For those who lack confidence, business negotiation creates anxiety or panic. But negotiation is a merely a discussion (or a series of discussions) used to resolve disputes, or to create and approve agreements/ contracts. This article shows how you can negotiate successfully if you keep a few key rules in mind.
To be an effective business negotiator, consider three key points: you must be able to communicate effectively and listen carefully. If you can do both you’ll find the process of negotiating will be much smoother and more fruitful. Thirdly, be well organised;a lack of thorough preparation is the most common reason why people come unstuck during business negotiations.
Before you begin your next negotiation, reflect on the following guidelines:
- Do your homework. It’s essential that you’re fully prepared before discussions begin. Know the background and cover the implications for all the parties involved. Discover the other participants’ situation and goals so as to anticipate problems or objections and prepare counter-solutions.
- Never enter negotiations until all parties know what’s being negotiated and agree to discussions. This speaks for itself but as a precaution, have the moderators or the lead negotiator announce what everyone is there for and make sure all are in agreement.
- Set some ground rules. As above, setting ground rules for the sessions avoids potential conflict as well as creates an environment where people can concentrate on the discussion at hand.
- Be prepared to offer something that the other party will see as a benefit. Anticipating the other party’s goals & objectives gives you an opening to offer a concession or opportunity which is genuinely of value to them. A win: win approach allows both parties to feel they have achieved gains and thus be open to further concessions. Listening well will help you discover what your fellow negotiators need and want so you can make an appropriate proposal.
- Don’t commit anything to writing until you fully understand it and can live with it. Avoid written commitments unless you are willing to be held accountable. Don’t feel pressured to put something on paper. After all, you may not have the full information or knowledge to know whether such commitments are the right option for your business.
- Agreeing to disagree. It’s quite normal to find that during the course of the negotiation, one party or all parties will have areas of disagreement. Your prior research should have anticipated areas of concern in advance. If the solutions or alternatives being offered aren’t acceptable, or if you feel you’re unsure of the implications, declare this without rancour so you can work through it.
- Behave with dignity and respect. Never allow negotiations to get personal in nature – it’s a business meeting, so there’s no need for antagonism. Treat all participants as you’d wish to be treated; your personal and business reputation will be damaged if you don’t behave respectfully and with good manners during negotiations.
- Know when to take time out. If necessary, ask for more time to think about things or work out figures, or to find more information. You don’t have to say yes immediately; it’s okay to review and consider the new ideas on the table. Feeling under pressure to confirm or to please won’t help you come to the right decision for your business.
- Walking away or saying goodbye. Occasionally, neither party can reach an equitable agreement. Ultimately, if the deal isn’t right for your business the consequences can be damaging. Be open to other solutions or alternatives but if none are acceptable then calling the negotiation to a graceful close is acceptable practice. Either way, you’ll have learnt a great deal during the negotiating process so put the experience to good use in the future.
- Always clarify the result of the negotiations in writing. Tie upthe discussion so there is no misunderstanding. This also provides the chance for final minor modifications with minimal risk. Once the principles are accepted all consenting parties, a group signature will make the conclusion official.
- Remain professional to the end. Do maintain decorum after discussions conclude. If all parties feel that they had a good outcome, then celebrations can be appropriate “to seal the deal”. But, if ending a dispute or conflict, then be mindful of the feelings of all involved and do not appear self-congratulatory or indignant depending on the outcome. Behave well and your own reputation will be enhanced, not diminished.
Negotiations are opportunities to explore new avenues or directions, or to resolve difficult situations. Enter negotiations with a clear head, be prepared, be respectful and feel confident of your ability to discuss the key issues which affect your business. I hope you find the guidelines of use and I wish you good fortune in your future negotiations.