How to master the fine art of negotiation
By Jeffrey Mayer
Every day, you and I are negotiating with other people. Some of these negotiations are big and important, but the majority are just day-to-day living. For example, when my daughter comes home from school, she wants a can of soda. I say no and offer her some apple juice. She says she wants grape juice. I pour it for her.
When my wife comes in, we have our usual discussion about what to eat for dinner. She wants Japanese. I want a hamburger, and my daughter wants Chinese. We settle on Mexican.
Know what you want
Before you get into any negotiation, you must know what it is you want. If you're in sales, when a customer asks for a lower price, don't just cut your price without getting something in return. Perhaps you can get the customer to increase the size of his order. Maybe you can change the payment terms and get a larger deposit or even a prepayment. Or maybe you can change the scheduled delivery dates.
When you're able to introduce a number of variables into a negotiation - some very important, others of lesser importance - the probability that you'll be able to close a deal is greatly increased.
See the other person's point of view
Once you begin negotiating, get into the other person's shoes. Put yourself in his place. Look at the situation from the other person's point of view:
- What does he want and/or need?
- What is important to him?
- What are his goals?
- What are his objectives and priorities?
When you know the answers to these questions, you'll be in a much better position to find a mutually agreeable solution or resolution to the situation or problem. Once these issues have been laid out on the table, they can then be discussed, negotiated and resolved one by one.
Here are some tips that will help you in any negotiation:
- Identify the key issues and areas of concern. On a pad of paper, make a list of each item that is important to you and each item that is important to the other person.
- Look for points of agreement. Study your lists and look for areas of agreement or similarities in your positions. Once you find areas of agreement, you can build upon them. Your goal is to get the other person to start saying YES. The more YESes you get, the greater the likelihood that you'll come to an agreement. Get other people to say YES enough times, and they'll start to embrace your position as they begin to give up their own.
Listen to what the other person is saying, and ask additional questions. Let the other person talk himself out of objections. As he talks, you listen. Ask more questions. Listen. And then ask more questions still.
- Identify the specific points on which you don't agree. Write down each of these points on a pad of paper. Record where each of you stands on every point. How far apart are you on each of these items? Try to understand why the two of you differ.
- Look for more options. Look for new options or solutions that can help the person achieve the results he is looking for. If you ask enough questions, you will find that there are things that are important to the other person that aren't very important to you. And there will be things that are important to you that aren't very important to the other person. So trade an unimportant item for an important item. Your objective is to create the opportunity for each of you to get what you want so you both walk away winners.
- Plant seeds. The best way to get the things you want is to make the other person think, feel or believe the idea was his idea - that the solution to this problem was his solution.
You can do this casually and subtly by planting seeds in the person's mind so you can get him thinking about the situation. Talk about the things he wants, and then show him how to get them. This is a very effective way to influence people.
- Develop trust. Trust makes communication possible. Trust implies accountability, predictability and reliability. Be honest about how you feel on every issue under negotiation.
- Lighten up. Humor is a very powerful negotiating tool. It's disarming, it lightens a highly charged atmosphere, and it can be very helpful in cutting or reducing tension. Often the use of humor can strengthen your hand.
- Think things over. Give yourself time to think. In most situations it isn't necessary to make an immediate decision. When you give yourself time to think things through, you can weigh the pros and cons of the issues being discussed. In addition, you'll be able to judge the impact one item may have upon another.
You may also want to schedule another meeting to discuss these items further. This gives each of you an opportunity to think about the other's positions and areas of concern.
- Thank the person for his interest. If he weren't interested, the person wouldn't be involved in a conversation, discussion or negotiation. He would have just walked away.
- Know when to say, "No deal." When you know what you want, you're in a position to determine what results would constitute a fully acceptable resolution to the discussion or negotiation. If in the end you're unable to resolve the issues so that you - and presumably the other person - feel good about the decisions that have been made, then it's best to walk away and say, "No deal."
Make everybody feel like a winner
As you go through life, try to make everybody with whom you come in contact feel like a winner. Follow this approach and you'll find that all of your business and personal relationships are mutually beneficial and satisfying. You'll eliminate confrontation and work together with your colleagues, co-workers, customers, clients, suppliers and everybody else in a collaborative manner as you try to achieve a common goal.
With this attitude you become collaborators instead of competitors. You're working together as friends who want to achieve a common goal. And when the discussions are over, everybody should feel good about the mutual decisions that have been made.
Jeffrey Mayer, president of Chicago-based SucceedingInBusiness.com, works with business professionals who want to grow their businesses, make more money and live their dreams.