( Photo courtesy Mike Mauti )

You know your company well. In fact, many people might consider you an expert on the elements of your business that put you at the head of the pack in your corner of the industry. 

You know elements of your business that are so important that if your trading partner on the other end of the negotiating table knew about them, the deal could be signed and sealed within a matter of minutes. Despite that, you do not mention this vital information while negotiating. 

Have you been at that table before? I have. And in one of my negotiation workshops a participant asked me, “Why wouldn’t you give the information?” The answer to that question is simple — sort of. 

At that moment, in the heat of the negotiation, I just could not remember if that information was privileged inside information or information that has been released and ready for public consumption. If it was privileged and I divulged it to an outsider, it could have cost me my job. In that moment I played it safe and didn’t mention it, most likely to the detriment of the deal I was negotiating that day. 

Although not my best negotiating day, I am one to find the silver lining in most things. To that end, I learned a valuable lesson which formed the basis for one of the rules discussed during the workshops: "Know what you can disclose about your company." 

Chances are your org has one or more exciting assets, capabilities or products that make you unique. These elements could be the final piece of the puzzle required to seal the deal. It is in your best interest to know which of these exciting elements can be used as negotiating tools and which must remain for privileged ears.

The solution to this problem is simply to inform yourself. When you learn of a new company development, ask the question: “Is this something to tell our trading partners when negotiating?” 

Not only will this question inform you on whether you can disclose the information, it will also inform the people in the room that you are proactively planning your next negotiation. It never hurts to have company people who are in the know, to recognize that you are keen to improve the org’s negotiating position and are on the lookout for new tools to do just that.

Getting caught flat-footed and not knowing what you can and cannot divulge is equally likely to happen to both produce sellers and produce buyers. So not matter what side of the table you sit on make sure you inform yourself and know what you can disclose about your company. 

It could very well make the difference between a good negotiating day and a bad one. 

Mike Mauti is the managing partner of Toronto-based Execulytics Consulting. E-mail him at [email protected].

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