The reporting by Reuters here on the apparent bid by NBNK for the bank branches of Lloyd’s Bank tells us a lot about how deal making is viewed by the media.

We are told that NBNK has reputedly bid up to £1.5 billion for the 630 branches, and that’s about it. This reflects a common misconception that the only thing that is important about getting a deal done is the “content” of the deal (in this case the price). In fact the content is often the least important factor in getting the deal done. Other factors are much more important, none of which are covered in this piece. What is the state of mind of both parties? For example do they want to negotiate? Do they care what the other side wants? Are they negotiating from a position of confidence?

How about the process of the negotiation? There are normally at least 4 stages of a negotiation before the “bidding” stage which is reported here:

1. Have both sides “prepared” properly? What are their likely bottom lines? Who is on the teams and what roles are they likely to play? What is the balance of bargaining power between the parties? What are their styles as negotiators?

2. What is the “climate” of the negotiation? Is it warm, cold, hostile or wacky? Different types of climate suit different negotiations.

3. What are the emotional “needs” on both sides? – Reassurance? Respect? Achievement? A sense of belonging? Desperation? These needs underpin the outcome of any negotiation. If they are not met there is no deal.

4. What is the “coinage” available on both sides? These are concessions which have a low value to one party but a very high value to the other because they meet an emotional need. “Coinage” is the currency that gets deals done.

So, just knowing the price that NBNK has offered doesn’t really tell us much about the prospects for getting a deal done. If the kind of background described above doesn’t get reported it’s because journalists don’t attach importance to it, and because generally the participants in deals may not attach importance to it either. When you consider this, it is perhaps not surprising that big deals of this kind fail to get done just as often as they are completed. If all that is focused on is “price” than that is a somewhat one-dimensional approach to negotiation.