Would you agree that your success, in business and in life, is determined by your ability to successfully ask for, and get, what you want? It may have begun when you first asked for a cookie. Today, you may be asking for a $50,000 contract or a higher discount on supplies. The principles are the same.
Yet I find people often miss the mark. Clients tell me that they fear negotiations will result in anger, so they never even ask for what they want. Or their negotiations bring about a stalemate. In every instance, we find that four specific keys are missing.
Good negotiation skills can actually increase your credibility, your communication and your business. These simple steps will make all the difference:
- Begin with a clear understanding of what you want from the negotiation. Dig below the surface. If you are negotiating for a higher sale price or a discount, you could get stuck on a line item; instead, consider the total picture. What gets you the highest return? Are there tax considerations? Are there costs the other side could absorb? Are there other requests such as timing, financing or down payments to consider? Understand WHY you want what you say you want. Creativity could result in getting a vacation at the end of a conference – with your client picking up the travel cost to the event. Or you might take an equity interest in a company as part of your compensation for potential long-term return. When you recognize your short- and long-term objectives, you are in the best position to negotiate.
- State your intention for a win-win negotiation up front. Remove any potential adversarial positioning by addressing it clearly. You might say, “I want to discuss some additional areas where I would like to see changes. My intention is that we reach an agreement that is unquestionably fair to both of us. Is that OK?” Get agreement for the discussion and the ground rules for openness and fairness before proceeding.
- Ask questions to elicit the underlying needs of the other party. As you probably discovered in the first step, there may be many important points requiring discussion. If you were negotiating to purchase real estate, you might ask what the sellers intended to do with the money. Knowing whether they had already purchased another home, or whether they wanted ongoing cash flow from an investment, would dictate entirely different approaches to handling the transaction. Keep asking questions until you have a very good understanding of what will satisfy their needs. You are then ready for the next step.
- Be flexible in meeting both parties’ needs while making small concessions. If you have done the first three steps, you now have a significant list of possibilities…and it is time to be creative. Do you have services or connections that would assist the other party? Can you offer discounts or timing flexibility? Be prepared to expand beyond your original request. Make small concessions one at a time in order to keep the conversation moving forward. Never give your final offer until you have already conceded many small points. Why? If you give a final offer without first realizing that you are giving something valuable, you may reach an early impasse. And it is entirely possible that by using this method, you will reach an agreement far more favorable to you than you originally imagined – while also satisfying the other party.
By following the four keys above, you will enjoy significantly greater success in negotiations. However, if either party is doing one of the following, the negotiation has little chance to succeed.
FATAL APPROACHES IN NEGOTIATION
- Fixating on the impossible. There are times that a past event becomes an issue. Perhaps a deadline has passed, or an event was ruined. In a recent negotiation, the mother of the bride repeated the statement that her daughter was crying on her wedding day. It is important to acknowledge that YOU CAN’T CHANGE THE PAST. The point of negotiation is to agree to something that is in the present and carries forward. Both parties must agree to consider only the options available at this point. Fixation on the past can be a no-win tactic because it puts greater emphasis on the currency of emotion.
- Negotiating for power or pain. In divorces or other emotionally charged situations, there is often little possibility of a win-win outcome, because one or both parties care only about bringing pain to the other side. Money is simply a vehicle for distributing the hurt – and as a result, no one can really win. If you find yourself in this situation, go back to step one. Get to the bottom of what you really want and encourage the other party to do the same.
Mastering these principles requires great introspection, listening skills and clear communication. But they can make you a skilled negotiator. Not only that, skilled negotiations can increase the confidence that people place in you.