Negotiation, like networking, is one of life’s necessities that you either love or hate. But if it’s the latter, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Let’s face it, negotiation is almost an everyday business affair — whether you’re negotiating a new business deal, scoping out a statement of work with a client, or trying to reach consensus with a business partner, client or employee.
by Caron Beesley, sba.gov Community Moderator
How do your negotiations typically go? Are they calm affairs? Do you often reach a satisfactory consensus?
Here are some tips for effective negotiation in your business:
Find out what’s on the table
Before you offer anything, uncover the stakes. Even if you know what outcome you want from a negotiation, find out what the other party wants first so you know what you’re dealing with. This is true whether you are negotiating a deadline, selling services or hiring an employee.
If the other party isn’t willing to share this information, then be firm. As in all relationships, you can’t give the other party what they want unless you know what they are thinking.
Know your own value
The need to know your own value is especially true if the other party isn’t disclosing what they want from you. So it’s important to know what you have to offer or what your position is and be able to clearly communicate what accepting it can do for them.
Whether it’s positioning a product or service, solving a problem, or just making everyday business easier for everyone — let them know.
It’s also important to forge personal relationships with the other party and share your own values as an individual. Learn about them and help them learn about you. Respect their opinion or position. This can lead to synergies, and increase the likelihood of a mutually beneficial outcome.
Look for common ground
Common ground is the root of compromise and it has to be sought, although you may not always find it. For example, if you are negotiating a commercial lease, the landlord will state his opening offer. Then you will declare yours and ask for more information (what’s included in the lease). From there you find out what you and the landlord can either compromise or give up on to reach a mutual agreement.
Articulate an outcome
In the heat of negotiations, with both sides focused on the now and what they may or may not compromise, it’s useful to step back and articulate your vision of the outcome of these negotiations. Your vision can also become their vision, but only if you clearly explain what’s in it for them too. Having a picture of this end goal is surprisingly effective in getting others on board with your plan.
Be a diplomat
No one likes to be pressured or threatened into submission — whether it’s done bluntly or passive-aggressively. But it’s going to happen — and the good thing is that this is your opportunity to really let your personality shine through.
Handling negotiations with grace and diplomacy puts both parties at ease. Aggressive negotiators often act this way because they have stresses or pressures of their own, and are probably panicky that the wrong outcome will reflect badly on them.
Diplomacy and poise on your part can go a long way to defusing even the trickiest negotiations and demands. It opens the door to problem-solving and respect.
Even if you choose to let off steam behind the scenes, having integrity and grace in the negotiation room can lead to a good business deal, as well as a good deal of business.
About the author: Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley. This article was first published on July 23, 2012.