Are You Winning over the Clients you Want or Losing Out?
How many times in the course of a day have you found yourself negotiating a situation? I would be willing to guess that you encounter both planned and unplanned opportunities for negotiation several times a day, yet more often than not, you may find the act of negotiations difficult. If you push too hard, the deal goes astray and if you’re too soft, you become known as a pushover. The key to sound negotiation is not just having a positive style, but includes proper preparation, framing, recognising the techniques and ploys of others, as well as settling on agreements that stick. It is crucial that you are armed with the appropriate tools, which maximise the return on your relationships with suppliers, customers, shareholders and other important business or personal relationships. Consequently, whether it is for the new contract that is up for bid or the negotiation with a business associate, in all likelihood your attempts to win more may need some reevaluation.
What exactly is “Negotiation?”
According to the dictionary, to “negotiate” means “to confer with another so as to arrive at the settlement of some matter.” Yet, it is a fact that nearly 75% of individuals faced with having to conduct crucial negotiations do not realise success at their negotiation efforts and rarely have a clue as to how to win more during a negotiation. Instead, most negotiators have learned only how to push against others, criticising and attacking rather than identifying one another’s strong points. Typically, criticism, rather than creativity, has become the norm during most negotiating efforts.
Although we, as intelligent individuals, possess countless tools for success, negotiating presents a different type of problem that often leaves us somewhat baffled. Perhaps it’s because we feel vulnerable, afraid of losing out or, worse, having to make what appears to be an unfair concession. Or possibly we have the need to control the situation, which, of course, interferes with our practical powers of reasoning. In any case, whether your negotiations involve a corporate situation, a small business transaction or simply a personal endeavor, conceivably throughout your lifetime you’ll spend endless hours in arbitration, mediation and bargaining.
The Right versus Wrong Syndrome
Allow me to bring this home a little more clearly. Envision yourself presenting a proposal to a potential business associate. You have worked hard on the proposal and proudly present it for review. Upon analysis, ninety percent of the proposal is perfectly acceptable and meets your associate’s needs, but 10% of it falls short. More than likely, your associate will reject the proposal not because it wasn’t a good proposition, but simply because they were blinded by the 10% that is wrong. Instead of coming from a place of agreement, they have based their overall decision on the 10% of the proposal that doesn’t work, leaving you to start from scratch. This is the stage where most of us abort important negotiations.
The problem stems from the fact that we have actually been conditioned into believing that someone’s ideas can be improved by criticism, although experience has taught us that when it comes to negotiating, so much more is achieved when focusing on what’s right rather than on what’s wrong. If we seek to improve upon what we see and hear, rather than diminishing someone’s suggestions or ideas, amazing results occur.
Our conclusions and means of handling negotiations are based upon the conditioning we’ve learned through our educational institutions and from our general upbringing. A sad commentary, that culturally we have become so focused on what’s wrong instead of recognising what’s right, we often miss opportunities. Rather than working together to create a mutually acceptable solution, negotiators merely play the role of judge, deciding who is right and who is wrong. When both negotiators come from the standpoint of being right, they’re unable to hear each other’s opinions. Hence, conflict and frustration is frequently the result, and this can be avoided.
If You Want to Win More!
Are we doomed to remain in the half-empty cup syndrome or is there something that can be done to change and improve upon our conditioned negotiation skills? There are usually numerous obstacles standing in the way of a successful negotiation, but with the proper tools and a little bit of “unlearning,” there are many options available that will allow us to win more. As Albert Einstein observed, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Negotiators who fail to keep pace with today’s ever-changing business landscape are destined to find themselves stuck in old ways. Accordingly, if negotiators remained open to the positive aspects of ideas or suggestions presented by each side, deliberately identifying the positive aspects first, negotiators would find things moving forward rapidly. By way of illustration, when one person at the negotiation table quickly finds a flaw in an idea presented by the other, even if the majority of the transaction is effective, he or she is using negative thinking habits to focus on what’s wrong. To solve the problem we have to begin focusing more on what’s right. The principle that I encourage is a win more/win more parameter, where parties explore and seek to become more together than apart, i.e. win more/win more as opposed to merely win/win.
Effective Negotiation Tools!
We need intelligence and sharp focus when we begin the negotiation process but more importantly we need a good measure of wisdom to widen our perspective. Whether you are currently in the process of negotiating a business deal or contract, or simply trying to develop a new set of tools that can empower your negotiation skills, the following are some tips that will help you start moving in a new direction.
- When beginning to negotiate, try not to be tempted into attaching absolute value labels to points of view or persons/parties, e.g. good, bad, right, wrong, shrewd, co-operative, etc.
- Avoid labels and stereotyping and do not prejudge a person or problem before sufficient information is provided.
- Bring more to the negotiation table by eliminating reactive and proactive thinking instead, become a projective thinker.
- Spend less time thinking about what worked in the past; historical perspectives may no longer be valid or applicable and often freeze our perceptions.
- Negotiation is a future oriented skill, therefore, look at negotiations as the art of the possible, not the impossible.
- Instead of defining or describing the situation, try thinking in terms of what can be done, i.e. “how can we create a situation where people will be happy to buy our products, rather than, “what is causing people to dismiss our web site?”
- If someone says no to a request you make, do not immediately retreat from the negotiation rather retreat within the negotiation.
- If, during a negotiation, one party becomes stressed and tense, decrease the rate of your speech, lower the tone of your voice, breathe more deeply and more slowly, and generally convey a relaxed image.
Successful negotiations aren’t about getting your own way or giving in to another. It is useful to remember never to leave “victims” as a result of your negotiation style as they often have a habit of exacting revenge! Successful negotiations are about reaching a positive end where both parties feel satisfied with the negotiation. The most important part of a successful negotiation is that it becomes a win more/win more situation for all involved and, with the right tools, everyone can leave the negotiation table feeling satisfied and compensated fairly. With knowledge, skills and practice, negotiating can become a truly enjoyable and winning experience.
Jan Potgieter is Director of The Negotiation Academy – Europe Limited, a negotiation skills training and consultancy organisation based in London, frequently conducting engagements in the USA and internationally. He is highly skilled in the science of negotiations based on real life practical perspectives as well as a sound academic grounding in the principles of negotiations. Jan successfully helps companies and individuals around the world reach their negotiation objectives through dynamic workshops and seminars. You can learn more about The Negotiation Academy – Europe at www.negotiationeurope.com , contact Jan Potgieter at +44(0)8451 298 554 (UK) and 1 888 299 9733 (USA) or send an e-mail for further details.
The Negotiation Academy (TNA) is a negotiation consulting and negotiation skills solution provider. Committed to delivering best practice based negotiation solutions, TNA collaborates with clients to instil an organisational negotiation capability With deep industry experience, global resources and a proven track record, TNA is ideally positioned to assist clients in achieving optimal results from negotiations across all functional areas: Negotiation Skills Training