Most of our successful leaders and entrepreneurs are great negotiators. The skill of negotiation is recognised as one of the important factors in success and yet so few truly of us truly understand what it is that makes a great negotiator.
It is often said that children are great negotiators; they are persistent and return to their objective time and time again, attempting differing angles to win their parents around. From here it often goes wrong as well-meaning parents impose rules and suggest that this constant negotiation is both bad manners and plain naughty!
Recovering from childhood scaring we recognise that negotiations are a fact of life, we are constantly negotiating in both our personal and professional lives.
Those that are not strong negotiators tend to fall into one of two camps: the first dislike or avoid negotiating and this can lead to problems in resolving issues or progressing their careers, the second see the first rule of negotiating as the need to “win”.
Both attitudes are problematic the first is both self-defeating and confusing to others and the second is always going to leave behind a bruised “loser” – neither is a good outcome.
There are THREE key strategies to becoming a great negotiator:
Applying these negotiation principles will significantly improve both the quality and success of your future negotiations.
What you bring to the table in terms of your attitude and approach will have a significant bearing on the outcome, you should always:
Show Respect & Trust
See the other team or person as an equal and treat them with the courtesy and respect you would expect, it’s surprising how this opens real discussion.
Listen to what isn’t said
Look carefully at what the other side is really saying, this will tell you what they really want.
Successful negotiators view each key point from multiple perspectives; they are flexible in which points to concede to achieve the end game. Be prepared and willing to change.
Always view the other team as a valuable, respected and long term contact. Armed with this attitude you will never be tempted to “rip off” the other team.
This is the ultimate outcome in any negotiation; it will leave all parties satisfied and lead to productive, successful long term relationships. Sound groundwork, an open mind and a fair approach will find more win-wins than you would at first imagine.
A successful negotiation is usually based upon 3 distinct stages: Preparation, Negotiation and Documentation. Each stage is of equal importance; a great negotiator knows this and allows for it when planning.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” (Benjamin Franklin).
The key to preparation is to place yourself mentally into the other party’s position. Assess where they are at within the negotiation, what they want, what they need and what they can live with. Understand their motivation, perspective and opinions on the topic. What are the minimum conditions they can accept and at what point are they likely “to walk away”.
Define your own goals and objectives, analyse what you must have, what you can concede and where your fall-back position is. Develop several potential options; identify your best possible outcome and your least attractive “fall back” position.
Search for “win-win” solutions
Be relaxed, respectful and most importantly be prepared to really hear what is being said and retain an open mind.
Listen rather than speak, silence is your friend. Search for common points of agreement rather than the differences; agree these early to develop trust and comfort.
After the initial discussion take the initiative and start the actual negotiation by tabling your offer. This initial offer forms a subconscious reference point, a middle ground if you like. If you are buying start low and if you are selling start high.
An excellent tactic is to make multiple offers each with different terms and conditions this demonstrates your flexibility whilst the other party’s response to the choices tells you much about what they really want or need.
Always show “Samurai Sympathy”; that is do not box the other party into a corner from which they cannot escape without a loss of face.
Once you have established the other parties bona fides and you are satisfied they want to reach a genuine solution don’t be afraid to be the first to concede points but do so in a “give and take” scenario. Know what you want to take. Focus on the end point rather than the current position. Being pro-active will build trust and goodwill.
Showing respect for the other party does not mean that you cannot show strength or participate in the theatre of negotiating. If unreasonable demands or proposals are put forward demonstrate your dissatisfaction, show your surprise and your disappointment strongly but do not allow any genuine anger or frustration to develop, remain calm and remain in control.
Don’t be in a hurry, abide by your timetable (especially when buying), confrontations will occur, board approval may need to be sought, lawyers consulted all of which are normal. A great negotiator allows for this, allows time for parties to cool off when discussion becomes overheated. If tension builds, ask if you and your team can have 10 minutes alone to discuss the situation, be pro-active, remain flexible and remember your objective.
In the closing stages of a negotiation the great negotiator seeks a creative solution, they look beyond the box, they expand the available options rather than fight the detail and they stand firm to their position. This is the time to bring everything you have learnt into play in the best win-win solution you can offer.
I have seen people leave a negotiation “pumped-up” by the result and ready to party only to find out a day or two later that the other party has had a “change of mind” and called the deal off.
After reaching agreement around the table it is best to re-iterate the key points of the agreement, hand write them have two copies made and each party sign them off. This isn’t a binding agreement but it is a moral statement.
Confirm the agreement in a written Heads of Agreement and get this document signed within 24 hours of the meeting. The HOA should cover any conditions precedent and a timeline to contracts.
Call the other party as soon as appropriate after the meeting to thank them for their time and professionalism, work with them and strengthen the bonds for the future.
“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate”
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