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What Makes a Good Negotiator?

A number of studies identify characteristics of a good negotiator. Ikle defined a good negotiator as one having a “quick mind but unlimited patience, know how to dissemble without being a liar, inspire trust without trusting others, be modest but assertive, charm others without succumbing to their charm, and possess plenty of money and a beautiful wife while remaining indifferent to all temptations of riches and women” (Ikle 1964). A marketer’s personality and social behavior are of equal importance to social contacts and formal negotiation in many emerging countries.

Depending upon their behavior, negotiators are often grouped into different categories, such as bullies, avoiders or acceptors. Bullies want to threaten, push, demand or attack. Avoiders like to avoid conflicting situations and hide in fear of making a wrong decision or being held responsible. They will normally refer to their superiors for a final decision, “I have to call my head office.

. Acceptors always give a very positive answer and say “Yes” to almost anything, which makes it difficult to realize which “Yes” is “Yes” and which “Yes” is “Maybe”, and whether they will be able to deliver what they are promising or not. The best way to handle these behavior types is to first identify them and then confront them by drawing a limit, helping them feel safe and by asking them how and when they would be able to do what they are promising.


It is essential to know the negotiators’ precise authority. In Eastern Europe and China, one team may negotiate one day, followed by a fresh team the next day. When this process is repeated a number of times, it becomes very difficult for negotiators to establish who is the negotiating party and who has the final authority. One of the characteristics of a good negotiator is the ability to discover the timetable of the other party and allow plenty of time for the negotiation process.

It is usually not feasible to expect to fly to a distant country, wrap things up and be home again in a week. Nor is it reasonable to coerce a party that is not ready to reach a decision. Negotiations with emerging market customers take a long time! Patience and time are the greatest assets a negotiator can have while negotiating with customers from these markets. Some negotiators take their time, discussing all issues and justifying their role through tough negotiations.

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