Every day of your life, you negotiate in some way. As a two-year-old, you probably whined. As a ten-year-old you may have threatened you wouldn’t play any more unless…. As an adult … well, no doubt you’re very familiar with the little techniques you use when you want your own way, and of course they’ll be rather more sophisticated than whining or threatening. Hopefully.
Negotiating is a major part of business life. Some people are natural master negotiators, others less so. But negotiating is a skill that can be learned if you take the time to study the masters and apply their winning techniques.
First of all, listen. Weigh up what your negotiating adversary is really saying. Sometimes words say more than just the obvious. If you can’t listen skilfully and work out the sub-text, you’ll never learn the art of negotiating.
Secondly, observe the body language, although words can deceive, the language of the body does not.
Next, learn to walk away. If you are not totally satisfied with the deal, don’t show you are desperate to complete the negotiation. Once your adversary understands you are worried you won’t get the deal, you have handed over the negotiating power and you will not get the deal you really want. Simply walking away is a powerful statement that often results in your negotiating adversary giving in to that final detail.
Be able to feign indifference. Never let the other party know how much you want and need the deal.. The opposition shouldn’t be able to discern your real feelings. Remember – a face that shows no emotion has the advantage. If you have business experience in Asia, you know what I mean.
Be prepared. Make sure that your opposition knows that you have an alternative action ready if your terms aren’t met, and that it is one they’d prefer you didn’t have. For instance, if you are selling a house, ensure that the prospective buyer knows there is another bid on the table. Having that ammunition supports your position and can influence to spur the negotiating adversary into ensuring you get the deal you really want.
Discover your adversary’s motivation. Why are they negotiating with you? What do they really want? Gaining an understanding of their underlying motivation will give you a big advantage. Why is that buyer so eager to purchase the old house that has been on your books forever? He’s not the type to roll up his sleeves to start a renovation project, so what’s his motivation? Maybe it’s the land rather than the house. Do some up-to-date research with the local authority. Understanding why he wants the house will enable you to adjust the price accordingly.
Use familiarity. It’s human nature to feel more comfortable with people who are just like us in the way we act, dress and speak. This comfort adds an extra dimension to the negotiations and often enables the deal to be done more quickly and favourably. This doesn’t mean that you must adopt a different persona, but you can make subtle changes in the way that you speak and act in order to create that sense of familiarity. And of course, you can’t achieve that unless you have previously been listening to and watching your client like a master negotiator.
Make your adversary your friend. Sometimes your negotiations may lead you to a place where it seems there is no way forward. If you’re lucky, you may see a way to blame a third party for your difficulties and make it plain to your adversary that you are now in the same boat. Working together, you can now present a united front and emerge from the mess with reputations and honour intact. It may not happen often, but when it does, make the most of your opportunity.
After the negotiation – then what? You’ve negotiated the deal, but the client is dragging his feet over signing it off. What can you do? Remember, as long as you have ticked all the boxes on your end there is not much more than you can do. The old saying, ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’ sums the situation up perfectly. You can’t bludgeon him with a blunt instrument. A lawyer can make a joke of it and remind the client that every day he delays the fees are increasing, but not everyone has that luxury. Your only recourse is to use your influence in a way that is subtle, tactful, and respectful and eventually, the deal will become a reality.
If everything fails after your endeavours, you can rest assure that there will be many other deals on the horizon, so why sweat the small stuff. Let me know about your negotiating experiences especially in foreign cultures.