Negotiating is a reality for virtually every small business owner, whether that means negotiating a lease, terms of a sale, or a new employee’s wages or salary. While few people are ‘born salespeople,’ there are ways that non-salespeople can improve their negotiating skills. Here are 10 tips.
BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND. What is the ultimate goal of the negotiation from your perspective? Envision the best-case scenario and map out what you would have to do to get there. Along the way, decide where you would be willing to compromise, and identify those things that would be non-negotiable.
SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND. Learn as much as possible about the company or the individual with whom you will be negotiating. That information may give you insights into their goals and desires, and could provide you with a picture of what is important to them, and what might be a deal-breaker.
SET YOUR SIGHTS HIGH. Negotiation almost always involves compromise, so an astute negotiator begins by asking for more than they would be willing to accept or offering less than they would be willing to pay. Although that approach leaves room for compromise, businesspeople are occasionally pleasantly surprised when the other party judges the terms to be fair and agrees to them quickly.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Important negotiations require your full attention and energy. Schedule negotiations for a time when you are well-rested, when you will not be distracted or rushed, and when you have plenty of time to complete the discussion.
STAY FOCUSED. Experienced negotiators often try to distract their counterparts or shift the conversation to a tangential topic. Should that happen, politely but firmly move back to the main topic: “Let’s put a pin in that for the moment and get back to the topic at hand.” The more focused you are on your goal, the more likely you are to attain it.
THINK WIN-WIN. The most successful negotiations result in a solution that is satisfactory to all parties involved, even if no one gets everything they want. These types of outcomes build lasting relationships.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP. Sometimes, complex negotiations benefit from involving experts such as an attorney, realtor, or other professional with expertise in the area of the negotiations. If you lack experience in a particular area, don’t be hesitant to enlist help, either before or during negotiations.
KNOW WHEN TO QUIT. Negotiation is a process. If you reach a point where neither side seems willing to compromise further, if you need to get more information or confer with others before proceeding, end the meeting and reconvene at a later time or date.
PUT IT IN WRITING. Take notes during negotiations. This helps ensure that you have an understanding of the points discussed. It also provides an opening to ask for clarification: “I’m reviewing my notes and I don’t see that we reached agreement on (a certain facet of the discussion). Can you remind me what we said?” As soon as possible after reaching agreement, put the agreed-upon terms in writing, whether an official contract or a quick, interim email.
LEARN FROM YOUR EXPERIENCES. The more often you negotiate, the better you’ll get. After each negotiation, take note of what worked and what didn’t. If the same problems keep arising, think of possible solutions so you’ll be prepared next time.
For more information on negotiating skills contact the Economic Development Collaborative-Ventura County. Conveniently located in Camarillo, California, we’re here to help.