In order to progress, most corporate managers have to develop negotiating skills at some point in their career. Negotiation is a learned skill. You’re not born with it. Here’s some thoughts that I’ve learned.
In case you didn’t realize it, you negotiate all the time;
Many urban myths revolve around this topic – the most prevalent being that you have to be one of the “chatty beautiful people” to be a success. We’ve all known them, the “Ken” or Barbie” people who have the flawless looks and the glib communications style. We’re a “beauty-oriented” society, so these traits can help speed careers or open doors. But often these traits can be distractions in a negotiation – especially if they’re talking too much and not listening.
Some of the most effective negotiators I’ve known are quiet, earnest people who seldom speak unless they have something meaningful to say. These people share an almost universal trait; they’re good listeners, while being circumspect in their speech.
A basic rule of effective negotiation is to keep your position “close to the vest”. Don’t blab your intentions, or your goals, or your “power cards’ to the other side. Let them make their own assumptions, and then play to those assumptions. Let them tell you what they think they know about you, and then use their mistaken perceptions to advantage.
Listen! Listen! Listen!
Don’t get emotionally involved. As soon as you do, the other guy has an advantage.
Don’t go into the negotiation with a high-brow attitude. If anything, let them assume you’re a little insecure and/or incompetent. Your posed posture will encourage them to draw incorrect conclusions, bluster, and let their guard down. Let them be impressed afterward when they realize the outcome of the negotiation. If they don’t figure it out, and think they won, all the better for next time.
Never let yourself be intimidated. You may want to give the impression that you are intimidated to throw the other guy off, but inside you should remain unruffled. It’s tried all the time, and it will work if you let it. Big companies like to intimidate small ones, powerful people intimidate the weak, etc. Just remember that we’re all naked under our clothes. If someone tries a “take it or leave it” stance with you, immediately throw out a counter-proposal. There’s something in human nature that virtually guarantees a counter-proposal in return, and off you go! Never take No! or “Take-it-or-leave it!” as a final answer. Counter-propose them to death.
Never reveal your worst-case acceptable negotiating stance. If you must let the negotiation get to that point, let the other party say it. Always start with your best possible stance, or higher, and make them work you down. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
Never take it for granted what the other party knows, or wants, or is willing to live with. Let them tell you; while you keep your knowledge & stance as private as possible.
Negotiation is as much about the people as the facts, and almost everything is negotiable.
Many so-called experts will tell you that the goal of all negotiations should be “win-win”, whatever that is. I say the objective is to come away with the best possible outcome. If the other party wants to “give the store away”, let them. Obviously I’m not promoting the Simon LeGree posture of shafting the disadvantaged. I’m talking about business negotiations, and in that arena: “all’s fair in love & war”.
Learn from the other party. If you sense that they’re playing you, protect yourself and then learn from them. Just being aware that you’re being played is the best protection.
My final bit of advice – have fun. Negotiation is a creative process that affords you the opportunity to utilize a wide variety of talents in a fluid situation. Don’t just go for the status quo – reach for the sky.
These are just a few thoughts on the subject, but they cover a lot of ground and should provide the basic platform for anyone to become an effective negotiator.
Good Luck. Enjoy Yourself. Grow and Prosper with It.
Al Walsh, Owner/Founder
Walsh Enterprises, Business Advisors