How to Manage Your Negotiating Team

Posted: 8 Jun 2012 Last revised: 20 Nov 2012

Date Written: 2009


You are leading a negotiating team for your company. When you sit down with the other party, someone on your side of the table blurts out: "Just tell us-what do we need to do to get more of your business?" And in that moment, you know you've lost the upper hand. Gaffes like this are more common than most businesspeople would care to admit, management professors Brett, Friedman, and Behfar have found in their research. Even though team members are all technically on the same side, they often have different priorities and imagine different ideal outcomes: Business development just wants to close the deal. Finance is most concerned about costs. Legal is focused on patents and intellectual property. The authors recommend taking four steps, either singly or in tandem, to align those goals: Map out each person's priorities, work out conflicts directly with departments, employ a mediator if that doesn't work, and use data to resolve differences. Once you are all on the same page, you can take steps to make sure everyone is coordinated during the negotiations themselves. Try simulating the negotiation beforehand, assigning roles to team members that take advantage of their strengths, and establishing the signals you will use to communicate with one another during the session. The payoff from working as a cohesive group is clear. With access to greater expertise and the ability to assign members to specialized roles, teams can implement more-complex strategies than a sole negotiator could ever pull off.

Suggested Citation

Brett, Jeanne M. and Friedman, Raymond A. and Behfar, Kristin, How to Manage Your Negotiating Team (2009). Harvard Business Review, Vol. 87, No. 9, 2009, Available at SSRN:

Jeanne M. Brett (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-491-8075 (Phone)
847-491-8896 (Fax)

Raymond A. Friedman

Vanderbilt University - Organizational Behavior ( email )

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
615-322-3992 (Phone)
615-343-7177 (Fax)


Kristin Behfar

University of California, Irvine ( email )

Paul Merage School of Business
Irvine, CA California 92697-3125
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics