Customer Experience News & Trends

Secrets to becoming a better negotiator

The attitude you bring to a negotiation with a customer has a direct impact on the result you’ll get. If you come to a negotiation expecting a war, you’ll get one. You’ll also get less than you would have with a different attitude.

Studies show adversarial negotiators close about half as many deals as do more cooperative, problem-solving professionals.

Credibility is most important

The most important asset you can bring to any negotiation is credibility. If prospects don’t believe you, you’ll have difficulty convincing them of anything. Credibility is more important than your expertise, connections, intelligence, products or services.

Every negotiation should start with three broad questions to yourself:

  1. What are my goals?
  2. Who are the people you’re negotiating with?
  3. What will it take to persuade them?

Set standards

It’s a good idea to set standards before the negotiation begins. If you try to set standards later when it clearly benefits you, prospects will think you’re being manipulative and taking advantage of the situation.

A good standard to set at the start of a negotiation is that any item that can’t be solved in 15 minutes should be postponed, so we can go on to the next item. You can go back later to solve the hard items.

Set an agenda

Once you establish standards, you can set an agenda for the negotiation. Even if you know what you want to talk about, an agenda will help you stay on track. Not having an agreed-upon agenda at the start of a negotiation is like getting in the car without directions to your destination.

Remember, everything is situational

In every negotiation, every situation is different. That’s because there are different people in the negotiation. Or the same people on different days. Or a different set of circumstances. Or a different goal for either you or the other side.

Restate your goals

Goal-setting is not just something that’s done at the beginning of a negotiation. You need to check your goals frequently as the negotiation moves ahead. Are you still on the same page? Has new information caused you to rethink your goals? Are your actions still consistent with your goals?

Avoid big, bold moves

In the movies, big bold moves produce big successes. In business negotiations, big, bold moves scare prospects away. It’s better to start with the easy things. It gives both parties a sense of accomplishment. Accomplishing anything makes the parties involved feel much better about the negotiation, making them more collaborative.

Be persistent

A negotiation is over when you say it is, not before. It doesn’t matter how many times the prospect says “no” or disagrees with you. Keep asking questions, stay focused on your goals and recognize that persistence leads to self-confidence, which leads to a close.

Negotiating styles

Here are the pros and cons of the five most common negotiating styles:

  • Assertive negotiators tend to be too aggressive and more concerned with meeting their own goals than trying to satisfy prospects. The more aggressive they are, the more they turn off prospects. Assertive people are usually not good negotiators because they seem to care only about themselves. They can be a lot more effective by backing off a bit, and considering and fulfilling the needs of the prospect.
  • Collaborative negotiators are more creative, looking for joint gains and finding ways to expand the pie. They look for items that can be traded. Every problem is seen as a potential opportunity.
  • Compromising negotiators usually get less. They settle. They tend to pursue speed instead of quality. They “split the difference.” Busy people are often compromisers. They take the first reasonable option and move on. But they sacrifice their ability to get more done. Some compromises can be effective. After you have bridged every gap, and are still a little apart, a compromise may be in order. But it should be seen as a last resort.
  • Conflict-avoiding negotiators don’t engage actively in the negotiating process to avoid arguments. As a result, they not only don’t get more, they often get nothing. In normal negotiations, you want to engage the prospect. Try starting to engage with something minor.
  • Accommodating negotiators tend to be great listeners. But they can go overboard in trying to reach a deal at the expense of their own goals.

Adapted from: “How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life,” by Stuart Diamond, one of the world’s leading experts on negotiation, who has advised leaders from Fortune 500 companies, the U.N. and World Bank.

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