Skip to content

Understanding Negotiation Roles and Responsibilities

By |July 12, 2021

In every negotiation, there are five distinct roles and responsibilities. 

In an ideal world, you would have five different people playing each of these roles. But in the world of high-stakes negotiations, teams don’t always have that luxury.

Stop making compromises.  Download our guide to negotiating contracts and learn  how to never settle »

In most cases, at least one or two people on the team are going to be pulling double duty, taking care of more than one responsibility on their own.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the five key negotiation roles and responsibilities to give you a better idea of what a full-fledged negotiation team looks like.

1. Primary Negotiator

The primary negotiator is the individual who’s in direct communication with your counterpart. Succeeding in this role requires the ability to demonstrate Tactical Empathy™ to defuse negative emotions and dynamics with ease.

The primary negotiator’s job is to gather information. When the time is right, they facilitate problem-solving resolutions or agreements.

2. Coach

The coach is tasked with monitoring the situation and supporting the primary negotiator to achieve desired outcomes. This individual is also responsible for controlling the environment and removing any distractions.

When the counterpart says something that resonates and is not picked up by the primary, the coach jumps in with Labels™, Mirrors™, and paraphrasing to better demonstrate an understanding of what is important to the other side.

For the best results, the coach should be more knowledgeable about The Black Swan Method™ than the primary. They also need to be well-versed in using CAVIAAR™.

The coach also serves as the conduit between the primary negotiator and the outside world. If the team wants to get info to the primary, they need to go through the coach.

3. Team Leader

The team leader is a senior member who is responsible for the overall negotiation effort. Their job is to monitor the negotiation and provide status, assessments and recommendations to the C-suite if necessary.

This is the person who makes sure that everyone on the team provides input into the strategy itself, creating an environment of inclusion. 

When there are inevitable breaks in the conversation—we’ll get back to you—it’s up to the team leader to develop the strategy the team will use moving forward.

4. Scribe

The scribe’s job is straightforward: maintaining a record of each conversation. This individual does not need to produce a lengthy transcript—short, concise, and accurate notes will suffice.

Very simply, the scribe needs to stay on top of what is being discussed and how each side reacts.

5. Situation Board Representative

Last but not least is the situation board representative. This person jots down essential information on a dry erase board or flip chart, so that everyone else on the team can see and refer to it during the negotiation.

The situation board representative needs to write information down as legibly as possible so that people can absorb it at a glance. This information includes stakes, demands, deal killers, go-to statements, implementation questions, yeses that have been given, and Proof of Life™ questions, among other things. 

How Does Your Team Stack Up?

Ideally, organizations should be able to put anyone in any of these five roles and have them perform at a high level. But in the real world, it doesn’t always work out that way. Some people don’t want to do the talking, and some people don’t want to do the note-taking. That’s just the way it is.

In many instances, you won’t be able to devote one individual to each of these roles. However, it is essential that whenever you sit down at the table, the two most important roles are filled: the primary and the coach. Otherwise, you’re at a disadvantage.

Achieving the best outcomes starts with preparation, but many organizations do not rise to the occasion. To make sure your corporation doesn’t fall into the trap of being underprepared, sign up for our course, Advanced Tools for Tactical Empathy. In this course, you will learn more about how to effectively negotiate in a variety of scenarios.

And for more information on how to get the best negotiation outcomes, check out our free e-book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating Contracts.

negotiating contracts