Occasionally I find myself having to negotiate in order to secure business. We all do. It’s a fundamental part of running any business because there will always be someone who doesn’t want to pay your list price. It makes them feel slightly victorious as they try and beat you down.
I find that interesting because you can’t negotiate in the High Street. I think I’ll have that skirt and jumper from White Stuff but I’m going to haggle at the checkout first. No chance. We pay up.
We’ve seen Alan Sugar and Peter Jones negotiate in rather unsavoury ways in order to make good TV. Are we picking up their awful hard ball tactics?
Here’s my view on successful negotiation. Our world isn’t a TV programme but it can be similar to the Dragon’s Den at times.
Planet plan it. Think about what you want to achieve and also what your customer really wants. Think about your starting point, your ‘happy to settle at’ point and the point where you might walk away altogether. Preparation for what could be an hour, a week or a month of negotiation tennis is crucial to the whole process.
Who are you going to be in this play? Adapt your personal style where appropriate. Work out what their tactics will be and be ready for them. Don’t set yourself up for the role of understudy.
Be a giver. In today’s world I feel it’s better to be a giver. If you are holding out for a certain price whether its an hourly rate, a project price or a price per tonne, what else could you add to the deal to appear to be giving and not always demanding. If your deal is multilayered then perhaps adjust a charge in another area of the deal. Where possible add more sugar and your customer will feel as though they are benefiting. Not winning but benefiting.
Don’t be unkind. You want the business and your client really wants to work with you. That’s a win, win. There’s little point in playing hard ball because that will eat away at your conscience and it won’t help to close the deal. Fairness attracts fairness. Bullies attract bullies. We don’t want to be known as bullies.
Spot the possible problems early on. If you don’t want the business because its a total misfit then let it go politely. If you feel that the customer might continue to negotiate every point throughout your entire relationship consider very carefully whether you want the business at all! Be polite and move on.
Fail politely. On the way out it does pay to offer alternative solutions to the problem or impasse. You have ended the negotiation party because you couldn’t reach agreement. You are putting on your coat and you’re making an exit but before you close the door offer some light, an additional idea or a solution via another route.
The aim is to finish your negotiations with both parties feeling slightly victorious but with no outright winner. The ideal is a win, win. The ideal outcome is to achieve what’s best for both parties and it’s an art to recognise what’s right for both sides early on.