By Neil King
We offer a few tips to help you feel more confident when sitting down at the negotiating table.
Negotiations are part of business. Whether it’s negotiating a salary, negotiating a deal, negotiating with clients and customers, or even negotiating a parking space outside your office, it’s part and parcel of your life as a business owner.
It’s a combination of persuasion, logic, rhetoric, debate, concession, demand, brokerage, and more, and there is without doubt a certain skill to mastering it.
From souks and spice routes to cyberspace and Silicon Valley, negotiation is a long-standing and vital part of entrepreneurship and business.
So, how exactly do you do it?
Of course some people are naturals and can negotiate as if it’s their second nature. But for those who aren’t, here are a few suggestions to get you started.
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
Obvious though it sounds, be sure to know your goals.
Prepare a list of what you want from the negotiation and commit it to memory so that you can maintain a focus on the things that matter most to you.
There will be some things that you won’t be willing to budge on, and some things that you will be willing to concede, so be clear in your own mind about which is which.
It’s also worth researching all possible outcomes before starting the negotiation. That way you will know whether you would be happy with a variety of different scenarios, and the exercise might help you direct the negotiations more confidently, steering them away from unfavourable outcomes.
You will also be more attuned to knowing what would cause you to walk away.
When sitting down at the negotiating table, try to set the tone. Don’t be afraid to ask for the things that you want, and back up your reasons for wanting them.
Negotiations are a two-way street, so listen to what your counterpart has to say.
Not only will this build trust and respect between you, but you may also be surprised to hear what they are telling you. There’s always a chance that they will offer you something you hadn’t considered.
Don’t write off their terms without good reason, and if you have to argue the toss, make sure you have understood their position so that you can counter it. You might even be able to use what they are saying to frame your ‘wants’ as ‘solutions’ to their obstacles.
If you listen attentively you will also be able to ask questions that encourage the other side to either defend their position or consider your position more carefully. And if they can’t answer your questions, then the power shifts in your favour.
Remember that the other side has aims, goals, problems, desires, and so on. They will be looking for the best outcome for them, just as you are looking for the best outcome for you. So be respectful of that.
This doesn’t mean ‘be weak’ – on the contrary, you should remain confident and assure – but it does mean that you should treat the other person well. Don’t lie, don’t con them, and don’t double-cross them. Is that the kind of business person you really want to be?
You may need to work with these people again, perhaps even regularly, so look for a win-win solution if you can.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Negotiations can often take longer than you’d think. Don’t expect a quick agreement – if you think a deal will be done in one short, sharp meeting, you might be disappointed. You might also become frustrated, which isn’t a good thing in a negotiation situation.
Allow the other person the time they need (within reason) and trust that they will do the same for you. Don’t be upset if your negotiations run over a series of meetings – even if it’s not what you expected, it might be a benefit to you, allowing you to collect your thoughts, refine your strategy, and remember why exactly you’re negotiating in the first place.
Don’t be rushed into a conclusion. If you feel pressured, ask for some time. It is a tactic of some negotiators to put time constraints on the other person, hurrying them into a quick and lop-sided agreement. Don’t let this happen to you.
KNOW THE AUDIENCE
Research the negotiator on the other side of the table. Not necessarily in-depth, but at least try to gauge their personality. What kind of negotiator are they? What might appeal to them? What concessions might they be willing to make?
If you have even a slight understanding of the other person, then you can be more confident in your approach. Try to imagine how they view you and your aims. How do you come across to other people during a negotiation?
They might be the kind of person who likes to brainstorm, they might be put off by an aggressive pitch, they might have done similar deals in the past to the one you’re seeking, or they might be susceptible to an emotional story. Knowing any of these things can help you.