“Successful Business Negotiation”

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   Successful Business Negotiation

10 TIPS OF NEGOTIATION

EXCELLENT NEGOTIATION SKILLS

Honing the way you negotiate with suppliers and customers can impact on your profits. Patrick Forsyth shares his tips to help you reach satisfactory agreements

LEARN THE PROCESS

Negotiation is part art, part science. It is a dynamic, interactive process, and you need to be well prepared, yet flexible, and to recognize that the people element is the most important and the least predictable. It is complex – to negotiate successfully you must see the process in the round, take a broad view and have a good grasp of the principles involved, so you can orchestrate and fine-tune the process as you proceed. Small adjustments along the way can make a difference to the outcome.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

Plan ahead. Negotiation goes further than just selling. It is agreeing the basis on which a deal can be made to the satisfaction of both parties. This can involve many variables that must be agreed. These might include price, terms, timing, who does what. Preparation is crucial: consider the person (or people) with whom you will negotiate, what you need to achieve and how the process may go. Preparation is a map that will guide you in advance, as well as help you deal with the unexpected along the way.

SET YOUR GOALS

Consider the ‘package’ of factors that you need to deal with. What is most important? Where can you be flexible? What can you compromise about? Negotiation is a process of give and take, to an extent. Your aim is to reach a win-win agreement both parties can live with. Many negotiations are part of an ongoing relationship and you may have to deal with people and secure their co-operation in future. Set clear goals for yourself to act as guidelines to help you find your way throughout the process.

FIND THE RIGHT PERSON

Make sure the person you are dealing with has authority. If you have to deal with several people, you’ll need to judge when to move on, up and involve others who can make a definitive decision. If several people are involved (even in the background), find out their relationships. Are you dealing with someone who has been delegated the task? Would it be useful – or insulting – to refer to their boss during the meeting? Time spent in reconnaissance is rarely wasted; ditto questioning.

READ BODY LANGUAGE

The confident negotiator may seem unshakeable, but it may all be an act. Body language is not quite a science, but watches the signs that people give out. Are they making direct eye-contact? And if so, are they doing it in a friendly or challenging way? Positive body language helps establish rapport, so if you want to create a strong working relationship think about adopting confident and open positions; face people full on and don’t cross your arms.

KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS

Be realistic. Your plan must be workable and manageable. It should play to your strengths – such as your knowledge or experience – and avoid situations where any weaknesses are exposed. Your authority is important. If people do not believe that you have the authority to negotiate they will dig in their heels; saying you will have to check a point with a third party risks undermining your position. Most importantly, you must appear to be confident, so that if you say ‘no’ it is believed.

MANAGE THE MEETING

Controlling the ebb and flow of the meeting is crucial. The core of the process is ‘trading variables’, essentially a process that is led by ‘what if’ questions, such as ‘What if I could agree early payment, could you agree earlier delivery then?’ You seek to get your priority points agreed by making concessions on factors of less importance to you. The trick is to maximize the apparent value of what you offer and minimize what is offered to you. Balance is key: your reasonableness must drive matters forward as you want.

IT’S MORE THAN MONEY

Money is important, but much goes with it: for example, price can involve terms, discounts, premiums, and link to other matters such as contracts, completion dates and delivery. It is the package that is negotiated that matters. You should decide priorities beforehand: what variables you must have, on what you must stick close to your ideal and what are ‘loss leaders’ – factors that can be used as concessions to win more in other areas. Keep the full picture in mind.

THINK & RESPOND

It’s important not to get carried away in the heat of negotiation. If you need to buy yourself time to think, go on the offensive and ask further questions or agree that an area needs more consideration. Don’t be forced into making a decision on the spot. If there is a lull in negotiations take a moment to review your objectives and don’t be afraid to repeat the key concerns you want to address. If there is silence don’t rush to fill it, just wait for an answer or rephrase your question.

GET IT IN WRITING

Precision is important. Take notes as you go. Summarize regularly and do not allow any uncertainties to let points be scored off you. For example, at the end of a drawn-out meeting, when lots of figures have been batted about, don’t find yourself having no record of the discount that was agreed. Similarly when matters are concluded it is vital to get things in writing – there’s an old saying that a verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

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