Business

The Art of Negotiation

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Gurbaksh Chahal
Written by Gurbaksh Chahal

Negotiating is something we all do on a daily basis. We do it in our personal lives as well as our professional lives. Often, without even thinking about it.

But many people find it difficult when negotiating in a formal business setting. They become intimidated and tongue-tied. They give away real dollars and percentages without getting anything in return.

The good news is that the skill of negotiating is something that can be acquired. It’s not difficult to learn how to end up with a winning deal that makes a significant difference in your life; that keeps you firmly on the path to the destination called success. Whether you want to speed up your career path or turn your $100,000-a-year company into a $100 million-a-year company, knowing how to negotiate gives you a winning advantage. It’s part science, part logic, and part emotion.

Here are some of the key points that I’ve learned during my 16 years of being an entrepreneur. If you want to become a power player put them into effect.

Take Charge. You need to take charge of the negotiation. Like the captain of a ship you steer it in the direction you want it to go. Know what your final destination is (i.e. your desired outcome from the negotiations) and don’t drift off-course. Certainly don’t allow your adversaries to take the helm. Be confident. Display the strength of your convictions. 

Find Common Ground. Start the discussions by laying out the points upon which you can agree. It’s best to begin on a positive footing otherwise if things get contentious you might start sparring over items that were not really an issue at all. Open and frank communication is essential. Make sure that the other side clearly understands your viewpoint—and vice versa.

Stay Alert. Keep your eyes open for giveaway body-language clues and your ears alert for the hidden meanings in what your negotiating counterpart says—and what they don’t say. Stay focused. Be watchful. Listen carefully. Very carefully. What is it the other side is really saying? What do they really want? This is the most fundamental skill of all.

Don’t Let Ego Get in the Way. I certainly have healthy strong emotions. I’ve learned that it’s important to try and keep both in check to secure a winning long-term outcome to a negotiation. Sure, there are times when it’s impossible not to take things personally but, at the end of the day, it’s the facts that speak loudest. Keep the discussion results-oriented. And you’ll get your way.

React with Disapproval. One of the principal rules in a negotiating situation is to always flinch when you’re first made an offer. Grimace. Always pull a face to show that the terms are not to your liking. It might actually be an OK offer but you have to visibly demonstrate your “disapproval.” And, you can use this time to discuss their vulnerabilities.

React with Poker. You should almost always find someone else’s first offer outrageous. Go beyond the facial contortion and tell them that it is just not acceptable. At the same time your opening gambit is to make your own demands somewhat outrageous, so that you have room to maneuver. 

Trade-Off. Whenever anyone asks you for a concession you automatically and immediately ask for something in return. Don’t give anything away without some consideration for it, one way or another. This is the perfect opportunity to make a trade and acquire extra value.

Playing the Game. There are times during the negotiation process when you will need to adopt a position that you don’t really believe in. For instance, you might represent yourself to be a reluctant buyer or a reluctant seller. You might raise issues that aren’t really important to you, even though you seem to be passionate about them. They’re red herrings. They’re decoys. They are points you can happily concede. You impersonate.

Getting Something Extra. After you’ve reached agreement on the main issues you can probably extract some extra concessions from the other side. After you’ve shaken hands on the deal, then is the time to say, “Oh, yes, and by the way, I do get to XYZ, don’t I?” Making others assume what’s natural is the tactic here.

So these are some of the key elements of negotiating. Put them into effect and you’ll improve your chances of reaching successful outcomes any time you have to negotiate anything. Learn these skills with determination and purpose.

One final and extremely important point: The ultimate aim of a negotiation is to reach agreement. Obviously, you want to win. But it’s often necessary for your counterpart to feel that their needs have also been met. Sure, a win-win agreement makes sense. And you always want the other side to walk away believing they achieved their objectives. But don’t ever let the other party “win” by caving.

And, always remember one thing. 

Negotiate from a position of strength. Everyone wants what they can’t have.