Ten Tactical Tips for Negotiating

The ability to effectively negotiate is one of the most valuable intangible skills you can possess: A multi million-dollar deal can jell quickly if one’s negotiating skills are finely honed.

Vistage Speaker Douglas Gilliss offers ten points to consider when you go eye-to-eye across a negotiating table:

  • Separate Issues From Personalities.To maintain a productive relationship with the individuals with whom you are negotiating, consider going “easy on the people and hard on the terms.” That is, don’t take condemnation or any other type of negative feedback personally. Focus your emotions and energy on the terms of the deal, and insist they do the same. 
  • Find Their Real Needs.Get them talking to discover their needs. Don’t be surprised if they are unable to articulate exactly what it is they want. And if they have poor negotiating skills, they might focus on an aspect like cost when the real issue is service. This inability to define. what they want may scrap the deal entirely because their real needs were not addressed.
  • Listen and Acknowledge Concerns.A tenet of effective negotiating is to keep your mouth closed and listen. Even though you may be tempted to talk throughout the negotiation process, this would be a mistake. The bottom line is that people have a need to be listened to, though not necessarily agreed with. You have a much greater chance of getting the other party to agree with you if you simply listen to their views and acknowledge their concerns, whether or not you agree with them. 
  • Side Step Irrational Criticism.The other party in the negotiation may act irrationally — often because they don’t have the skills or confidence to negotiate — and you may want to take advantage of their weakness. Don’t be tempted. Trying to make them look wrong could be a personal victory at the cost of the deal. When the other party is irrational, simply let them vent. After all, someone who is defensive or overly dramatic is much easier to read — and work around– than a non-responsive individual.
  • Use Creativity to Add Value.The more items of value you bring to the table, the more can be divvied up between you and the other party. But first, use your creativity to determine what benefits you can assemble for both parties. For instance, your company might be in a position to offer specialized services such as custom packaging or cost breaks for quantity orders. 
  • Slow Down — Build Positive Responses.If you spend more time on the front end of the deal — that is, listening to the other party, finding out their needs and ultimately gaining their trust — you’ll discover your time line for closing the deal is the same or less than if you attempted to rush through the process. Slowing down doesn’t mean dragging the process out; rather, invest the time building the other party’s confidence. Not pushing the other party toward a final decision actually increases your chances of ultimately closing the deal.
  • Demonstrate Your Power, Use Sparingly.Recognize that everyone has power in the negotiation and that the other side needs you as much as you need them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be wasting their time talking to you. Though you might be tempted to demonstrate your power by saying, for example, that your company could buy from someone else or refuse delivery, suggest some less threatening alternatives instead.
  • Catch and Dismiss Tricks.Watch for the two most common negotiation tactics: good guy/bad guy and red herring. Good guy/bad guy tactics start when a member of the other party tells you, “Work with me, and I can get my colleague off your back.” While it appears that this sympathetic person supports you, it’s usually a ploy and you could end up making unnecessary concessions. If you recognize this trick and bring it to the attention of the other side, they’ll likely abandon this approach.With the red herring tactic, the other side focuses on one point but really wants something else. To counter, work up a number of brief, written responses that would address potential stumbling points. Listen closely and they will soon reveal their true desires. 
  • Build a Bridge Back Home.The acts of making the other party look good to their higher-ups and of letting them think they received what their side wanted are essential to the negotiation process. To this end, leave something specific on the table. But first, ask for enough concessions in your favor so you have the flexibility to leave that specific something.
  • Allow the Other Side to “Discover” the Solution.Consider giving the other side credit for ideas that would close the deal. This goes hand-in-hand with “building a bridge back home” — you make the other party look good, thereby building their confidence. The other party will stay committed to the deal, especially if they believe they’ve discovered the solution.

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