We watch The Apprentice and see the ‘lambs to the slaughter’ negotiating. Not helped by their bravado and arrogance: ‘I’m a shark in business’. Cue the next clip of the poor apprentice being taken limb from limb by a shopkeeper who won’t give him 5p off a bottle of champagne.
Negotiating looks hard and can be hard if you do it wrongly. Let’s dispel the first myth. Banging your fist on the table, looking mean, and being tough doesn’t work. Or at least, you might be lucky and get it to work once, but after that they’ll get wise to you and take a whole other approach. After 14 years of teaching negotiation skills I find those that can be honest, open and direct negotiate the best deals where a relationship is of importance. If you are negotiating to buy a second hand car on the forecourt I’d advise adapting your style. For now, let’s stick with the relationship-important deals.
Negotiation tactics #1: be like Captain Scott – explore
Prepare a list of questions to ask your ‘opponent’. Get into their head and swim around. Ask as many open questions as you can to understand what they want, their situation, and their needs. Asking is not confirming that you can do it. You are just exploring.
Negotiation tactics #2: be like the UN – build relationships
In the Six Sciences of Persuasion we are told that people who have something in common are twice as likely to reach an agreement. Plus, their outcomes are worth 80% more. Disclose personal information about yourself; where you have lived, worked, hobbies, and see what happens.
Negotiation tactics #3: be like Fagin – give nothing
There is a rule in negotiating. No free fish. Imagine a polar bear chasing an Eskimo’s husky-led sleigh of fresh fish. The eskimo throws the polar bear a fish to keep him happy. The polar bear eats it and thinks, ‘I know where there is more’. Do not give away anything unless you get something in return.
Negotiation tactics #4: be like an Olympic runner – practice
Most people hate role playing. Instead bring yourself and do the deal with a colleague. You’ll always find that they will ask you questions that you hadn’t thought of, and put you in corners you didn’t know existed. If you want a better deal don’t leave it to chance. Practice to get a better deal.
Negotiation tactics #5: be like a court reporter – summarise
Many deals get agreed and then fall apart afterwards. These deals are the worst because both parties thought that they were happy and then afterwards they resort to phone calls and emails to try to sort what they thought they had. Summarise with the person the deal including all the details.
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☛ Darren Smith is founder of Making Business Matter.