We have all been involved in negotiating agreements with 3rd party companies. Usually we conclude the negotiations with a satisfied feeling, knowing that we received most of what we had sought originally. Nonetheless, we also have that sinking feeling that we left something on the table, that we could have eked out one more concession. Here’s how to get most of what you want while leaving the other party feeling good about the negotiation, too.
Prior to undertaking a negotiation, it is important that you understand the interests and objectives of both yourself and the other party. What is motivating you? The 3rd party? What is your and your counterparts’ ideal outcome? What is your floor, or “walk away” position? What items are non-negotiable? Unless you understand the parameters by which you are negotiating, you will be unable to determine the success of its outcome.
Next, plan your strategy and technique. There are various tactics one can use in negotiating, but for this article we will take for granted that you have your own personal negotiation style. Assuming you understand your counterpart’s position, you may want to “test” their floor position by making a lowball offer. You will eventually find bottom, or the offer that will not be accepted. You can then modify your terms and conditions accordingly.
You may also want to reach agreement on other issues which do not relate directly to the objectives of the negotiation but are important to your counterpart. This builds trust and allows you to reach your goals more easily. You may also want to offer additional concessions, or alternatives, without changing the terms of your original offer.
Some of the negotiation techniques you employ may result in a strong reaction from your counterpart. Do not become excited, aggressive or confrontational. Always remain calm and unfazed during negotiations. The classic “poker face” is not required, but rather professional, calm and able to handle objections in a composed manner. Speak in simple, direct and easy to understand language, particularly with a counterpart for whom English is not their first language. Pay close attention to body language to pick up weaknesses or anxieties of your counterpart for which you may exploit in the negotiations.
Take advantage of your strengths and your counterparts’ weaknesses. If you are older than your counterparts, play up your experience and lengthy successful career. If you know an industry particularly well, ensure that your counterpart knows that. If you have contacts and associates, then drop a few well-known names. The key is to play to your advantage, and make your counterpart feel insecure, anxious and in awe of your competencies.
Like a good salesperson, a good negotiator knows to say few words and use terse and concise sentences. In this way you not only will not tip your hand to your counterpart by saying too much, but also you will force your counterpart to speak more, thereby allowing you opportunities to seek weaknesses or gain more information. Even more powerful, is the sound of silence. I recall being in negotiations with Japanese associates early in my career, and the lengthy gaps in speaking were excruciating! Your counterpart may feel uncomfortable, too, and may just concede a major item.
At the same time, be prepared to walk away. Ideally you want your counterpart to believe that you have better things to do than negotiate fine details with them. You are a busy person, and if they continue to badger over the fine print of the deal, you will conclude the discussion. End of story. It really doesn’t matter to you whether you do this deal or not (without coming across as too cavalier).
Finally, stay focused on your objectives. Be like the long distance runner who suddenly comes from the middle of the pack and races to victory with a strong finish. Save your best techniques for last, and make them concede one more point.
- As a recap, the steps to successful negotiation are the following:
- Analyze one another’s ceiling and floor positions
- Plan your negotiation stance
- Utilize pre-planned negotiation techniques
- Economize your words – silence is golden.
- Remain calm, and do not become confrontational
- Exploit weaknesses, play to your strengths
- Be prepared to walk away
- Never lose sight of your original objectives
By utilizing some of these tips and techniques, you will become known as a “tough” negotiator, which often translates into a “good” negotiator. Your counterpart will feel satisfied that they also have “won” some concessions from you, and that you treated them fairly. At the least, you will be respected by your counterparts, colleagues and clients as someone who arrives at “win-win” negotiations while also gaining as many concessions as possible.
–Peter M. Guyer
Peter M. Guyer is the Founder and President of ATHENA MARKETING INTERNATIONAL (athenaintl.com), an international marketing, consulting and business development firm serving food and beverage manufacturers. Tel. (206) 749-9255.