Power is a fundamental aspect of every negotiation.  Power determines options.  If you have it, you have more options.  So how can you change the balance of power?
Power is made of of two essential ingredients
  1. Time – if you have more time than the other party, you have the ability to increase your options, you have more power.
  2. Circumstance – extenuating factors effecting the parties’ level of need or desperation.

Change either the time or circumstance and you change the value of everything.  There are countless examples of case studies where parties have drastically changed the balance of power by introducing or changing these two factors.  Two pristine examples:

  1. Sinclair Broadcast Group leveraging the Superbowl against cable operator Mediacom in 2007
  2. Disney doing the same with the Academy Awards against cable operator Time Warner in 2010

While the other party’s circumstance is controlled by external influences such as branding, precedents, market conditions, nature of the product or service, relationships both existing and not, corporate objectives, etc., there are elements that you can influence through your actions as you execute the negotiation.  The key is understanding that perception is reality!  While it sometimes takes years to change and influence some of the external forces, there are laws you can invoke when appropriate to change the perception today.  I call these laws, the laws of perception.  Pay attention to what’s appropriate given the style of negotiation.

  1. Law of Reciprocity – The natural give and take of any negotiation.  If you want someone to do something, you do it first, increasing the probability that they will follow.  By acting first you direct the focus of the discussion and put yourself in charge.  There is power from motion and control.
  2. Law of Authority – Plan out how, when, and why you will escalate discussions within the other organization.  Also, plan how, when, and why you will disempower yourself and escalate discussions internally.
  3. Law of Legitimacy – The law of the written word.  The credibility of the source of information is dependent upon the source’s motives.  Formal documents, national media, published guidelines (treaties), etc. tend to elevate credibility.
  4. Law of Difference – Encompasses any set of skills or competencies that allow you a competitive advantage.  This is about how you are able to identify that skill and value it as a trading variable.  Repackaging the trading terms to incorporate intangibles or competitive advantages.
  5. Law of Scarcity – Making value (variable/issues) difficult to obtain increases its value to the other party.  If you simply give value unilaterally (for free), you lose the ability to trade for something of equal or greater value to you.  Your actions decrease the value of that item.  Always trade conditionally, ensuring that the cost is less than the value generated to you, and ideally the cost to the other party is equal or less than the value they receive.
An excellent quote on the law of scarcity:

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.” – Thomas Paine

I’d love to hear of any stories or case studies that you have that demonstrate these laws.  Post a comment below.