When we realize that virtually every aspect of our business and personal life requires negotiation, the benefit of being a better, more efficient negotiator is clear.
Negotiating skills are not usually part of our formal education, though we use these skills all day, every day. These skills are at the very core of both our professional and personal lives. It doesn’t matter if we run General Motors or the corner snowball stand or our households, we all have to communicate and convince effectively.
What is negotiation, anyway? Negotiating can be explained as simply as “working side by side with other to achieve some beneficial result.” Luckily, it is a practical skill that can be learned. It is not a genetic trait we’re born with, like blue eyes or black hair. So no matter what our age or our position in life, if we develop a certain attitude about negotiating, pay attention to honing our skills, then our life will run smoother.
Some things to remember when developing a negotiating strategy:
- Act collaboratively, not competitively. It is not “me against you.” When we see the other person as a bargaining partner, we are aware that everyone must come away with a benefit. It is a big mistake to think someone is going to give you something for nothing. So try to determine what it is the other person might want, in exchange for what you want. And then present your case to show them that, if they will help you get what you need, you will help them get what they need. Make “Mutual Benefit” your mantra.
- Personalize the situation; deal as individuals, not as institutions or corporations. You are not talking to “the Tchula bank” but to Charlie Smith, the person sitting in front of you, who represents the bank. Flesh and blood Charlie Smith. Realize that you negotiate on behalf of yourself, representing the company. When you see the other person in this light, you are able to look them in the eye.
- Increase your expectations. You usually get what you expect to get. If you don’t think you will get the promotion, you probably won’t. If you don’t think you will land the contract, you probably won’t. There is no way you will put your best effort forward if you think, in the back of your mind, you won’t succeed anyway. So you might as well act as if you expect to get whatever it is you want. You will be pleasantly surprised when you do! You see, when you truly expect to get what it is you are seeking, others see this in you.
- Know what you want. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But surprisingly, there are many times when we go in to a negotiating session saying, “Let’s see what they offer us.” Why let the other person decide what you will get? Nobody knows your business or your life as you do. Being able to state specific proposals gives you strength.
- Stay focused on the real issues. Decide what you absolutely want to come away with; what extra’s it would be nice to come away with; and what you can do without if you need to give them up to reach an agreement. Why do you need to determine these things in advance? Because in the “heat of battle” you won’t be able to focus on these issues so easily, and you could be very surprised at what you didn’t get or at what you gave away.
- Prepare. Do you homework; thoroughly research the person or company with which you’ll be dealing. Is the company an innovative one or a staid one? Is the person with whom you are negotiating known for being creative or for being more traditional? With all the information available on the Internet today, there is virtually nothing we can’t find out beforehand. Whether we are researching a corporation or a person. Just Google-ing someone is likely to bring up something we didn’t know. And of course, there is the old-fashioned way: just ask. Ask industry colleagues (non-competing ones) or acquaintances. It should not surprise you how much people like to talk about what and who and how much they know!
- Make time your ally. Try to know your counterpart’s deadline without giving away yours. Why? Because if I know your deadline to solve a problem or come to an agreement, I can stall any decision up to the point I know you have to make a decision. Most concessionary behavior and settlement action occur close to someone’s deadline; don’t let it be yours.
These are just a few of the many points necessary to knowing more about the negotiating process. Will practicing negotiation skills take time and effort? Of course. But becoming a more efficient, smarter negotiator will bring you many rewards in both your professional and personal life.
For reprint permission, contact Liz Tahir. Copyright Liz Tahir