I would like to first apologize for all the misleading guidance out in the world telling you to “take no prisoners” and go for the “kill” when negotiating. Advice such as this couldn’t be further from the truth, unless of course you don’t want long-term relationships, future business and a viable company.
Negotiating is like fine wine…it improves with age. Earlier in my career, I was driven to win at all costs. Conquering felt good. I quickly learned, however, that I really didn’t win when I defeated someone. When I went for the win-lose, the result was a closed door for my future opportunity. On the other hand, when we go for the win-win, we protect the relationship and increase our chances for future business. Negotiating should be a means to an end, not an end of itself.
I worked at a multi-million-dollar catalog company with a man who thought he was a master negotiator. He bullied his way into situations, demanded his way, treated people like garbage and walked out with what he thought was a victory. When I was his peer, I was the lucky one sent in for “damage control.” The reality was that everyone lost. Businesses slowly but surely were refusing to work with him or the company. Although he somehow kept his job even though he caused over a 40% decline in business, no one trusted or respected him. He was the true definition of a “loser.”
Proper negotiating takes skill but can be learned or re-learned at any age. I am now a little older and a little wiser. I go for the win-win, and I am now hired by companies to negotiate for them. I have stepped into situations where relationships were severed, and not only did I restore the relationship, but I obtained an additional sale. What is my secret? I work at understanding people, listening more and talking less. This may sound simple, but it does take work.
First of all, you may think you know how to “read” people, but too many basic mistakes are made on wrong assumptions. Take the time to “discover” the personality style you are dealing with. Are they outgoing or reserved? Are they task oriented or people focused? At Concept One, we utilize a variety of tools to help people understand themselves and others better. For years, I instinctually determined people’s styles, but I have enhanced my natural skill with concrete, proven methods that I now share in my books, trainings, blogs, and newsletters.
Once I have an idea of the basic personality style of the person I am interacting with, I can adjust myself to meet his/her needs. The bottom line of any negotiation is meeting needs. Period. Their needs must be met, and so must yours. If I must be direct, then so be it. I may need to be more personal with them, engaging in non-business conversation to “break the ice.” I may be required to provide extra details to close the deal—whatever it takes. All the while, I am listening and speaking intentionally and carefully.
Winners listen and losers talk. A harsh reminder I have on my refrigerator, but it is true. The leader of the conversation is the one sitting back listening, strategizing and speaking concisely. You will control the negotiation with precision in your speech. If you lose direction, focus and head off on a “bunny trail,” you have lost respect and possibly the deal. The way to ensure that you are ready to lead a successful negotiation is to be prepared.
Here are some steps to take and professional tips to help you negotiate with style and go for the win-win:
- Consider the person you are negotiating with as a potential partner, not an opponent. An “us and them” mentality immediately creates a brick wall.
- Remember that you have needs, goals and objectives to meet, and so do they. Never assume a one-sided agenda. Every story…and negotiation…has two sides.
- Determine whom you are dealing with and adapt accordingly. If in person, look for visual cues: cold and sterile office or warm and inviting? Practical or personal? You aren’t being fake when you speak their language. You are bridging the gap and moving towards agreement, not further from it.
- Be confident. No one likes dealing with a wimp. Know your outcome before you start. You must know what you want, what you are willing to compromise and what “hill you will die on.”
- Be informed. Make sure you have done your homework. What do they do? What are their strengths? Weaknesses? What is the history between you/your company and them? NOTE: Get honest, straightforward feedback from co-workers/peers. If the relationship is sour at the start, your strategy will be different than one of favor.
- Strategize your negotiation and conduct a dry run either in your head or out loud prior to your negotiations. As mentioned above, depending upon the environment, you may be more social or completely business like. Decide this ahead of time and stick to your plan.
- Ask for it. You’ll never get the deal closed if you don’t ask. If you include a way for them to win, you’ve got it in the bag. If, however, you pushed them up against the wall, you will lose the entire deal, not to mention potentials for future endeavors.
- Focus on the relationship but keep the goal in mind. Product lines will come and go, but the relationships you establish can last a lifetime.
- Be firm. Just because you put the relationship as a priority and adjust your negotiations to interact better with people doesn’t mean you surrender. Actually, it is the opposite. You are in control, taking the offensive position, and clearly defining the solution or deal to me made. I was told that a certain account only permitted 15-minute appointments with no exceptions. Well, I wasn’t going to fly across the entire country for 15 minutes! I was worth more than that. I didn’t ask for extra time; instead, I called and simply said, “I require 45 minutes.” They accepted my offer and booked me.
Practice your new negotiating muscles and get them in shape. You will quickly find immediate success around every corner and long-term opportunities ahead. Go for the win-win, without the fight. Be a winner!
PS If you are a sales professional, then I encourage you to take my Sales Index profile that helps you understand your strengths as well as areas needing improvement compared to the top sales people in the world.