Take a quick look at the news these days and you might think negotiation has become a lost art.
But you’d be wrong. Politicians may bluster and posture, acting tough and refusing to budge, but in the real world, business people of all political persuasions know you rise or fall according to what you negotiate.
And let’s be clear – negotiation does not mean stating your demands over and over again. Negotiation is all about compromise, and let’s clarify something else – compromise does not mean the other guy gives in to what you want.
But negotiation is all about establishing a pool of common interests. Once that’s done, it’s easier to swap in and out the pieces the differing negotiating parties hold dear. You give up some things, you get some others. Your negotiating partner gets some wins and so do you. And you both end up addressing the common interests you identified earlier.
Children understand this instinctively. No one really wants some kid to take the ball and go home, so a whole host of trades are put in action beforehand. Maybe someone gets a first turn at bat, a chance to ride that cool bike and a piece of gum, or something like that…
In any event, negotiation can be a wonderful, creative and satisfying process. It’s terribly important in the workplace, whether you’re working out compensation terms, managing a major project, buying and selling or deciding what to do for the office party. Here are some tips to make you a negotiation ace:
- Be serious – and realistic. Start with a commitment to the process, and the understanding you’re not necessarily going to get everything you want.
- Know the other. Use the process to find out what the other party’s limits are. What’s the most they’ll give up? The least they’ll accept?
- Know yourself, too. Don’t even go into the meeting unless you’re crystal clear about your position. Be sure of what you want, what you’ll offer and what you’ll give up. If you’re negotiating on behalf of others, be sure you have the necessary sign-offs and authority to make deals.
- Set priorities. By now you know everything you want, but you know you won’t get everything. Rank your items, and identify potential deal breakers. Then try to find a way around them.
- Be ready to explain, and justify. Assemble evidence to support the different items on your wish list. For example, if you’re negotiating over the cost of a product, be able to show what it costs you to make it – or how much you can charge for it.
- Stay within bounds. A great way to scope out what the other party can do, and to set your own rates, is to look at averages for the field and your community. For example, charging big city rates for services in a small city market could result in sticker shock. You’re more likely to be successful in your negotiations if you’re asking for something the other party could reasonably have expected.
- Come in with options. Here’s where the art of negotiation gets downright creative. For example, when discussing compensation, don’t limit yourself to wages, insurance benefits and vacation time. Bring other possibilities with you into the negotiations, such as flex time, work at home options, company phones and computers, training opportunities, mentoring services, and travel perks.
- Speak the same language. And I’m not talking about international business here, either. Business organizations all operate within a certain value system, and your negotiations will be more effective if it seems like you’re working in the same one. For example, your sales call on a non-profit collective with an all-female staff will not go too well if you walk in and ask to speak to “The guy in charge…” (true story).
- Don’t let it drag. Sometimes negotiations don’t have to be as long or as complicated as we make them. Even if you haven’t used all your talking points or your clever options, if you think the other party is ready to agree, go for it. It’s never too early to take yes for an answer.
What are some of your favorite negotiating tips?
by Danielle Dresden