Best Practices for Negotiation
Are you a good negotiator? Negotiation is crucial to so many things we do as entrepreneurs—whether it’s making a sale, hiring an employee, choosing a location or even something as simple as dealing with the phone company. How can you become a better negotiator? Here are my favorite tips—some I’ve picked up from experts on the subject, and others I’ve learned from experience.
- Know what you want. Before going into any negotiation, know what you are willing to give up, and what’s non-negotiable. You never know what options the other party may throw at you, so you need to think through all possible options ahead of time and brainstorm how you will respond to them.
- Investigate. Learn all you can about the other party before the negotiation. If you’re making a sales pitch to a potential B-to-B customer, for instance, learn as much as you can about his or her company, bosses, and needs. With social media tools like Facebook and LinkedIn, plus the wide availability of info on the Internet, this is far easier than it used to be—so take advantage of it.
- Be prepared. In addition to your research, have any documentation, contracts, samples or other tools you’ll need with you when you begin the negotiation. If it goes well, who knows? You might get a signed contract then and there—so be ready.
- Play nice. The ultimate goal of any negotiation is to create a win-win situation where each party feels that they got what they wanted. So don’t go in with an adversarial attitude—even if you’re negotiating a settlement with a customer who’s suing you. “You catch more flies with honey,” as the old saying goes, and I’m sure you’ve experienced how even the crustiest person can be disarmed when you’re unexpectedly nice.
- …But not too nice. You do need to give and take in negotiation; just be sure you’re not the one who’s always giving. Standing firm on what’s important to you will earn your counterpart’s respect. Become a pushover, and the other person will just keep pushing.
- Know when to stop. If a negotiation is going nowhere, know when it’s time to call it quits. Maybe you both need to gather more information, rethink your positions or bring in additional people to the discussion. Continuing a negotiation that’s going downhill won’t get you anywhere. Suggest revisiting the issue at a later time; this gives everyone a chance to cool off and regroup.
Remember, a successful negotiation is only the first step in a lasting business relationship. So take the time to negotiate well–and start your relationship off on the right foot from the very beginning.
SCORE Mentors can help you with many aspects of negotiation. Connect with one online or in person today.