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Strategies and Tactics in International Business Negotiations

Ramond Saner We have now staked out the framework for a successful negotiation. We know our needs. We know exactly what we want. We also have an idea what our negotiation partner wants of us, and what we can offer him. To put all this together in a single package will require considerable patience, creativity and cooperation.

First of all, we need to make a careful decision about strategy and tactics. These are familiar terms, but what exactly is the difference between them? And above all, which of them is the more important? Strategy and Tactics Both are necessary, but a clear distinction needs to be made between them. Strategy is the overall guideline, indicating the direction we need to take from our wishes and needs to our objectives.

If, given a set of specific interests and objectives, we choose the wrong strategy, we will be setting a wrong course from the very start. We would then be very lucky to get where we want to go. Tactics, on the other hand, always follow after strategy, fleshing it out with a concrete line of action. If strategy is the thought, then tactics are its formulation.

If we are going to get our message across, both will be necessary — but the thought comes before the word. Tactics should not be directly oriented towards the objectives, but towards the strategy. For this reason they may sometimes take an unexpected turn, which may appear to be at odds with the general direction we are going. But as long strategy has been served, the choice of tactic will have been a good one.

Nor is the shortest route necessarily the best — sometimes we first need to overcome an obstacle, or work our way around it. Any tactic is suitable, as long as it achieves its aim — ideally of course with the smallest possible expenditure of time and effort. Tactical action is considerably more flexible that strategy in this regard: it is also correspondingly more versatile and adaptable to changing conditions.

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