Take Aim When Negotiating
Negotiating is a critical business skill. Here’s help improving your abilities in this area.
By Susan Friedmann
1. Know Your Needs. Skilled negotiators start with a detailed plan of exactly what they need from their negotiations. Why not follow their lead? ?Take plenty of time to thoroughly understand what you want and need from the potential supplier. Formulate lists of items that you’re willing to compromise and concede if necessary. Know your budgetary constraints and how they will effect your discussions.
2. Do Your Research. Doing research is a key strategy in your negotiating arsenal. Find out as much as you possibly can about your potential supplier. Know what your business is worth to them. Understand their business – the peaks and valleys. ? The more they want your business during a slow period, the greater your negotiating clout.
3. Rehearse Your Opening. Your opening words set the tone for the discussions that follow. Just like an actor with his opening lines, the first words out of your mouth set the stage for the rest of the performance. Make certain that you know exactly what it is you want to say. Craft the words so that your message is clear and concise. Then spend time rehearsing your lines. You want your opening conversation to be word perfect.
4. Ask Powerful Questions. Asking powerful questions is an essential skill for every negotiator. It not only provides you with strong information on which to build your case, but it also creates opportunities for breakthroughs in your discussions. Questions are the most powerful search engine to help you tap into critical information and make evaluations and final decisions. But, like everything else, they need planning. Each question you ask directs the action that follows it. Take the time to map out what questions you need to ask to get the results you want from your negotiations.
5. Become an Information-Monger. Even though you’re asking powerful questions to get some heavy-duty information from your opponent, you want to continually be probing for more. Listen to what’s being offered and at every opportunity, be curious and ask for clarification and more information. Become an information-monger, never being satisfied until you have exactly what it is you want from the discussions.
6. Be a Champion Listener. So much of successful negotiating comes as a result of great listening. Listening to what people do and don’t say. People often tell you a lot about themselves. The problem is that we just don’t hear them because we’re so caught up in our own thoughts. When you take time to listen to people, they’ll tell you about their positions, problems, qualities, likes and dislikes. And, you don’t even have to ask them. They do it naturally just in the way they talk. ? Listen for any sense of urgency to close the deal. Perhaps they want your business to fill quotas. We were given two ears and one mouth; use them in that ratio to help your deal-making.
7. Create a Positive Mood. Negotiating in a friendly and congenial atmosphere helps create a more receptive mood. Set the stage with some “getting to know you” talk. Make direct eye contact as you speak to your potential supplier. Tell them one or two personal stories that they might relate to. Your goal is to establish an atmosphere of trust and honesty. Don’t just jump straight into your negotiating babble. Rather, take time to develop a friendly rapport so that your opponent feels comfortable speaking with you. You’ll both work together more productively in a relaxed environment.
8. Be Prepared to Walk Away. This incredibly potent strategy is possibly one of the hardest for negotiators to actually implement. How it works: when you really want something badly enough, and you aren’t happy with your opponent’s offer, you simply walk away from the negotiating table. One of two things can happen. One, your opponent will concede to your wishes, or, two, your opponent will let you go your own way. Remember that if you want to use this strategy, have a second potential supplier “in the wings.” If you don’t, you’ll likely be left out in the cold fending for yourself. ???
9. Know the Styles. Read any book on negotiating and you’ll quickly learn that there are many different styles and techniques to help you through the negotiating minefield. ? Make a point of familiarizing and learning ones that fit your style of doing business. In addition, learn about the different behavioral styles, what kind of information they need, and how they approach negotiating. For example, an analytical type needs tons of data to help in the decision-making process, whereas a more controlling, dominant type only want the facts. Recognize people’s differences and use them to your advantage—it’s all part of the negotiation game!
10. Exercise Silence. The old saying “silence is golden” is particularly true around the negotiating table. Negotiating mavens know that when discussing a deal, the first to speak loses. To be successful, it’s not wise to dominate the conversation. In fact, the more you talk, the more information you’re supplying your opponents. So exercising silence will help prevent you spewing out unnecessary stuff. Your silence will also help create the perception that you are a thoughtful and methodical decision-maker.
Susan Friedmann is author of the book “Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies” and owner of The Tradeshow Company, offering consulting services for meetings and trade shows. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.