When is Negotiating Not Negotiating? 4 Tips for Improved Success
by Bob Selden
Copyright © 2006 The National Learning Institute
When you left home for work this morning, did you feel ready to face the day knowing that you were going to have a number of successful negotiations? Chances are, the word "negotiation" never entered your head. Perhaps it should have!
We often think of negotiation as a formal process conducted behind closed doors by high powered executives, politicians or world leaders. Yet everyday all of us negotiate. You may have to agree with colleagues on the content of a report or presentation; with a customer over a disputed invoice; with a supplier on the terms for goods or services; or with your partner on what to have for dinner tonight! All of these things are negotiations.
Our problem is that we don't recognise them as negotiations, nor ourselves as negotiators. As a result, we enter these discussions less prepared than we could be. The result? Sometimes a less-than-successful outcome!
To help make all our daily negotiations more successful (for both you and the other party), you need to:
- State your case clearly and appropriately
- Organise your facts
- Control the timing and pace of your discussion
- Properly assess both yours and the other parties needs
How do you carry out these four points successfully? First, you need an understanding of some of the key principles of successful negotiation. Try this quiz to test your knowledge of negotiating by answering "True/False" to each question.
1. Should you ask for twice the amount you need?
2. Is your aim to prevent the other party from saying "No"
3. Will a small concession relieve the pressure?
4. A "Win/Win" result is always possible.
5. Is admitting to an error or omission a sign of weakness?
The following answers will provide some useful tips for your negotiating situations.
1. Should you ask for twice the amount you need? False. You will have to back down and will lose an important opportunity to influence the other party. Research clearly indicates that negotiators who make large concessions end up worse off. The secret of successful negotiating is to first identify your needs, then work out a range of options that will satisfy those needs. Start the negotiation by asking for the options that best meet your needs.
2. Is your aim to prevent the other party from saying "No"? False. In fact getting a "No" from the other party can be very useful because it gives you the opportunity to ask "Can you give me your reasons?". This leads to uncovering the other party's real needs and some options that will satisfy them -- options which you can probably supply.
3. Will a small concession relieve the pressure? False: If you make a small concession, chances are you are negotiating over options rather than needs. Additionally, the other party may think you are weakening and put more pressure on. Far better to state or restate your needs and then explore as many options as possible to satisfy them. As part of this discussion, you may come back to the offer that was just rejected, or you may find some even better options. Either way you have gained a lot more information and not weakened your position.
4. A "Win/Win" result is always possible. False: It's desirable, but not always possible. Sometimes, even the best of negotiators have to "agree to disagree". The way to improve your ratio of "Win/Wins" is to focus very clearly on your own real needs (not positions) and the needs of the other party. Searching for many different options to satisfy both party's needs generates more "Win/Win" situations.
5. Is admitting to an error or omission a sign of weakness? False: Research shows that disclosing such information demonstrates honesty. In psychological terms, it breeds what is called "reciprocity" - if you do something for me, then I'll do something for you. People are far more likely to be honest with you when you are honest with them. Pulling the wool over someone's eyes may give you a short term result at the expense of a long term relationship.
Four tips to help you negotiate successfully
1. If you want a better deal, ask for one. You'll never know unless you ask! Remember, make sure it will satisfy your needs - do not get locked into bargaining over positions.
2. Argue to learn, not to win. To meet your own needs you need to learn as much as possible about the other party and their needs. The more you learn, the better chance you have of getting a good deal.
3. Make proposals regularly during the negotiation - proposals move the negotiation forward. Use proposals such as "If you will provide . . . . then I might consider . . . ." The other party's response to these proposals will give you a lot of information to work with.
4. Ask for, and give as much information as possible. For example, questions such as "Can you explain your reasons for . . . . ?', "What are your priorities? and "What else is there that you think I should know?" are excellent ways of gathering the information you need.
If you would like some more tips on negotiating, feel free to contact me via www.nationallearning.com.au
Bob Selden has been consulting to organisations on leadership and management for over 30 years. He is MD of the National Learning Institute and part time faculty member at the International Management Development Institute, Lausanne and the Australian Graduate School of Management, Sydney. He also regularly gives out free advice on people management issues to colleagues and friends. So, if you would like to "run something by him," he may be contacted at http://www.nationallearning.com.au/
Bob Selden may be contacted at http://www.nationallearning.com.au/