones, in the right way – is often underestimated, regardless of culture. Why?

    First, humans naturally take a subjective viewpoint in a negotiation.  We are more oriented towards convincing the other parties of the validity of our, of course completely reasonable, position, than in trying to understand their position. When their position is stated, we give it our divided attention, because half our energy is devoted to preparing our counter-statement, even as they speak.

    A corollary is that when asked a question, we tend to answer too fast, spontaneously, above all if we feel we are being challenged.

Second, both parties tend to neglect follow-on questions. Asking “why” once is unlikely to get to the root of an issue. Cascading “why” and “what if” questions are far more likely to lead to resolving issues, breaking deadlocks, creative structuring and lasting deals.


4) Cautiously make the first move, or offer.  A standard admonition in negotiating books and seminars is “do not make the first” move, offer or concession. In a “win/lose” negotiation this advice may well be worth heeding. In “win/win” this attitude can be counter-productive, see  the subpage “Three Negotiating Myths."


5) Allocating by measured concessions is vividly presented with colors in The New Negotiating Edge, Gavin Kennedy, Nicholas Berkley, 1998, paperback ( $30).


6) Risk & Reality checks  Focus on satisfaction for all parties. However realize that seeking the “perfect” outcome can be the enemy of achieving “good” promptly.  But that does not imply accepting a marginal deal either, cf. below.


7) Doable deal or Decisively walk away Often people start thinking about BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) only when the negotiation is well underway – and stalling. Considering when to walk, and towards what one will walk as an alternative, is an integral part of preparation, before negotiating begins.

"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."

Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865)


B. The Framework 


Part I. PLANNING: the most neglected phase


1. SPAN (der Span, Späne machen) Macro environment


            S:       Situation of the industry (strategic mapping, profit pools)

                      Situation der Industrie (strategische Kartographie)


            P:         Problem/Opportunity



           A:         Assess its impact on corporate strategy (competitive advantage)

                       Auswirkung auf die strategische Unternehmungsführung (den Wettbewerbsvorteil)


           N:       Needs assessment

                     Notwendigkeiten und Bedürfnisse sondieren


2. SPADA (die Spada) Micro environment


           S:      Select the negotiators, specify the negotiating parameters                                                              

                            Selektion der Unterhändler, Bestimmung der Verhandlungsparameter


           P:      Project (the deal) vs. Process (the on-going business)

                    Projekt (die Vereinbarung) vs. Prozeß (das laufende Geschäft)


           A:      Alternatives and their impact; setting goals

                    Alternativen und deren Auswirkungen; Festlegen der Ziele


           D:      Development of a strategy and deployment of resources

                    Denkansätze für die Verhandlungsstrategie und Decken der Ressourcen dafür


           A:     Action and Aftermath (follow-up)

                   Aktion ausführen, An- und Zukunft


Zielen ist nicht genug, man muß auch treffen!

(Aiming is not enough. You need to hit the target too!)


3. C-CC Consider the Cultural Context


                   - historical influence on the negotiating styles

                      ... the Orient (Japan, China, India, the Middle East)

                      ... the Occident (Greece & Rome; France & Russia)


                   -  the influence hierarchy

                      ... national (Germany vs. U.S.; Japan vs. China) 

                      ... regional (north vs. south; Wall St. vs. Silicon Valley)

                      ... industrial (Ag-business vs. computers; cars vs. clothing)

                      ... corporate (Apple vs. Microsoft; GM vs. BMW)

                      ... division (headquarters vs. skunkworks; accounting vs. sales)

                   - empathy

                      ...self-awareness of one’s own cultural baggage (know thyself)

                      ... an understanding of their cultural baggage


4. C -BC: Consider the Benefit Context 



Y  AXIS                                                                                                                                               

                    (Ngr. low, Co. high)                                                                          (Ngr. high, Co. high)                         destructive conflict                                                                best chance of success

P            abusive pursuit of self- interest                                                                       

O   B                                                                                                                                                                                                       

T   E                                                                                                                                                                       

E   N                                                                                                           

N   E                                       

T   F                                                                   

I    I                 

A  T

L                   (Ngr. low, Co. low)                                                                        (Ngr. high, Co. low)

                  negotiation perceived as irrelevant                                                    destructive conflict

                                                                                                            abusive defense of self-interest

X AXIS – P O T E N T I A L   B E N E F I T  F O R  T H E  C O  M P A N Y  (=   CO.)


5. Id-KFS: Identify the Key Factors for Success 


    What are the key factors for this negotiation in terms of the following: (Acronyms and words marked with an asterisk (*) are explained in the glossary.)

            - management

              ... organization (national, international)

              ... human resources (work force)

              ... strategic fit

              ... competitive response


            - marketing

              ... 5 Ps (Product, Place, Positioning, Promotion, Price)

              ... 4 Cs (Customer value, Communication, Channel management, CRM*)

              ... RMS (Relative Market Share)


            - production

              ... plant and equipment

              ... design capabilities

              ... R & D*, innovation

              ... outsourcing

              ... logistics


            - finance

              ... cash flow

              ... ROI*

              ... stock price


In view of the above, what are the KFS of this negotiation:

             - from our organization’s point of view?

             - from the other party’s point of view?


How will the KFS determine our negotiating strategy?


6. P-ASAP  Plan As Soon As Possible


    A sk questions.                                A cquire information.

    S elect the negotiator(s)                   S et their roles and guidelines

    A lternative generation                     A genda and record keeping

    P lan the negotiation for                   P erformance and profit enhancement.


“The plan is nothing. Planning is everything.” Eisenhower (1890-1969)

Begin planning the negotiation as soon as possible.



Part II. WIN-LOSE: strategy and tactics

    1. SCENARIO generation

            - buyer

            - seller


    2. BATNA determination

            - your own

            - guestimating theirs



            - authority (perception thereof)

            - time (patience and persistence; pushing deadlines; deadlock)

            - money (its value over time – DCF,* IRR,* NPV*)

            - competitive intelligence (the hidden agenda)

            - concessions (demanding and conceding them)

            - reverse auction and other bidding techniques

            - bogeys* and bluffs

            - escalation and walkouts

            - unpleasant plays

               ... Boulwarism*

               ... Cornelian dilemma*

               ... Hobson´s choice*

               ... Morton´s fork*

               ... Sibylline books*

            - last minute nibbles

            - contractual fine print and escape clauses


    4. WARNING

    Careful: Don’t get carried away! There is a fine line between being viewed as harmlessly nibbling or dangerously nocuous.

    Vorsicht, nicht übertreiben! Der Unterscheid dazwischen, als einen Schacher oder als einen Schächer betrachtet zu werden, besteht aus nur einem Umlaut. 


Part III. WIN/WIN: strategy and tactics

    1. RISKS

           - immediate pitfalls

              ... buyer

              ... seller

            - the insidious long term (cultural and political factors)



            - active listening plus

            - needs and wants (buyer and seller)

            - pushing constraints (brainstorming "outside the box")

            - cross-marketing (compatible customers, re-segmenting the market)

            - shared positioning (branding)

            - shared promotion (advertising and public relations)

            - channel management commonalities

            - value chain comparisons

            - consolidating costs (complementary suppliers, logistics)

            - experience curve effects

            - offshoring (capability outsourcing)

            - profit pool commonalities

            - financial options (equity, barter, interlocking boards)


    3. WARNING

    Again, be careful not to get carried away! The intellectual challenge of creating the perfect deal, anticipating every contingency, can get in the way of getting on with the business. Amiable parties can easily amend an imperfect contract to respond to changed circumstances. The “perfect” contract can still result in deadlock if the relationship has degenerated into implacable hostility.


Part IV. FOLLOW UP the second most neglected phase


    1. PROJECT (the negotiation) VS. PROCESS (the on-going business)

            - due diligence

            - closing the deal (contract review)

            - communicating the deal (management buy-in)

            - getting off to a running start (overcoming buyer/seller remorse)


    2. BEST PRACTICES (the firm as a learning organization, institutional memory)

            - establish procedures for concluded negotiations

            ... to publicize internally successful approaches

            ... to learn from mistakes (without “scapegoating”)



            - coping with change

             ... external (business and regulatory environment, political issues)

              ... internal (new CEO, mission, vision, strategy, innovation)

            - quanxi*



            - SNAFU*

            - Mediation

            - Arbitration

            - Litigation